June 11 (UPI) -- State and local leaders must carry out "an aggressive outreach program" to ensure stimulus payments reach some 12 million Americans who didn't file tax returns in the past two years, a public policy think tank said Thursday.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said those who didn't file taxes in 2018 or 2019 risk losing out on the stimulus payments under the CARES Act.
The law, passed in March, gave direct stimulus payments to individuals based on their income during the 2018 and 2019 filing years in response to the economic hardship brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The Internal Revenue Service automatically sent the payments -- either through direct deposit or by a check in the mail -- to those who filed and met the income requirements, and those who didn't have to file taxes because they receive Social Security or other benefits.
That left about 12 million Americans who qualify to receive the stimulus checks but don't make enough money to file taxes. The IRS directed these individuals to use a website to enter their information by Oct. 15 to receive the payments.
"An aggressive outreach program is needed at the state and local levels to inform eligible individuals, who by definition have very low incomes, that they are eligible and to help them undertake the required steps," said the think tank, which calls itself non-partisan, though critics have described it as left-leaning.
"These funds would go to extremely low-income individuals and families at a time when need is rising due to the pandemic. And ensuring these people apply for and receive the payments for which they qualify will also benefit local and state economies, in which much of the money will be spent."
The CBPP said the group of non-filers is disproportionately people of color; 27 percent are black, twice that of the overall population. Nineteen percent are Latino.
"Ensuring that low-income people of color receive the payments for which they qualify is especially important given emerging evidence that they are being hit hardest by both the economic and health effects of the pandemic," the think tank said.
The CBPP said about 75 percent of non-filers receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and/or Medicaid. The organization suggested state and local leaders perform outreach to non-filers through those two programs. Others can be reached through public education efforts with other groups, including those that work with people who are homeless.