Milwaukee residents this week began receiving the COVID-19 stimulus payment, officially referred to by the Internal Revenue Service as the Economic Impact Payment.
This is welcome news for many, especially those who joined the swelling ranks of the unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are some things you should know and some spending advice as well:
So how much will I get?
The payout for individual head of household filers is $1,200, while married couples who filed jointly get $2,400.
Each receives another $500 for each qualifying child.
When will I get my money?
Not everyone will receive their payment soon. Those who filed taxes in 2018 or 2019 and have direct deposit accounts on file with the IRS will see them first. If you filed taxes, but the IRS doesn’t have your direct deposit information on file, you can submit that information here.
Others will receive checks in the mail. For those who don’t file taxes, you could still be eligible. To apply as a non-filer of taxes click here.
Those who receive Social Security or disability don’t need to take any action to receive their payment, according to the IRS.
But if you have moved since you last filed taxes, update your address here.
Who won’t get a stimulus payment?
Some won’t get the stimulus payment at all, including those who are listed as dependents, those who owe child support or if you earn too much income to be eligible.
Undocumented workers without a Social Security number will also not receive checks. Those who owe back taxes will still get their checks.
Tips on how to best utilize your stimulus payment:
Warwees Holt, an ex-banker who is a financial coach for the Social Development Commission, said the first thing you should do when you get your payment is pay your rent or mortgage.
“I think it’s great that foreclosures and evictions have been stopped, but some people take that as I don’t have to pay,” Holt said. “Pay it if you can.”
If you can’t pay because you are unemployed or are short of food, she said, make sure to call your landlord and/or lender to discuss your situation. In fact, for any bill payments that you can’t make, Holt advises individuals to make calls and to write down who you talked to as well as the date and time of the calls.
Those calls are tracked, she said, and showing that you took the initiative to call is helpful in the long run.
“Everyone is in the same boat right now, so let them know what you can or cannot do,” Holt said.
Another piece of advice she offered was for individuals to put aside some money for an emergency.
“Putting aside a couple hundred just in case your car breaks down or you need a battery could mean the difference between being able to get to work for an essential worker,” she said. “Sometimes a minor or major expense that you weren’t expecting can set you back for months.”
Holt also cautions people who are waiting for their stimulus checks to beware of scammers looking to turn the pandemic into an opportunity to steal your money.
“The IRS will never call you, and anyone else that you pay bills with will have things like your Social Security number and birthday on file, so make them give you that information and never give it to them yourself,” she said.
Finally, she wants people who might take the opportunity to use the stimulus payment to splurge or buy items that aren’t essential to resist that temptation.
“We don’t need new clothes right now, so bank that money,” Holt said. “There is nothing wrong, though, with ordering takeout or having a meal delivered to do something special for your house or your family.”