Since the beginning of 2020, we have lived through the Covid-19 pandemic, which swept across the United States and the world and is responsible for the deaths of over 760,000 people nationwide and over 5 million people worldwide. In the midst of this experience, many lost jobs, and families were faced with the responsibility of ensuring children attended school virtually. Lost wages meant families were also faced with the inability to support their families, pay mortgages and rent, and keep food in their cabinets. In response to the pandemic, the federal government implemented a plan to distribute Economic Impact Payments (EIP), also known as stimulus checks. These funds were provided in an effort to help ease the impact of lost employment which created economic hardships for many people across the nation. In addition to the Economic Impact Payments, this year, nearly every family with children was eligible to receive the Advance Childcare Tax Credit (ACTC), including families that were previously ineligible to receive the credit.
Get My Payment Illinois Coalition
In an effort to ensure all Illinois residents had access to the EIP payments, a group of non-profit organizations came together and formed the Get My Payment Illinois Coalition. In addition to assisting Illinoisans with the stimulus checks, the coalition also assists Illinois residents with obtaining information and applying for the Advance Childcare Tax Credit. However, according to Christine Cheng, a consultant with the Get My Payment Illinois Coalition, many low-income or no-income families in need of the EIP payments were least likely to receive them because of several factors: homelessness, non-filing of income taxes, the inability of the Internal Revenue Service to reach taxpayers and filers due to incorrect address information, and other issues. She shared that it was important to the coalition that Illinois residents were able to have access to information regarding both the Economic Impact Payments and the Advance Childcare Tax Credit. Ms. Cheng provided, “The coalition wanted to create and be a resource for Illinoisans who experienced barriers accessing resources and information about the stimulus payments and the childcare tax credit. The eligibility criteria were expanded for people who were historically ineligible to receive a childcare tax credit. Offering an advance payment of the childcare credit, rather than taking the credit when filing income taxes provided a measure of stability for families – the money is needed now, instead of later,” she added.
Ms. Cheng shared that the federal government uses the most recent income tax returns to determine eligibility. Also, if a person has not filed a tax return in the last two years, the IRS doesn’t know to enroll that person in the program. Ms. Cheng provided, “Many families do not file income tax returns or are not required to file income tax returns. However, it is important that individuals and families file income tax returns, whether they receive income or not, so that they are able to receive payments such as the childcare tax credit, without experiencing delays.”
Get My Payment Illinois Coalition Outreach Efforts
Ms. Cheng shared, “The coalition’s biggest challenge was locating families who may be eligible to receive the advance childcare tax credit.” In an effort to reach families who could benefit from the childcare tax credit, the coalition utilized social media resources, partnerships with head start programs, community organizations and churches, Chicago public libraries and schools, Catholic Charities, and the WIC food centers to share information and support to those seeking to apply to receive the advance payments. In addition, the coalition’s website was regularly updated with information about eligibility to receive both the stimulus check and the childcare tax credit.
Kristen M., a stay-at-home mom and full-time student whose family consists of her husband and five children, ages 3-17 is one of the families impacted by the pandemic. Last year, because of the pandemic, her husband’s work hours were drastically reduced because the food and beverage industry was one of the hardest hit as a result of the closure of businesses. Kristen shared, “My husband’s employer was shut down for a while and when he was able, he took work on any shift, just to make ends meet. We were concerned that we may lose our home.” Kristen learned about the coalition through a friend and contacted them to receive information about the childcare tax credit. “The payments have helped to ensure our mortgage is paid and put us back on our feet,” she added.
Families have until November 15th to sign up to enroll in advance payments of the childcare tax credit. After November 15th, the credit can be claimed on the 2021 income tax return. The filing tool is available at www.GetCTC.org/IL. For more information on the Get My Payment Illinois Coalition, visit www.getmypaymentil.org or call 888-553-9777.
Donna Hammond is a contributing writer and seminarian. Follow her on Twitter, @DeeLois623, or Facebook, DeeLoisSpeaks.