• The Trump administration is mandating Americans on Social Security file a tax return to get a $1,200 check from the government under the new stimulus law.
  • The move could shut out millions of people from getting government aid they already qualify for.
  • Advocates say vulnerable Americans should not be required to file a return in the middle of a pandemic, given that the government already sends them monthly payments.
  • Thirty-four Democratic senators sent a letter urging the White House to shift gears and make the payments automatic.
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The Trump administration is mandating that Americans receiving Social Security benefits file a tax return to receive a $1,200 check from the federal government. The rule could leave out millions of elderly people from getting the cash under the $2.2 trillion stimulus package that President Trump recently signed into law.

On Monday, the Internal Revenue Service announced it would start sending out checks to Americans within the next three weeks. It also said only those who file a tax return could be eligible for the money.

“People who typically do not file a tax return will need to file a simple tax return to receive an economic impact payment,” the IRS said on its website. “Low-income taxpayers, senior citizens, Social Security recipients, some veterans and individuals with disabilities who are otherwise not required to file a tax return will not owe tax.”

Advocates for low-income Americans argue the additional bureaucratic hurdle would be a burden and it shouldn’t be necessary during a public health crisis.

Chye-Ching Huang, the director of economic policy at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said in a tweet, “it makes no sense to impose a new paperwork burden on millions of seniors during a pandemic.”

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The Treasury Department and IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The development triggered backlash from Democrats on Capitol Hill. On Wednesday, 34 senators sent a letter to the Trump administration urging it to reconsider, saying the move would be “a significant burden” on retired seniors and people with disabilities. They called to make the payments automatic instead.

Research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates around 15 million Americans on Social Security would have to file a return to get the payment, even though the government sends them monthly checks.

When the Bush administration sent $600 checks to Americans before the 2008 financial crisis, nearly 3.5 million people on Social Security missed out on the payment because they were similarly required to file a tax return.  

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the direct payments would start going out by April 17.

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