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How homeless people can access the latest stimulus check

PACEM opens its doors at University Baptist Church every night to shelter those in need.
PACEM opens its doors at University Baptist Church every night to shelter those in need.
Updated: Mar. 18, 2021 at 4:49 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - People who are homeless, incarcerated, or have income low enough that they haven’t filed a tax return – you qualify for a stimulus check. There may be additional steps you need to take to get that money, though.

The stimulus checks have been going out primarily through the Internal Revenue Service, which could miss huge chunks of the population that have not filed tax returns. The easiest way to get your funds is to file a tax return for 2020. If you qualify, but have not filed, there are plenty of resources in the Charlottesville area to help. PACEM is helping their guests get access through filing a return.

“Ultimately, we hope that any of these type of actions are really going toward getting them housing-ready,” PACEM Executive Director Jayson Whitehead said.

“The technological connection is something that a lot of our clients struggle with, because taxes are really hard,” PACEM Case Manager Liz Nyberg explained. “It’s kind of a hard thing to conceptualize, and so having someone there in person has made them feel a lot more comfortable.”

Nyberg has been helping her clients with their taxes since the pandemic began. For many of the clients, the stimulus checks are making a big difference.

“Medical debts, those are huge,” Nyberg said. “A couple of my clients have specifically thought about their stimulus payments to catch up on child support payments.”

Using the stimulus payments for unpaid bills and expenses can help both in the short term and long term. Those outstanding debts can be the biggest barriers to people who are homeless finding housing.

“I believe one was used yesterday for someone that’s staying at at our hotel shelter right now to reclaim their automobile,” Whitehead added. “There’s a lot of little stuff like that, that can really pile up.”

The Haven is also assisting its guests with filing taxes, something the shelter has done over the past year.

“Just as with the first two stimulus payments (EIP), The Haven staff will continue to assist Haven guests experiencing homelessness who have not received their payments,” The Haven said in a statement. “Staff are utilizing the tools available and sharing new information about filing the EIP at local tax offices to assist these individuals.”

The deadline to file taxes is now May 17 after the IRS extended it for all filers. Anyone can file for an additional extension if they need more time. All tax filing can be done for free on the IRS website.

“Anyone can access the free tax prep services online, if they’ve got a working computer,” Nyberg said. “So it may be that other folks want to make an appointment at the library, or find someone with a computer.”

If you are incarcerated, the IRS offers programs like the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program to help – which will help anyone making less than $57,000 . If you have low income and have not filed, groups like the United Way of Greater Charlottesville, and others may offer assistance.

“If one of us has a working, text message-ready cell phone and an email address, then it takes 30 minutes,” Nyberg explained. “It’s really not that intensive, and so it’s a really great return.”

The IRS is no longer sending out the first two waves of checks, but if you were eligible there is a remaining benefit: you can claim a Recovery Rebate Tax Credit when filing your 2020 taxes.

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