A report by the California Policy Lab, or CPL, at UC Berkeley found that approximately 2.2 million low-income Californians are potentially missing out on $5.7 billion in stimulus payments.
The researchers estimate that 25% of low-income Californians enrolled in safety-net programs such as CalWORKs fall in the federal Stimulus Gap, according to a press release from CPL.
“These Californians likely did not receive their federal stimulus payments automatically and are therefore at risk of not receiving their payments at all,” the press release reads.
The IRS used tax data to automatically transfer stimulus payments to the majority of eligible Californians, according to the press release.
However, those who are not required to file taxes as their annual income falls below a certain threshold would have missed out on their payments, unless they did in fact file their taxes or used the IRS “non-filers” tool between April 2020 and November 2020, according to the press release. The tool was removed from the IRS website shortly after.
CPL senior research manager Aparna Ramesh and her report co-authors, CPL data analyst Charles Davies and research associate Elsa Augustine, compared safety net program enrollment numbers in California to linked state tax filing data to determine the number of Californians in the Stimulus Gap, according to the press release.
The average adult in the Stimulus Gap could potentially miss out on $3,200 in total stimulus payments, while the average adult with dependents under the age of 17 is at risk of missing out on an extra $2,500 per child, the press release reads.
“That’s a lot of money,” Ramesh said. “For each person, that’s a lot of money, especially if you’re an adult. For food, rent, utilities, anything that helps you weather the pandemic.”
Individuals in rural Northern and Eastern California counties are most at risk of falling in the Stimulus Gap, according to the report. Additionally, about two-thirds of Californians in the Stimulus Gap are single and have no dependents.
Ramesh said the process for individuals in the Stimulus Gap to claim their payments should be simplified.
On a short-term scale, she said the IRS should bring back its “non-filers” tool. But in the long run, Ramesh noted that state governments should work with the federal government to ensure that those in the Stimulus Gap receive their payments.
For individuals who have not yet received their stimulus payments, Ramesh recommends checking either getyourrefund.org or myfreetaxes.com for help.
“Our analysis is limited to folks who we see in the safety net,” Ramesh said. “The actual gap in California could be larger, and we’ve done California estimates, but this is a national problem as well.”