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Prisoners Entitled to $1,200 Stimulus Checks, Judge Rules

Inmates in local, state, and federal prisons are entitled to receive the same $1,200 stimulus payments sent to millions of other Americans, ruled U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in California, who granted class-action standing to the group. Hamilton ordered the Treasury Department to reverse a decision to withhold stimulus funds from prisoners solely based on their incarcerated status, reports the Washington Post. The IRS issued close to 85,000 payments to incarcerated people totaling $100 million, says the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

The IRS then flip-flopped and announced on its website that an incarcerated individual was not eligible for a stimulus payment. The agency asked correctional facilities to intercept payments and released information on irs.gov telling incarcerated individuals and their spouses that if they got a payment, they needed to return the money. That’s when many prisoners signed on to a class-action suit to demand the payments  “There is no basis in law or fact for the IRS to disallow these payments,” said Nina Olson of the Center for Taxpayer Rights. Unless the Trump administration appeals, the judge said the government must reconsider reissuing payments to inmates that were withheld, intercepted, or returned, said Kelly Dermody, a San Francisco lawyer representing the class-action members. Dermody said, “This case addresses the devastating intersection of poverty, mass incarceration and toxic health outcomes, which disproportionately affect Black, Indigenous, Latinx, nonbinary and transgender people. Excluding from assistance the people and their families most at economic and health risk from COVID-19 is unspeakably cruel, as well as being illegal under the authorizing statute.”