Millions of Americans have received three rounds of pandemic relief stimulus payments from the federal government. But many individuals experiencing homelessness who are eligible, and could benefit greatly from the economic assistance, have only gotten a portion of what they are entitled to, or they have not received anything at all.
"Many of the folks we serve didn't know they were eligible," said Sylvia Hibbard, Street Medicine Case Manager. "They mistakenly assumed they were ineligible because they didn't earn an income, so they didn't try to track the payments down."
In addition to faulty information, other common barriers to receiving the payments include not having a mailing address or a banking account.
Hibbard realized she could help The Night Ministry's clients receive the payments they were entitled to by assisting them in filing their 2020 taxes. "They can claim a refund for any stimulus checks they missed last year, and, by filing, let the IRS know where to send the most recent payment and any further rounds that might happen," she said.
Along with Ryan Spangler, a Case Manager at the social services agency Heartland Alliance with whom she works closely, Hibbard and her colleagues at The Night Ministry organized a drop-in tax event held at The Night Ministry's Bucktown headquarters in late April. Spangler provided transportation from encampments, while volunteers, under the guidance of Hibbard, helped clients file their taxes online.
"I'm super interested in making sure that people are getting the benefits that they deserve," said volunteer Parker Baum.
Eighteen individuals received assistance with their taxes during the event, including Edward. "They submitted it and it was approved, so I should hopefully have my check soon," he said.
Many of those who came to the event are having their checks mailed to The Night Ministry. That is a common way that individuals served by the agency receive correspondence—staff bring the mail directly to the clients after it arrives. Others who came for help with their taxes chose to have payments routed to an online banking app or debit card.