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The federal government has been sending payments of $1,200 or more to millions of people over the past several weeks.  They are commonly referred to as “stimulus” payments, but the IRS – which issues them — calls them “Economic Impact Payments” (EIPs).  Most EIPs are being sent out automatically, based on peoples’ 2018 or 2019 federal income tax returns, or their receipt of Social Security, Railroad Retirement (RR), Social Security Disability (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Veteran’s (VA) benefits.

There has been considerable publicity about delays, glitches, and sudden deadlines in the issuance of the EIPs.  Lost in all that, however, is the fact that some people – especially lower income individuals – can still apply for the EIPs, including an additional $500 per dependent child* this year.  But they should probably act soon.

Who are these people?  Individuals and couples who did not file federal income tax returns for 2018 or 2019, and either:

(a) began receiving Social Security or SSI benefits in or after January 2020; or

(b) have income below the amount at which federal income tax returns are required ($12,200 for individuals; $24,400 for married couples), and do not receive Social Security, RR, SSDI, or VA benefits.  They must be a US citizens or Lawful Permanent Resident, and in virtually all cases must have a Social Security Number (SSN).

What must they do?  They need to apply for the payments online, using the IRS “Non-filers” tool (accessible at  They will be asked to provide an email address, and to establish a special account.

When must they apply?  The IRS has not announced any deadline by when such people must apply.  However, in light of the fact that the agency has previously announced deadlines for other actions, with very short notice, applying as soon as possible may be wise.**

* The term “child” is broadly defined, and includes for example dependent grandchildren, siblings, and nieces/nephews.

** Any individuals or couples who don’t get their EIPs this year will still be able to request them next year, by filing a federal tax return for 2020.

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