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VERIFY: Yes, prison inmates can get the third round of stimulus checks, although not all will qualify

The latest stimulus package approved by Congress and President Biden does not prohibit inmates from getting a $1,400 stimulus payment.


The question

As the U.S. Treasury Department continues to distribute millions of additional payments as part of a third round of COVID-related stimulus relief, the 13News VERIFY Team continues to receive many questions about stimulus payments for individuals in jails and prisons.

The most popular questions are whether inmates are entitled to receive Economic Impact Payments from the IRS and, if so, how do they get that money?

Our sources

The Internal Revenue Service, the Prison Policy Initiative and the Northern District of California’s U.S. District Court.

What we found

The latest stimulus package approved by Congress and President Biden does not prohibit inmates from getting a $1,400 stimulus payment. 

The first two stimulus packages passed last year by lawmakers and President Trump worked the same way, and when the IRS tried to prevent stimulus checks from going to inmates, a federal judge ruled that was not allowed.

So, we can verify inmates ARE permitted to get stimulus payments. But that does not mean all of them will. 

Like everyone else, prisoners still have to meet eligibility requirements to qualify for an Economic Impact Payment. 

To be eligible, an inmate must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or qualifying resident alien; have a valid Social Security number; not be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return; and meet income limits. Those eligibility requirements are outlined in more detail on the IRS stimulus webpage.

For eligible inmates who did not get one or both of the stimulus payments in 2020, the IRS advises filing a tax return to claim a Recovery Rebate Credit. (Use line 30 on the tax return.)

13News is also getting many questions about whether inmates SHOULD get stimulus checks. We can verify that depends on your perspective.

Critics point out prison inmates already costs taxpayers money to be incarcerated and are not likely spending stimulus money to stimulate the economy. 

Some prisons and jails have put up roadblocks for prisoners trying to get their stimulus payments or withheld a portion of inmates’ stimulus payments, claiming the facilities are entitled to reimburse themselves for some of the costs of housing prisoners.

Advocates say inmates do incur costs while in jail, and the money can be valuable to assist their families and to help inmates reintegrate into the community when they are released.

Have a question for our VERIFY Team? Send us an email at VERIFY@wthr.com.