More than 2 million Californians may miss out on stimulus checks — but who’s at risk?

Summer Lin
·3 min read

Around 2.2 million Californians could miss out on stimulus checks to which they’re entitled, according to a new report.

There have been three rounds of stimulus payments since April 2020, totaling up to $3,200 per person. The third round of checks — worth $1,400 for most Americans — was included in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue plan signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11.

More than 2 million Californians are in a “stimulus gap,” in which they’re eligible for money but haven’t received any yet, according to the California Policy Lab at the University of California Berkeley. Of the Californians in the “stimulus gap,” 1.4 million of those could have missed out on all three rounds of checks.

Around 424,000 Californians who filed their taxes for 2018 but not 2019 are at risk of not getting their second or third payments and about 360,000 eligible dependents could also miss out on the third round of checks.

The Internal Revenue Service used information from 2019 federal tax returns for the second round of stimulus and has been using either 2019 or 2020 taxes for the third round of payments. That means people who haven’t filed taxes for 2019 or later are at risk of not receiving checks that they qualify for.

The California Policy Lab estimates that Californians could miss out on $5.7 billion in these relief funds.

Who’s falling into the “stimulus gap?”

The California Policy Lab says people can fall into the “stimulus gap” if they:

  • Didn’t file a tax return in 2018 or 2019

  • Are younger than 65

  • Aren’t enrolled in Supplementary Security Income/State Supplementary Payment or disability insurance

  • Didn’t use the IRS’ non-filers tool last year

The majority of adults in the “stimulus gap” — around 880,000 people — are single and don’t have dependents.

Around a quarter of Californians in “safety-net” programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and cash aid, also didn’t receive stimulus checks.

What to do if you’re in the “Stimulus Gap”

First, determine if you’re eligible for a stimulus payment and check the status of your check by going to the IRS Get My Payment tool here or by calling 800-919-9835.

Individuals making less than $75,000 qualify for a $1,400 payment, while couples making less than $150,000 qualify for a combined $2,800 payment, plus $1,400 per child or adult dependent.

In April 2020, the IRS introduced a non-filers tool for people who don’t normally file taxes to submit their information and get their payments but took it down in November 2020.

The only option now is to file a federal tax return.

Aparna Ramesh, research manager at the California Policy Lab, urges the IRS to re-launch the non-filers tool.

“The stakes are high with billions of federal dollars not reaching low-income people in California and across the country. The IRS reposting its online Non-Filers Tool immediately would be a good first step, and partnering with state human-services agencies would also help get these stimulus payments out quickly to people caught in the Stimulus Gap,” Ramesh said in a news release.