Some communities may find themselves on the short end of the stick when the federal government’s coronavirus recovery package checks start arriving in the mail beginning later this month as some of the requirements for recipients leave out certain groups.
One of the $2 trillion stimulus bills passed last month includes checks of up to $1,200 for qualifying U.S. residents, but some slip through the cracks when it comes to qualifying for the benefit, including college students, some disabled adults, and immigrants without Social Security numbers.
College students and those 17 years old who have been recently claimed as a dependent by someone else on their taxes will not receive a check. Similarly, while disabled adults who get disability benefits from Social Security are eligible for the stimulus package, those who are supported by others and have been claimed as dependents on taxes will not receive benefits.
While the entire world is affected by a global pandemic, some challenges are more exclusively felt by marginalized groups, like local Hispanic non-citizens.
"They are affected the same as everybody else, with the difference that there is less communication from everywhere," says Lydia Cotton, a leader and advocate in the Charleston-area Hispanic community. "To get the information to that community, it first has to be in Spanish, and second, in a way they can understand it."
Cotton has been working behind the scenes with various organizations to ensure that this community isn't entirely left out, but her influence only goes so far, and isn’t able to reach the level needed to address the stimulus checks.
"Those are for people like us," Cotton says. "We are citizens, so we can apply for that, but the community we are talking about definitely cannot. They are working with their savings right now, hoping that soon they will be back to work, but when it comes to benefits, nobody can really get a check."
Since the first requirement of the stimulus package is a Social Security number, the benefit may be out of reach for DACA recipients and green card holders that pay some taxes and have legal status in the U.S. While either of these groups can apply for a SSN, the time required for the application process may make the prospect of any relief checks moot.
Millions of noncitizen immigrant workers who pay taxes in the U.S., however, are not eligible for CARES Act payouts or unemployment benefits.
Still, Cotton says many Latinos in Charleston who do qualify for relief checks or other benefits, but may not apply due to the perceived difficulties of applying, like language barriers and a lack of information. Instead, they rely on simpler solutions that are made more accessible to them, like food banks and churches that are offering help.
But above all else, Cotton says the immigrant community is continuing to work hard through the outbreak.
“We are not just sitting around waiting for the package, we are working,” Cotton says. “Either for ourselves or someone else … I don’t think something different can be done here, everything comes from the top. We are not just going to sit and wait for anything, we just want to keep moving forward.”