Some Durangoans still haven’t received a stimulus payment
For many people, receiving a COVID-19 stimulus check was as easy as checking their bank account and finding hundreds of government dollars inside.
But for some people, like many homeless people at the Purple Cliffs camp, getting a financial boost has been far from easy.
It is not an eligibility issue.
On three occasions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government dispersed stimulus checks to help Americans – including those without a permanent address – recover financially. These are barriers: not having a bank account, identification, the right tax forms.
Aquila Cato, who lives at Purple Cliffs in Durango, has yet to receive her first raise payment.
“He’s on his way,” Cato said Tuesday. “I asked a friend to do it for us from his computer because he was an accountant.”
One year ago, millions of people across the country began receiving the first installment of $ 1,200. In December, the long-awaited second payment, $ 600, began to arrive.
The main problem for the people of Purple Cliffs comes down to taxes. The Internal Revenue Service uses previous tax returns to send stimulus payments. But this method can bypass people with no taxable income, such as single adults under 65 who earn less than $ 12,400.
During the 2008 stimulus rollout, around 17% of those who were eligible (many of whom also had very low incomes) never received the money because they did not file a tax return, according to a 2019 report released by The Hamilton Project, a political group. .
Some of the roughly 50 residents of La Posta Road campsite have bank accounts, disability assistance or social security benefits and have automatically received the payments, according to Jim Micikas, a volunteer at Purple Cliffs through the Neighbors in Need Alliance.
Others want to receive the payments, but they don’t have a fixed address. Or they can receive a check, but don’t have a bank account and can’t cash it. If they don’t have ID, it makes opening a bank account more difficult.
A few people are suspicious of government systems and two people were unaware of the stimulus payment, Micikas said.
“Then there is a security issue after they get the money… because they don’t have a bank account to draw from,” he said.
Durango residents and community groups have come together to offer their support.
Manna, a soup kitchen in Durango, lets people use her address to receive mail and walks them through the ID replacement process. Friends can cash checks or accept mail for the campers, Micikas said.
Durango Vineyard Church brought a computer and Wi-Fi hotspot to Purple Cliffs to help individuals complete a short tax form for non-filers. They helped about 40 people, and of those, about 75% had not filed taxes recently, said Jeff Sutherland, mission coordinator for the church and board member of Manna, a soup popular of Durango.
“My overall experience would be things involving more than a step or two, it gets overwhelming,” Sutherland said. “But with somebody else there… they’re able to do what they have to do.”
The non-depositor form is not an option for the third stimulus, approved in March, Sutherland said. The total amount of $ 1,400 goes to anyone who earns less than $ 75,000 in adjusted gross income, heads of households who earn less than $ 112,500, and married couples who earn less than $ 150,000.
People have to complete a full tax return for 2020 to receive this payment, he said. The deadline for taxes is May 17th.
“It made a wrinkle in there. I don’t necessarily know, and our organization doesn’t necessarily know all of the tax elements needed to be able to help them complete their tax returns, ”Sutherland said.
A former accountant is helping a few people at Purple Cliffs with their deposits, Micikas said. The IRS website also lists free filing options, including a free tax help finder that lists two locations in Durango. Or, if people have ID, Sutherland refers them to the Liberty Tax Office at Walmart or the Durango Public Library.
Although the library cannot provide tax assistance, it can direct people to tax forms in English and Spanish and refer to the IRS filing site, said Sandy Irwin, director of the library.
“We help the folks at Purple Cliffs because we know it’s the only place we can consistently be,” said Sutherland. “There are still an unknown number of homeless people in the area that we have not worked with.”
For those who received the payments, the extra money served as an interim measure during the pandemic when support services were closed or less available, Sutherland said.
“About 85% of them were using the funds … to fill the gaps for lack of income,” he said.
Tim Sargent, a camp leader, was already registered with Social Security and automatically received his payments.
He upgraded his tent and bought Redwood boots, a chainsaw, and safety gear. Logging would help people heat their tents or be a source of income. He also set aside savings to buy property in the future, he said.
“I’m trying to put some money together so that we can get private property for us retirees … a little farm thing, with chickens, rabbits, that sort of thing,” Sargent said.
Someone from Purple Cliffs sent his girlfriend a care package. Another, who plans to fix his truck to help find a job, filed the 2020 taxes, but the second and third payments were still being processed.
Cato, who has also taken a leadership role in running the camp, plans to use his stimulus to pay the bills.
“He feels good. No more burden, no more pressure,” he said. “Whatever money I have left, I don’t know yet.