Color of Money Chat Transcript: Answering your questions on why you're still waiting for stimulus checks

May 14, 2020

Welcome to a weekly discussion about your money hosted by Michelle Singletary, nationally syndicated personal finance columnist for The Washington Post.

This week, Michelle took your questions on when you can expect to receive your stimulus payments and why you might still be waiting for a check if you receive social security, disability, or survivor benefits.

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Thanks for joining me today. 

I welcome our questions about your money and would definitely like any good financial news. Please share your Thursday Testimonies. 

Let's get started.

 

I submitted my 2019 paper tax return on March 2 and my payment check was deposited by the IRS on March 10. I am also a social security recipient with direct deposit. As of today I have not received stimulus check and the ‘Check my payment’ tool does not provide any information on the status. Am I ever going to receive the stimulus check?

It's so hard waiting when you have to make ends meet. But if you qualify for the stimulus money, yes you will get it. The IRS said it has distributed 130 million payments out of an estimated 150 million. So 20 million+ still to go. Looks like your are in that last line. 

For more on why you may still be waiting read: Still waiting for your stimulus check? 

 

Will a person on the US Dept of Labor, Office of Workers Compensation Program be issued a stimulus check? I do not have the virus but have been on workers compensation. I cannot find any answers online nor can I reach someone on the phone. Can you please advise me. Thank you.

The stimulus payment is not based on your job or even what type of income your receive. To qualify you have to have a Social Security number and not have earned over a certain amount of money. For example, if you file single and earn $75,000 or less -- or nothing at all -- you qualify for a $1,200 payment. Over certain income levels the $1,200 is reduced. 

Here's more information: Calculate how much you’ll get from the $1,200 (or more) coronavirus checks: Over 80 percent of American adults will receive a payment

 

As of 5/14, I have not received a stimulus check although I am eligible for it; that is, I have filed tax for 2018&2019 and received tax return for 2019 thru direct bank deposit on 3/11. In addition, our income (married jointly filing) was very low (less than $20,000 for 2019). Therefore, I should receive it by 4/15 according to IRS's announcement. However, IRS's "Get My Payment" still says "Your status not available" until today. Could you tell me how I can complain about my case to IRS?

Unfortunately, no point in complaining. The IRS is pretty much shut down for any inquiries about the stimulus money. Although based on what you have told me, you should have been in the first wave of payments going out. You filed a 2018 or 2019 return and you recieved a refund. But it's possible even though you received your refund, the IRS did not fully process your 2019 return causing the delay. Or for some reason the system put you in a line that has yet to be serviced to send out a payment. All you can do is wait at this point. There are still millions of payments that are being processed and coming. 

I filed my 2019 Tax Return, and it has been processed. I used the Get My Payment portal to add my direct deposit information a little over a month ago, and I still have not received my payment. Every time I login to check on the status, the portal just says “You are eligible for the payment. Once we have your payment date, we will update this page. We will deposit your payment to the bank account below.” But there has not been an update in over a month. Should I be concerned?

I don't think you need to be concerned. At the risk of dating myself, I know I sound like a scratched record stuck on the same verse, but the IRS is still processing millions of payments. You're in the line. It's just a very long one. Think of it like being at Disney or Universal amusement park. Some folks have a "fast pass" where you get to go t the front of the line for a ride. In the case of the stimulus payment, some people received their money right away. Unfortunately, you and a lot of others are in a long, winding line. It's frustrating to see people pass by you to get their money. But nothing to do but wait right now. 

I'm 26, single, a Data analyst/programmer/engineer employed by the federal government. I've checked off the list--emergency fund, "life happens" fund, retirement contributions above what the math says I *should* make, not counting the match. I'm looking at moving out of my parent's house and getting my own place, but because I have a career I love, rock solid job security, and a long path of part-time grad school ahead of me here, I don't want to flush money down the toilet paying rent just to have my own place. However, houses are expensive--and because of the federal pay scale, I won't be able to buy a house in my area without what seems like a 30-40% down payment, just because of the %income requirements on mortgages, even if I *can* afford the payments comfortably on what I make currently. I have just over 100k saved for a down-payment now, but the loan cap based on my income means I either need at least another 50k, or to settle for a town-home (which I really don't want to live in for a lot of personal reasons). I feel like I'm falling behind my dual-income-with-new-babies peers who qualify for more realistic mortgages because of their dual income, even if I actually have substantially more ability to make payments because I don't have to pay for child care, all the costs of having littles, and student loan/car loan debt. Should I be looking to settle for a condo or townhouse for a few years, just to start building the equity and mortgage history for an intended future home purchase?

I really do understand you although I'm part of a dual income and older demographic. But with my hindsight here's some advice

-- Stop looking at or comparing yourself to peers or anybody else for that matter. Trust me, you have no idea the financial mess others are in who appear to have it all. Those couples with the kids and homes are often living paycheck to paycheck.

-- Make sure you have all the cash for the grad school. No loans. But I suspect you may have that covered. If not I would even take it from the home fund if you plan on going back to school soon, which might not be a bad idea. Why? Many colleges will probably have just online courses. And those courses may cost less than in-person classes. Might as well take advantage of this price break now before things return to normal -- and they will.

-- I think you are just fine staying home until you meet all your savings goals. If the shared housing situation is working -- and it clearly is if you've saved $100,000 at 27!!! Stay put and live your dream of financial freedom of paying fully for grad school and dare I say even half or more of a home. Think about it. If you stay with your parents for another five years for example, you could have enough to pay cash for a home or darn near close to it. In your early 30s and almost mortgage-free. That is a GAME CHANGER. I would do it in a heartbeat and in fact are encouraging our children to do the same. 

-- Buy what you want. Period. I used to own a condo and while it was a good way to start out, never again. I didn't like having people above me or so close next to me. You have the time to save and get just want you what. Don't worry about rising home prices. The right time to buy a home is the right time for YOU. Now, maybe it might mean making some compromises on location, no. of bedrooms, etc. But wait and get what fits your needs and wants. 

If you were my kid, I'd say, "Honey, stay here as long as you like, to save as much as you need to launch. I'm cool with that."

Hi Michelle, I am a former financial disaster who is still in debt with student loans, but am slowly digging out from under the mound of money that helped me get my education. I have credit cards I have paid off. My testimony is my credit score has gone from 610 to 690. I am not at 750, but hey — I started in the basement and now I'm on the first floor. I thank God for you and what you do! You are amazing.

You are the amazing one. It takes a lot of courage and introspection to see what's wrong and fix it. Good for you.

It's not much in the grand scheme of what everyone is dealing with, but I am happy and relieved that I was finally able to get a full refund on my (once upcoming) vacation. Since my expenses are mainly food/home essentials now I'm focusing on stretching that credit card credit for as many months expenses as possible, treating the credit as basically a short term emergency savings that lets me focus my actual emergency savings on fixed expenses I can't charge. Of course, this only works because I hadn't an outstanding balance on my credit card before this, but I'd encourage everyone in these times to turn over stones that they wouldn't necessarily think of.

Great on the refund. Not so great on using the credit card for short term emergency fund. Don't use credit at all even if it means saving less. 

We are saving money by not going into the store and by not taking three trips a week to buy whatever. We pay the fees and tip and still save money. Crazy.

Definitely crazy times. Even as many of us are trying to support local restaurants be careful you don't go overboard on ordering in. 

My spouse and I filed an extension for tax year 2018, filed tax through Turbo Tax in October 2019, received a refund directly deposited by IRS to my bank account in October 2019, the same bank account IRS had been depositing refunds for many years. Our combined AGI was about $64K, well below the limit. Obviously IRS knows about my bank account, but no stimulus check/ deposit. When I went to check at Get My Payment (almost every day), it says No payment information. Do we belong to a group of extended filers who fall through the crack? Thank you.

If you don't have a filed and fully processed 2019 return, the IRS  would have defaulted to your 2018 return. It could be that even though you got your refund, your return hasn't been processed. Or, the system just hasn't gotten to your information yet to send the stimulus check. But if you qualify you should be in the line for a payment. 

Does the end on Wed of the period to input the account information start a bottleneck for payment or it just means it will be easier to receive the monies

The Wed. noon deadline to input direct deposit information means if the IRS does not have banking information for you and you qualify for a stimulus payment, you'll get a mailed check. 

My family of 5 is feeling like our current house is really, really small with 3 little boys running around constantly. My husband and I are kicking around the idea of buying a bigger house. My job hasn't been impacted (and hopefully won't be). Our current house is 95% paid off, so we have plenty of equity. But, who knows what will happen with the housing market? We live in the suburbs of NYC, so it's possible that house prices will skyrocket as people living in apartments with kids decide they need more space. But prices could also plummet, so it's hard to tell what to do...

I have three kids and totally understand the need for space. But I wouldn't make a huge move right now unless a lot of things were in place:

-- You have fairly secure jobs or income

-- You have an emergency fund of 3 to 6 months of living expenses/or 12 months if you have a high income

- You have a life happens fund for the things in life that happen. Depending on your income and needs $1,000 to $5,000

-- You are in track for retirement savings.

-- You are on track for paying cash for college for those three boys

-- You have NO credit card debt.

- You have NO car loans.

-- You have NO student loans.

Then and only then would I look for a home and that equity would have to enough to put me in the same place of being 95% toward mortgage-free. 

Honestly, if you like where you live I would not move to a situation where I have a mortgage again where you are so close to being mortgage-free. Children grow up and out. Many of us lived in small homes and made it work. I slept in the same bed as my sister. We had one main bathroom for a family of 7.  

I can't wait to be mortgage-free and will never go back to having a mortgage. Five to 7 years and counting - if not sooner.

The previous poster sneers at renting as "flushing money down the toilet." This is another example of confusing paying for a place to live with making an investment. I don't want to open a debate about whether buying a house is always the right move for everybody. But for many people renting an apartment or a house allows them to enjoy a home that they wouldn't be able to buy outright, it gives them the flexibility to move on short notice to take advantage of other opportunities elsewhere, and they get to transfer maintenance costs and responsibiities to a landlord. There's no shame in renting.

I'm with you. Renting is not a waste of money. You are not a financial failure if you rent. Besides I do not see my home as an investment. Sure I have equity but how do I tap that money? I would have to sell or borrow against the home. 

No offense but you completely misunderstood what I said. I already have an actual emergency fund. But a several thousand dollar credit on my credit card means I don't have to tap it yet.

So sorry, thought I understood. Okay, so what's important is not seeing this money as any type of emergency fund. Sure, if things get rough and there's no funds, people use credit to get by. But I never, ever view my available balance as anything other than a convenient way to pay for things that I can pay off before the due date. I just don't want people to view credit as an addition or replacement for building an emergency fund. 

You may have answered this already, but I am on disability and it is the type of disability where if you get any money or gifts you have to report it as income and your monthly disability payment is reduced or eliminate entirely. Do I have to report this $1200 as income and will I lose my disability payments because of it?

No, the stimulus money is not counted toward income for qualification for benefits. 

I think she (?) meant that she is using the positive balance on the credit card from the refund to pay for expenses. Makes sense if your credit card isn't at your normal bank and they won't transfer the credit to your checking account for free. Also means she had already paid off the credit card charges for the vacation or the refund wouldn't have just paid off the charges, not put her in the black on the card. I'm dealing with the same thing on my car insurance. The company gave me a partial credit for two months, but now it shows as money they owe me because I just pay the bill off in full when it shows up twice a year instead of paying part of it each month.

Got it. Really, sounds like we are all in violent agreement. Use the credit refund to pay for things you might have put on the card for convenience. Sure, that's works. 

When you get a credit on your credit card, and you don’t already have a balance, it just sits there as a credit. So it makes sense to use up that credit by making purchases. Those of us who don’t carry balances deal with this whenever we return items.

Yes, I see. Just posted more on this. We are the same page.

I was laid off towards the end of 2018 and received 4 months of severance pay, plus vacation payout. As a result, my 2018 income exceeded the amount that would allow me to qualify for the stimulus. Fast forward, it took me over 1.5 years to land a new job, so the joint family income for 2019 was very much in the range to receive full stimulus. I submitted my 2019 taxes on 4/15, but I fear the IRS is using my 2018 AGI to determine that I am not eligible. Will they automatically revert to my 2019 return and eventually get around to paying me, or will I have to wait and reconcile on my 2020 return?

If the IRS has not processed your 2019 return by the time the agency looks at your 2018 return than yes, the agency will determine you don't qualify for the stimulus money. Or, it might have processed your 2019 return and all is good. You will get a stimulus payment. However, if for some reason you don't get a payment by the end of the year, when you file your 2020 return next year you can then get the full $1,200 stimulus payment. 

Don't know if my original question submission went through trying one more time I'm a retired disabled veteran receiving Social security for over 2 yrs with direct deposit but haven't received stimulus payment yet

Thank you for your service. Unfortunately there have been delays for folks in your situation. But the payments are coming. The IRS has to tap SSA and Veterans Affairs Department to get the information to make the automatic payments to you and others. You should receive your payments although I can't tell you for sure when. The IRS keeps setting dates but with millions of payments being made the agency hasn't kept the promised delivery dates.

The website says my check was prepared for mailing on May 1 but nothing has come. I signed up for USPS "Informed Delivery" that supposedly tracks when your payment is on its way. That system said "you have no scheduled delivery." Do you know anything about the USPS system, if that's accurate? Seeing all your answers, I'm hoping/assuming I'm in the last bunch to receive a check. I'm 75 and still waiting and way under the income limit. Thank you Michelle!

I know it's frustrating. But keep in mind so many businesses are operating on less staff, which is delaying updates to a lot of systems. So, yes you may be in the last line.

After reading the Post's article on rising grocery prices, I wanted to ask: how do you recommend people manage their budgets in such quickly changing times? So many of the baseline factors people use to calculate how much they can afford to spend are changing. All at once. Just for example: For many, less money is coming in if one or more adults have been furloughed, laid off, or have reduced hours, groceries cost more, but then again, gas costs are way less, and if you were paying for childcare, that's a possibly big chunk of money you just got back each month. And the situation keeps changing so fast that even the "track everything for a month" method might be too slow. By the end of the month maybe someone went back to work, or someone who was working isn't and the prices in the supermarket have changed again! Are "high speed monthly budget strategies" even a thing?

Right now honestly, you have to budget week-to-week. A lot of our costs went down but food went up not just because of prices but because everybody is home all day long, snacking, etc. Lights are on all day where before when it was just me, hardly any lights on. So what I've been doing is just looking at costs as we go, adjusting when prices rise or we get too many take out orders because we are working longer hours even though we are home. 

During the pandemic you have to be open to constant changes and pivot when you need to to adjust to what seems like ever changing economics. 

Hi, Michelle - In all the money-saving tips, I think sometimes that the virtue of home-cooking gets neglected. Compared to eating out, carry-out, or pre-prepared items from the market, you can save so much if you just know your way around the kitchen. Your colleagues over in the Food section recently interviewed this author whose cookbook focuses on economical & delicious cooking -- and she generously offered a pdf link to the book, so you don't even need to buy it! https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/voraciously/wp/2020/05/05/how-to-eat-on-4-a-day-according-to-the-author-who-wrote-the-book-on-snap-cooking/

I agree. But many people have decided to order out to help local businesses. I know we have.

I am living in a much better neighborhood than I ever would have imagined being able to buy in if I had refused to rent. It doesn't matter right now, but if I hustle I am less than a 5 minute walk to a close in Metro stop. Living in a smaller apartment keeps you from spending a ton of money on furniture. I never have to think about "redoing" the kitchen. And I have easily saved enough to buy a place the size of my current apartment for cash. Yeah, I didn't build equity in the last 5 years. But I had someone else come in to fix anything that went wrong, change the air filters, deal with the lightbulbs even in the ceiling fixtures, take care of packages as they arrived, let my guests in even if they arrived when I wasn't around, and so much more and didn't have to flush away my money on property taxes, condo fees or INTEREST. I might buy when this financial disaster leads to larger places coming down in price so I can buy one of them for cash or a mortgage with a balance smaller than my yearly income which should be very affordable.

Thanks for sharing the financial virtues of renting.

No question, just a testimony to the power of saving & living below our means. My partner & I are lucky enough to still have our jobs, but even if we lost those jobs we'd be fine: 18 months of living expenses in liquid savings; no debt; only $40K left on our mortgage; retirement contributions maxed to the limit every year. I grew up poor with a single mom so frugality is etched in my DNA! Believe me, I know how lucky we are that this pandemic isn't a financial disaster for us & I feel for so many others. We're age 48 & 38 with many years left to work.

Thanks for your testimony. 

Hi Michelle, Hoping your and your family are healthy and safe. I am a pretty logical person, not prone to panic, but on Sunday, I read this piece in the Outlook section of the Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/05/08/coronavirus-economic-recovery-disaster/?arc404=true and it freaked me out. The title is "The Storm We Can't See: We haven’t even begun to grasp how much damage the pandemic will do". Basically, the writer had 4 major points: the government bailout was a drop in the bucket of what's need, many colleges and universities will be in danger of going out of business, cities and states are going broke, and unemployment will be high for a long while. I'd be interested in your take on all this. One of the analysts in the piece said there will probably be "two years of really funky living". I think I'm also stressed because I can't see my parents (a 6 hour drive away) or my older son (a 3 hour flight away). I am blessed that my job and my husband's job is secure and I have no credit card debt. Our younger son who graduated from college last May (no student loans) was laid off from his job, but he lives at home so he's okay. Although I wonder how young people will fare in this economy. Any words of encouragement would be so helpful. How are you faring with your daughter so far away?

Honestly, some days I freak out, others I'm grateful - two jobs, no debt except mortgage, etc.

It's okay to freak out. Feel what you need to feel. But when you can take stock of our blessings. Even if you've lost your job try to think of something to be grateful for. 

Me

- We still have jobs

- We are all healthy. And my daughter in Houston is safe.

- We can handle our mortgage even if we lost our jobs

- Our retirement accounts are down but still up overall compared to our contributions.

- Our friends and family are healthy

- My dog sits by my feet during the day or at times will go get his ball for me to throw so it's a break from the constant bad news.

- I can walk

- I can get a clean glass of water

-- I have enough to eat even if I'm tired of cooking

- I have a roof over my head

- I can take a walk in a safe neighborhood

- I have a super fine man who loves me -- even if he doesn't give me enough foot rubs

Two things to get by during a pandemic

- Say to yourself, "This too shall pass."

- Be grateful 

I am concern for an elderly man that several months ago, his home of roughly ten years was sold leaving him displaced since. A few of us was able to convince him to apply for Social Security. His case had not moved forward much before Covid19 hit. He does not have access to Internet or computer or Library. I have tried many directions to find sources for answers or direct help for him in finding answers as to if he is on track to receive a most needed stimulus payment without action somehow on his part. This resource is the only foreseeable means for some relief through financial help and hope till what should be eventually a sure thing, an approval of his SS claim. However because of complications in retrieving most needed documents it is likely more months (maybe many) before determination. He needs clear understanding if being in the SSA system by APPLICATION (not approved receipant) routes a path with proper address (as is for SS receipants) for IRS in sending the stimulus payment. If not then, HOW can he get his mailing information to IRS without any more delay and hopefully avoid what many reports are saying that without the info needed by IRS soon, it could be many, many months more in delay of the financial funds needed. Even though closed, I managed to contact a worker in one community's outreach group. For nearly an hour and info needed their efforts were to no avail on the IRS site. This relief fund is truly necessary for his well-being, maybe even for his survival. Thank you for caring!

Thank you for caring and helping this person. Also hop over to AARP to see if there are any resources there. In fact, email me at colorofmoney@washpost.com and perhaps I can help connect you to someone at AARP who might be able to help. 

Today we officially have 3 months of emergency savings + a full life happens fund. We shifted from a much slower, broader savings plan earlier this year (retirement + 529s + emergency + student loans) to focusing almost entirely on the emergency savings given all of the uncertainty. Once we reach 6 months we will knock out the student loans (we're really close!) and start really working on the 529s. Thanks for the help! This kind of planning is how I deal with all of the stress.

It's a good plan!

Hi Michelle, In 2018, I was still a student and thus a dependent. However, I graduated and am filing separately for my 2019 taxes. My adjusted income is below the $75,000 threshold to receive payment. My question is if I am just now filing my taxes, will I still receive a stimulus payment? There were some delays in my filing and they are just now getting filed. Thanks! Sam

You may still get a stimulus payment this year but only after the IRS is able to process your 2019 return. That could be soon or much later. But if you miss out getting a payment this year, you can get it when you file next year because technically the stimulus payment is an advanced credit.

I am in a domestic violence situation and have moved from my home where my stimulus check was mailed to and according to the my payment website it was mailed on april 24th. I need to have it reissued but there is no option on the website to do so. And there is nobody live to speak with

I'm so sorry about your situation. Unfortunately, no one to talk to right now. Unless you can send someone to get the check you will have to wait to talk to someone at IRS to cancel the check and get it reissued. 

Any word on when the Treasury will mail checks to those who don't have direct deposit info on file? (I know I could enter direct deposit info now. I just don't trust that this bunch won't screw it up.) The good news is, we don't need the money. We'll sock it away because the future is at least as unpredictable now as it has always been. If we get to the end of the year with some favorable progress in the national state of affairs, we'll add the CARES money to our usual donations. We are grateful to be in a good place. One of us is retired and one self-employed. We save. A lot. We have a strong cash position. We scrimped over the years to build retirement savings and now we are OK. The blow to those accounts due to the stock market activity in the past few months doesn't make us happy but it doesn't put us in jeopardy, either. We keep living fairly simply, try to take care of people around us, and trust that this, too, shall pass.

The IRS is not accepting direct deposit information any more. So if the agency doesn't have your banking information, you'll get a check. When? There's no clear way to tell. But hopefully by the end of June. 

My mom received a letter saying that her stimulus check was deposited into her bank accnt. But when she checked her accnt there wasn't anything recently deposited and when she spoke to the bank, they told her nothing had been deposited. It's been a month now and she has yet to receive anything. Is there someone she can speak to about this or anything that she can do??

The IRS is not taking any calls. And frankly, she may not be able to clear this up until the IRS brings back workers and there is not telling when that may be. Also, the agency said that if folks did not get their payment or it was incorrect they will have to wait to clear it up when they file their 2020 return next year.  

So my story is kinda interesting, see I filed taxes in 2018, got a return in 2019, but the issue is that I could've been claimed as a dependent in 2019. I am now 18 in 2020, and suffering financially, but the thing is I WASN'T claimed as a dependent, because I was living on my own practically at this time. Could you help me out with some answers?

If you were not claimed as a dependent in 2019 and you can file a return on your own, you will have to file your 2019 return to get the stimulus money. Otherwise, you will have to wait and file in 2020 to get the money. So, go to irs.gov. Click on the link for FreeFile. File for yourself and there is a chance you can still get the money this year if the IRS processes your 2019 return before the end of the year if not sooner. Do not use the "non-filler" tool if you plan to file a 2019 return.

LOL, Michelle! He rocks.

Thanks!

I was just told due to COVID I will have a 2 week furlough starting next week. 3 years ago I would have been panicing about missing bills. Now, thanks to your advice and a lot of hard work, I'm still thinking I can pay all the bills and apply the cash back from my refinance of my house to my last credit card joint held with my ex. (refinance is necessary due to divorce). My emergency fund still isn't where I want it and that cash back will go to savings for at least a couple months just to see, but the optimism and lack of panic is thanks to you!

Thank you! I appreciate the kind words. A furlough is hard but I like your attitude!

Stayed as long as I could. Have a Zoom meeting -- yet another one! When will they end!!!!!!

Okay, that was me being negative. Grateful I have a job.

Seriously, thank you for joining me today. Please take care and be safe. 

And for all of you still waiting on your stimulus money, if you qualify it's coming. Might not be as soon as you need it but absent some issue, the IRS is still sending out money.

See you next week. 

In This Chat
Michelle Singletary
Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, "The Color of Money," which appears in The Post on Wednesday and Sunday and is carried in more than 120 newspapers.

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