What’s really stopping inmates from claiming coronavirus stimulus checks?

Coronavirus stimulus checks have proven to be a lifeline for millions of Americans since last year. Many, however, are still waiting for their coronav…

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22, 2021

3 min read

This story originally appeared on ValueWalk

Coronavirus stimulus checks have proven to be a lifeline for millions of Americans since last year. Many, however, are still waiting for their coronavirus stimulus checks, and this includes many inmates. Families of some incarcerated people told VERIFY that the inmates are still struggling to claim their stimulus checks.

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Can inmates claim coronavirus stimulus checks?

As per the local law in some counties, prison authorities may charge the prisoners for their stay. For instance, the average cost per day in Ohio is $35, while in Michigan, it is more than $60 a day. Moreover, as per the Criminal Justice Project, this cost could be more than their income for prisoners making between 15 and 60 cents an hour.

Thus, advocates in favor of inmates’ rights argue that stimulus checks can help prisoners lower their financial burden.

Since the approval of the first round of stimulus checks in March last year, there has been confusion over if inmates can claim the stimulus checks. VERIFY asked the same question to a few experts and got the answer that inmates can claim the stimulus checks, but it isn’t easy.

As per the experts, there are no restrictions on incarcerated people when it comes to stimulus checks. However, there are a few hurdles that are making it hard for inmates to claim their stimulus checks. The biggest hurdle is the lack of technology resources at the facilities.

Challenges that inmates face

It is easier for those outside to claim their stimulus checks as they can easily do the paperwork. However, those in prison don’t have easy access to needed resources, such as a computer. Though manual tax forms are also available, many don’t have much idea on how to fill out such forms. Additionally, a friend or a family member can fill out the form on behalf of the inmate, but they still need to sign it.

So, these are the challenges that inmates face in claiming their stimulus checks. A prison can address such issues by arranging for a computer and a printer, as well as assisting inmates in filling out the form. To claim their stimulus check, prisoners need to fill out a 1040 (recovery rebate) tax return for 2020.

However, even if an inmate is able to overcome these challenges and fill out the tax form, it is still possible that they don’t get to see the money, or get a lower amount.

After an inmate fills out the needed form and the stimulus check reaches the prison, it is possible that prison authorities chip off more fees and restitution money owed by an inmate. Apart from these, it is also possible that their checks get docked for child support and back taxes. For instance, stimulus checks under the CARES Act deducted money for child support from prisoners’ checks.

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