COVID-19 stimulus payments for Texans: Your top questions answered

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Monday, January 4, 2021
Stimulus payments for Texans: Your top questions answered
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If you had a child in 2020 or lost income, can you claim money? Is the stimulus money taxable? We've got these answers plus more.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- COVID-19 relief checks are set to hit the bank accounts of most Americans, but some people who spoke with ABC13 said they still have a lot of questions.

Eyewitness News reporter Nick Natario breaks down the answers to your most frequently asked questions about the coronavirus relief bill and payments.

When will the money arrive?

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted last week that the $600 direct deposits could arrive in accounts as early as Tuesday night, with paper checks going into the mail on Wednesday.

What if you haven't gotten it yet?

Residents can check on the status of their payments on the IRS website now that the payment tracker is live.

If Congress increases the payment to $2,000, will I get a second stimulus check?

No. As of last Tuesday, lawmakers were debating to increase the amount from $600 to $2,000. The measure passed the House, but was blocked on the Senate on Tuesday. Its fate is unclear.

If the measure passes the Senate, the total amount Americans would receive is $2,000, not $2,600.

"It's not enough"

Some Houstonians say the current payment doesn't cover for expenses brought on by the pandemic.

"The $600 is ridiculous," Houston resident Angela McKenzie said. "I mean, even $2,000 for people who have been waiting for months who aren't making it, it's not enough."

Shawnta Dandy, also a Houston resident, agrees.

"I have family that lost a lot," she said. "I mean, $600, I mean, yeah, it's a good gesture, but it won't do enough."

When will unemployed Texans receive the boosted unemployment benefits?

On Wednesday, the Texas Workforce Commission said the extra weekly $300 will be available through March 13, 2021. According to an update issued on social media, in order to receive the extended benefits, unemployed Texans should continue to request payment and complete work search activities while out of a job.

"There could be a short break in payment, but you will receive those backdated benefits if you are eligible," said Texas Workforce Commission spokesperson, Cisco Gamez. "Please, do not re-apply for benefits as this could cause delays."

The delay, he said, is tied to the time President Donald Trump took to sign the bill.

TWC said it will work to implement changes in days, but it needed to hear from the U.S. Department of Labor.

ABC13 contacted the federal agency on Wednesday. A spokesperson issued a statement saying, "The Departments Office of Unemployment Insurance will deliver five pieces of initial guidance, with more to follow if needed, to assist states with the implementation of these programs, with the first documents to be published in the near future. Timelines for state implementation may vary, and new provisions and large-scale changes to state-run benefit programs also require adequate time for testing prior to rollout."

The agency said the funds will be backdated to people's accounts from the week ending Dec. 26.

"The Texas Workforce Commission must wait for direction from the U.S. Department of Labor prior to changes to any benefits," Gamez explained.

If I had a child, or lost income in 2020, will I get extra money?

The IRS will use 2019 tax return information to distribute payments. In order to qualify for the full amount, you must have made less than $75,000, or $150,000 as married couple.

Americans who qualify will also receive $600 for each child listed on their 2019 return. However, there is a way to get money if you had significant changes in 2020.

According to the House Ways and Means Committee, if you experienced an income loss in 2020 or had an increase in family size, you may be able to claim an additional credit for the difference on your 2020 federal income tax return.

Is the money taxable?

The House Ways and Means Committee said the direct payment is not taxable. It also won't impact eligibility for federal programs. The enhanced unemployment benefits, however, are taxable. If you receive the extra weekly $300 in benefits, you will have to claim it.

Is there a way to get the money faster?

Federal leaders said the money should come quicker than the first stimulus payments.

If you received direct payment before, even if you moved, you'll receive it the same way you received it the first time. The Federal Trade Commission is warning people to keep an eye out for scams.

Remember, the government won't ask you to pay upfront, or call for bank account information, and there's no way to get the money before anyone else.

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