Millions of Americans Who Missed Out on Stimulus Checks Will Qualify Under New Deal

Millions of American citizens who were previously denied a stimulus check as an unintended consequence of the CARES Act will soon be eligible for a new round of direct payments, in addition to the $1,200 individual checks they missed out on in the Spring.

In the $900 billion stimulus package set to be approved by Congress Monday night, lawmakers amended the eligibility for a new round of $600 checks to include American adults and children in mixed-status families, where at least one spouse is not a U.S. citizen. The legislation will also apply retroactively for the $1,200 individual payments doled out earlier this year.

While assessments vary, the American Business Immigration Coalition estimates that an additional 3.5 million American adults and children will now be eligible for direct payments who were otherwise excluded under the CARES Act.

"It's about time they opened their eyes and see that we matter, and we are not second-class citizens," Lacey Shontal, a certified nursing assistant in Quincy, Illinois, told Newsweek.

Because her husband is not a U.S. citizen, Shontal missed out on $4,200 in stimulus money from the CARES Act: $1,200 for herself and $500 for each of their six children.

stimulus checks
President Donald Trump's name appears on the coronavirus economic assistance checks that were sent to citizens across the country April 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty

"It was actually like a slap in the face when they told us, 'Hey, you're not included in this.' Why? We meet all the finical criteria," said Shontal, whose husband works in the restaurant industry and has seen his pay decrease significantly. "We actually had to drain my savings."

With the new wave of $600 checks for adults and $600 per child, Shontal can now expect to get $4,200 on top of the $4,200 she's owed from the CARES Act.

Eligible Americans will be able to claim the CARES Act money when they file their 2020 taxes. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the new round of payments could be deposited into Americans' accounts within days.

In the wake of the CARES Act, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle conceded they had messed up—big time—by accidentally excluding so many adults and children who were U.S. citizens but had a spouse or parent who was not.

"What's the remedy, you divorce them?" Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said at the time of Americans in mixed-status families who wanted to receive a check.

But as a new package languished in Congress and succumbed to the partisan gridlock that persisted for nearly the past nine months, so too did a correction to the stimulus money eligibility—until now. The new package does not, however, include millions of noncitizens who pay taxes through an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

"I think there was some acknowledgement that denying U.S. citizens checks because of who they married or were parented by was a complete injustice," Rebecca Shi, Executive Director of the American Business Immigration Coalition, told Newsweek. "This is big for these families, but also as who we are as a nation."

Including Americans in mixed-status families was a big push by Democrats. It was "unfair and absurd" that American taxpayers in need of assistance were "previously denied access to these survival funds," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

But Shi felt that support from a broad ideological range of Republicans—from the conservative Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) to the moderate Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)—was vital to fixing what immigration advocates deemed a grave injustice.

"This proves that even in this really horrible environment, that bipartisan solutions to our nation's immigration challenges are possible," Shi said. "It does set a good example and is a launching pad for common sense immigration solutions for next year."

Democrats, along with immigration groups, would have preferred to also include millions of ITIN immigrant taxpayers, who makeup a large portion of essential workers. The left-leaning Institute On Taxation and Economic Policy estimates that 4.3 million adults and 3.5 million children—7.8 million people—were excluded from the direct payments in the CARES Act because ITIN filers were ineligible.

"Given there are 5.5 million immigrants working at the front lines of this crisis as essential workers, Congress should provide protection to all tax filers in the U.S. regardless of immigration status," Kerri Talbot, director of federal advocacy of the Immigration Hub, said in a statement. "By explicitly including immigrant families in the collective effort to combat the consequences of this pandemic, we all benefit and prevail as a stronger nation."