A direct flow of dollars from the federal government has been a lifeline for many Americans during the pandemic.
But for some of the country’s poorest – the homeless – the barriers to getting that money felt overwhelming. With no bank account, limited internet access and a general lack of awareness of the availability of money, many homeless people did not receive stimulus checks.
Campaigners for the homeless say this money could be potentially transformative for people who don’t have the savings to pay first and last month’s rent on a lease or who have rising medical bills.
It could really mean ending roaming for some people, because I have met so many people who are looking for an apartment and all they need is the security deposit and a lot of them are working there.
Jane Nguyen from Ktown for All
For Terrance Wright, a 25-year-old restaurateur, that could mean stepping out of a downtown hotel room the city has been renting to him since he left Echo Park Lake in February. Wright had stayed in the park every now and then for over a year and received a hotel room, which he was grateful for, in an awareness push conducted before the park closed last month.
He received one of the checks last year while living with a friend in Washington state and looking for work. He’s back in Los Angeles now and is looking forward to another one. He has a job interview at a downtown restaurant and hopes the combination of a salary and stimulus money will be enough for him to find permanent accommodation.
“I haven’t got another one yet, but man, I hope I get it soon.”
It is unclear how many people have not claimed the money they are entitled to as a result of the several rounds of multibillion-dollar laws that have been passed since the start of the pandemic. Those earning less than $ 75,000 can still receive the $ 3,200 that was distributed in three installments just by completing their 2020 tax return.
“Going from zero to $ 3,200 can definitely change someone’s day,” said Kenneth Mejia, an accountant who ran to Congress in 2017 and is trying to harness the wave of progressive enthusiasm in Los Angeles. to win the city’s election for comptroller next year.
Conveniently at the moment, on a Friday night last month, Mejia called a Zoom session where activists from across the country listened to him as he went through slides on how they could help those without- shelter to complete their tax returns online. This session, which he repeated several times due to excessive demand, included different scenarios depending on whether the person had an income, claimed dependents or was married. The aim was to show activists how they could take their computer and hotspot to the streets and help people in their quest for money.
Also at the CPA, Mejia stressed that he does not offer specific tax advice to individuals. His slides began with this disclaimer: “The material has been prepared for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide and should not be relied upon for tax, legal or accounting advice.”
For individuals who have little or no income, the standard deduction would mean that they would end up paying no tax. Still, he said, it’s important for homeless people to complete their tax returns for 2020, because on line 30 there is a box titled “Recapture of remission credit”.
They can claim a credit of up to $ 1,800 on the first two checks, which came separately in $ 1,200 and $ 600 increments over the past year. If the person has no income, they will get all that money back. They would also get the $ 1,400 made available through President Biden’s new stimulus package.
The next challenge, however, is how.
“If a few [homeless people] have direct deposit through a bank account or debit card, maybe they could just enter their routing number and account number, ”Mejia said. It assumes that they have these instruments.
“That way, in fact, they would get the money a lot faster. But if they don’t have it, they could use an address in a shelter or elsewhere to mail the check. “
Mejia walked through different scenarios for advocates to attempt to answer common questions that might arise – how to count unemployment or what people should do if they were receiving Social Security or disability income.
One of the goals of Mejia’s Campaign for Comptroller has been to demystify and make the government feel more accessible to people who are discouraged or suspicious of it.
Its campaign manager, Jane Nguyen, who is also a member of the homeless advocacy and advocacy group Ktown for All, said giving activists and outreach workers the tools and skills to helping people with their taxes could have a very real impact. in the street. Thanks to the work of groups like Ktown for All and others on the streets, volunteers are in a good position to help homeless people overcome obstacles to obtaining money.
“It could really mean ending homelessness for some people, because I’ve met so many people who are looking for an apartment and all they need is the security deposit, and a lot of them are working in that sense, ”she said.
“So it could be a big help for a lot of people. For other people, it might mean surviving. It could mean being able to get a hotel, and only the basic necessities that they just need to survive. So it’s huge for so many people.