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The Stimulus Gap: 2.2 Million Californians Could Miss $5.7 Billion in Federal Stimulus Payments

POLICY BRIEF: The Stimulus Gap: 2.2 Million Californians Could Miss $5.7 Billion in Federal Stimulus Payments PDF

PRESS RELEASE: New Report: 2.2 Million Low-Income Californians Could Miss Out on $5.7 Billion in Stimulus Payments

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has passed multiple bills to provide stimulus payments to low- and middle-income Americans. The IRS used tax data to determine who should receive the three recent stimulus payments, which helped get payments to the majority of eligible people quickly and automatically. However, we estimate that at least 2.2 million eligible Californians are caught in the federal Stimulus Gap: they likely did not receive their stimulus payments automatically and are at danger of not receiving them at all. We estimate these Californians are at risk of missing out on $5.7 billion. If they have not received these payments already by filing a return or using the currently dormant IRS tool for non-filers, these Californians will need to take an extra step to claim their stimulus payments by filing a tax return. This policy brief quantifies the Stimulus Gap in California and provides recommendations on how the IRS can help eliminate the gap nationwide, including by working with state human service agencies to better distribute stimulus payments. The interactive map and tables below provide additional context about the demographics of Californians who are caught in the federal Stimulus Gap and the amount of money that could go unclaimed.

Select Media Coverage

KQED: A ‘Stimulus Gap’: Why Many Undocumented Californians Are Missing Out on Pandemic Aid Meant for Them (June 2, 2021)
New York Times: Here’s How to Claim Your Stimulus Payments: File Your Tax Return (April 29, 2021)
CalMatters: More than 2 million missing stimulus checks (April 23, 2021)
Patch: CA Stimulus Checks: When Will Yours Arrive? (April 17, 2021)
CNN: The IRS has no plans to bring back a tool that helped low-income Americans get their stimulus checks. Here’s what to do instead (April 9, 2021)
KQED: How to Get Your California Stimulus Check — and Other Tax Credits You’re Entitled To (April 7, 2021) as well as segment on how to claim stimulus payments and other tax credits.
Los Angeles Times: More than 2 million Californians may be leaving stimulus money on the table. Here’s how to get it (April 6, 2021)
Sacramento Bee: More than 2 million Californians may miss out on stimulus checks — but who’s at risk? (April 6, 2021)
KNX News Radio: Segment on California Stimulus Gap Research and Interview with Aparna Ramesh (April 10, 2021)
The Daily Californian: 2.2 million low-income Californians could miss out on $5.7 billion stimulus payments (April 13, 2021)

1) 25% of eligible California safety-net enrollees are in the Stimulus Gap

Source: Franchise Tax Board Tax Year 2018 and 2019 data (indicator of tax filing only), Medi-Cal Eligibility Data System files from February 2018 through July 2020.
Note: Due to rounding, percentages and numbers may not total.

2) People in rural northern and eastern counties in California are most at risk of being in the Stimulus Gap.

3) Safety-net enrollees identified as Native American or Alaskan Native are at the highest risk for being in the Stimulus Gap and Hispanic individuals make up the largest share of the Gap.

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