April 01, 2020
BRUNSWICK, ME – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today joined 41 of his Senate colleagues in urging the Treasury Department and the Social Security Administration to ensure that all Social Security beneficiaries will automatically receive the direct assistance included in the recently-passed CARES Act without having to file tax returns. While the legislation ensured that the Treasury Department had the authority to send automatic direct cash assistance to Social Security beneficiaries regardless of whether they file taxes or not, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released contradictory guidance earlier this week stating that Social Security beneficiaries would need to file tax returns in order to receive direct payments. With Maine’s aging population among the most elderly per capita in the nation, this uncertainty is adding stress to thousands of Maine residents as they face a pandemic of historic proportions.
“This [IRS] filing requirement would place a significant burden on retired seniors and individuals who experience disabilities, especially given the current unavailability of tax filing assistance from Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs during the COVID-19 crisis,” wrote the senators. “We strongly urge you to ensure that economic stimulus payments are automatically sent to vulnerable seniors and individuals who experience disabilities, without these individuals needing to file a tax return.”
Senator King was a leading voice calling for direct cash payments to the American people, and voted for the bipartisan agreement for the third phase of coronavirus relief, which includes a direct payment of up to $1,200. The CARES Act unanimously passed the Senate by a vote of 96 to 0 and was signed into law late last week. Earlier this week, Senator King participated in a live-streamed tele-town hall hosted by AARP Maine to answer questions from Maine seniors about the challenges coronavirus is creating for Maine’s senior population, and best practices to stay safe.
Read the full letter here and below:
Dear Secretary Mnuchin and Commissioner Saul:
The COVID-19 public health emergency is taking a massive economic toll on families across the country. To provide immediate financial assistance to struggling individuals during this crisis, Congress passed and the President signed the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This legislation directly provides most Americans with stimulus payments to help cover necessary personal expenses.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will automatically send stimulus payments to eligible taxpayers who filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return. However, many Social Security beneficiaries, including retired seniors and individuals who experience disabilities, typically do not file tax returns. To ensure that these vulnerable individuals automatically receive stimulus payments, the CARES Act explicitly provides the Treasury Department with the authority to provide payments to seniors receiving Social Security retirement benefits and to individuals receiving Social Security disability benefits, even if these individuals do not file tax returns.
Unfortunately, on March 30, the IRS published guidance indicating that the agency may require recipients of Social Security retirement and disability benefits to file 2019 tax returns to receive stimulus payments. This filing requirement would place a significant burden on retired seniors and individuals who experience disabilities, especially given the current unavailability of tax filing assistance from Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs during the COVID-19 crisis.
Along with colleagues on the House Ways and Means Committee, we strongly urge you to ensure that economic stimulus payments are automatically sent to vulnerable seniors and individuals who experience disabilities, without these individuals needing to file a tax return.