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The Congressional Black Caucus Statement on Letter to Secretary Mnuchin on Withheld Stimulus Payment

Washington, D.C. – In July, the IRS determined that incarcerated Americans were not entitled to economic impact payments (EIPs). This position is inconsistent with the CARES Act, unfairly harms the incarcerated, and disproportionately discriminates against African Americans.

At the notice of this directive by the IRS, the Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter to the Mr. Charles P. Rettig, Commissioner of the IRS, and called for the reversal of this guidance because it is unlawful and discriminatory to exclude incarcerated individuals from receiving this payment by assuming COVID-19 has “minimal” impact on their lives because they are incarcerated.

In our letter, we made it very clear that the language of the CARES Act is simple: “any individual” is eligible to receive payment, other than a nonresident alien individual, an estate or trust, or an individual who can be claimed as a dependent. A person does not cease being an “individual” simply because they are incarcerated. Under the CARES Act, incarcerated Americans rightfully are entitled to EIPs. Indeed, inmates around the country had already begun receiving their EIPs before the IRS issued guidance that these payments had to be returned. The IRS’s position is both arbitrary and unlawful and must be corrected to conform with the CARES Act.

In response to our letter, two months later, the Treasury Department finally replied and claimed full compliance with the guidelines of the CARES Act because incarcerated individuals are more isolated from the economic effects of the pandemic than others. This position completely disregards the impact COVID-19 has had on families of incarcerated individuals, which again are disproportionately Black families.

The Congressional Black Caucus has sent a follow up letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin demanding that Treasury pay the incarcerated and their families withheld EIPs within two weeks. We are also requesting a meeting to discuss the racially-discriminatory nature of the Treasury policy denying EIPs to incarcerated individuals. These actions are unacceptable.

This Administration continues to circumvent the legislative process to suit an agenda that is repressive toward Black Americans. To answer the President’s question about “what do we have to lose?” This is what we have to lose.

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