The COVID-19 crisis has turned everyone’s lives upside down. Businesses are shuttering, employees are finding themselves furloughed, and LATE RENT notices are starting to pile up. With all this stress and uncertainty, our representatives have been working on solutions to try and curb the economic impact of this pandemic.

Bipartisan legislation (called the CARES Act) signed into law by President Trump will provide $1,200 payments to adults with annual incomes up to $75,000, plus another $500 for each child. The total amount of your stimulus check will be based on your adjusted gross income (AGI) from your 2019 federal tax filing or – if you haven’t filed this year – your 2018 filing. For more information on what your stimulus check will look like, The Washington Post has set up a handy tool to help you nail down exactly how much you’ll be getting.

But what if you don’t receive traditional income and weren’t required to file your taxes in the first place? Don’t worry – the IRS has already announced that recipients of Social Security who aren’t normally required to file taxes returns will not need to do so in order to receive a payment.

Instead, the IRS will rely on information used on Form SSA-1099 for Social Security beneficiaries who did not file tax returns in 2018 or 2019. In addition, recipients of Supplemental Security Income will automatically receive the full $1,200, with no action needed. These payments will go out by early May.

When Will I Receive My Check?

Which brings us to our next question: when will these payments roll out? The money will appear automatically in your bank account if the IRS has your account information on file from previous years’ tax returns. If the IRS doesn’t already have your account information, you can submit your information on this website.

However, for most Americans, the money will arrive sometime during the month of April via direct deposit. Some citizens have already received their payments. Mailed checks will inevitably take longer, but the IRS has already set up a useful tool to help you track the status of your incoming payment.

However, a word of warning: if someone contacts you about the status of your stimulus check requesting information, you absolutely should not answer – there are a ton of online scammers taking advantage of this crisis. You do not have to sign up to receive a stimulus check. The process is automatic for any American who qualifies. If someone is contacting you requesting information, it’s a scam.

Stimulus Checks & Bankruptcy

But there is one big question for people who are considering filing bankruptcy or have already filed: is the money you received via the stimulus check count as property of the bankruptcy estate?

While the CARES Act protects stimulus payments from certain offsets to collect debts owed to federal and state governments, it is silent on whether or not private creditors can seize the checks from bank accounts to satisfy outstanding court judgments.

However, the United States Trustee expects that it is very unlikely that any trustee would administer the payment after considering all the important factors, including the modest amount of the payment and the applicability of state and federal exemptions.

And while there are advocacy efforts set on changing the federal law or the way Treasury treats these payments, as of this writing, these efforts are very much still ongoing.

Stimulus Checks Questions that Remain

In short: there are no hard rules either way, but right now, it looks like you’ll be able to keep the check and apply it to rent, groceries, and anything else that might crop up in the next few weeks to months. Note that this only applies to people who have already filed for bankruptcy – if you aren’t protected by the automatic stay, then you may still be subject to garnishment.

Another big question is whether or not this is the only stimulus check Americans will receive. President Trump and members of Congress have already stated that a one-time payment of $1,200 is not enough money for many Americans who have lost their job or faced financial hardship. But finding long-term solutions looks distant, as Congress has had difficulty adjourning during the pandemic.

As this story develops, we are encouraging readers and clients alike to keep an eye on the news (including this blog) so you can stay up to date on what new measures are being put in place and what you need to know.

Nathan Rester
Written by Nathan Rester

Nathan Rester is an Associate Attorney at the Bond & Botes Law Offices location in Jackson, Mississippi. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Mississippi State University, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Mississippi School of Law. He prides himself in his work assisting his bankruptcy clients to achieve financial stability for themselves. Read his full bio here.

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