Where’s my Corona Check?

By Shannon Serpette, Contributor

Posted in: 

Tens of thousands of people across America asked the experts at JustAnswer some form of the same question this past week:

  • Where’s the stimulus check?
  • Where’s my $1,200 for Coronovirus?
  • Where’s my Corona Check?

The short answer? They’re coming. (Maybe, read on.)

According to the IRS, the first wave of stimulus relief checks went into some Americans’ bank accounts last weekend. Millions more people can expect to receive theirs in the coming weeks, as part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill passed to aid Americans suffering financially as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Are you worried your bank is about to issue a restraining order because you’re phone-stalking their automated line to check your balance every five seconds, wondering where your payment might be? Take a deep breath; we’re here with answers to some of your most burning questions about the stimulus checks.

Where’s My Check?

You’ve probably seen the occasional Facebook post from people saying they already got their checks, and you’re starting to panic that Uncle Sam forgot about you. Don’t worry, some people will say anything for attention, especially on Facebook. (Humble-brag much, people?!).

Before you post that regrettable snarky comment on their page after you break into your emergency home quarantine alcohol stash, consider they may be telling the truth.

“The first wave of checks has gone out,” Bruce Zaret, a Weaver partner in Risk Advisory Services told us via email. The earliest ones went out April 11th or 12th.

Why Haven’t I Gotten Mine?

Rachel Webb, JustAnswer Tax Category Moderator, told us over the phone that she’s fielding an unprecedented number of questions from people nervous about the checks. “In the last 20 minutes, just since we’ve been on this call, I’ve had at least 100 questions come in around ‘the corona checks,’” she said.

To help taxpayers check the status of their payment, the IRS rolled out a tracking tool called “Get My Payment.” It’s supposed to let people update their direct deposit information with the IRS, and make sure the money gets to the right place. Instead, the IRS site crashed.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Lane Mullinax of NPV Advisory Services, LLC, one of JustAnswer’s most popular Tax pro’s. “Now people are really starting to panic. I’ve already had at least 60 questions today saying IRS website isn’t working and I can’t get my (stimulus) payment —  it’s pretty much all about that right now.” 

Mullinax said when he gets those questions, he might asks people to make sure they’re eligible to receive a check: according to the IRS, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or resident alien.
  • Have a valid Social Security number.
  • Not be a dependent on someone else’s taxes.
  • Have an adjusted gross income within the limits set by the CARES Act. 

The checks, worth $1,200 for individuals with an adjusted gross income below $75,000 and $2,400 for couples earning below $150,000, are part of the federal government’s response to unprecedented unemployment levels and financial strain caused by Covid-19. Those with children under the age of 16 will also earn $500 for each child.

Next – did you file 2018 or 2019 tax returns, and did you authorize direct deposit from the IRS?

The U.S. Treasury Department says people who use direct deposit and filed tax returns for 2018 or 2019 “will receive Economic Impact Payments before the end of the month [April].”

It will take longer for others, including those who do not typically file returns or opt to receive paper checks. Paper checks won’t start being mailed until the beginning of May, according to a memo from the House Ways and Means Committee, and the IRS plans to prioritize sending those checks to lower-income households first.

What if I Didn’t File in 2018 or 2019?

If you haven’t filed taxes in 2018 or 2019 and you’re not on Social Security, you have to update your information with the IRS so you’ll receive your money. The IRS has an online tool for low-income Americans who do not typically file taxes to enter their banking information to receive a payment. 

Do I Have To Apply?

Most people don’t have to do anything to receive their money. And that’s good, because we can’t handle any additional stress right now. We’re having to binge-watch the Tiger King just to feel better about our lives. What if I don’t have a bank account tied to an IRS Account?

Are you the type who doesn’t like to give out their bank account information to anyone, even the government? You can still receive stimulus money without having to divulge any more information than usual. But you’ll have to wait longer to receive it.

Sonia Desai, Director of Forensics and Litigation Services at Weaver, offered this advice.“If someone’s account is no longer active, the bank will reject the deposit, and you will be issued a check that will be mailed to the address we have on file for you. This is generally the address on your most recent tax return or as updated through the United States Postal Service (USPS),” she said. “We highly encourage that you do not call the IRS to change your payment method or update your address at this time. This is a timely initiative and to protect your security, a letter about the payment will be mailed to each recipient’s last known address within 15 days after the payment is made. The letter will provide information on how the payment was made and how to report any failure to receive the payment,” she said.

There have also been reports about payments being sent to the deceased. (Awkward…) Officials are trying to work out the kinks in the process and figure out what to do in those cases. In other words, don’t go on a spiked-seltzer spending spree. Hang tight and likely someone from the IRS will let you know what to do about it.

However, DO NOT, under any circumstances, answer a phone call, text, email, or even letter from “the IRS” and provide any personal or bank account information – NO MATTER WHAT. IRS scammers are some of the worst, and most prolific of the lot, and they are going crazy trying to rob people blind right about now.

Why Aren’t Any of the IRS Sites Working?

It never fails. Just when you desperately want something to work, it doesn’t. And the IRS sites appear to follow that universal law.

To help answer all the questions people are going to have about their stimulus money and to assist those who need to update info to receive it, the IRS has a helpful site. Helpful when it’s working, that is.

On April 15, the site went down and left others with no additional information about their expected checks. A common message people saw was one that said Payment Status Not Available.

For people who were seeking advice about how to obtain the information they need to ensure they receive a check, it was upsetting. Mullinax said he understands why people are feeling so frantic when the website goes down.

“You’re between a rock and a hard place, and nothing can happen until this gets fixed,” he said.

To be fair, the site was slammed with high traffic as millions of people wondered about their status. We were all like teenage girls from the late 1980s trying to storm the stage at a New Kids on the Block concert.

Mullinax’s best advice is to wait a day if you’re having problems with the site and then try again.

“The system’s just not working. The only answer to that is they will figure it out – just not today. This is just the system struggling to do something it’s never done before,” Mullinax added.

And, although it can be hard, try to be patient. The IRS employees are stretched to their limit right now – and they have coronavirus worries too.

What’s Next?

Some of us have received our stimulus money, and more people will get a check each week. It can feel like it’s not happening soon enough, but let’s face it – the whole world was completely unprepared for a pandemic. But many of us have risen to the occasion, looking for solutions, supporting those in need, and helping our friends and neighbors.

And the thing about America is that we’re fast learners.

If the pandemic continues, we’ll all be a little better versed as to how this whole process works if a second round of stimulus money comes our way. Who knows? We may even get by without crashing the IRS’ website next time.