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Dems rally, administration alters course on payments to non-filers

Both U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-AL, and U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-AL, issued statements Thursday praising a decision from U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to reverse an earlier decision and authorize direct payments to Social Security beneficiaries.

On Monday, guidance was handed down by the U.S. Treasury Department indicating that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would require Social Security beneficiaries to file an additional simplified tax return in order to receive COVID-19 relief payments approved last week in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

From her position as Vice Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Sewell called on the department to change course and “ensure that seniors do not need to jump through unnecessary hoops to receive their COVID-19 payments.”

In a letter, Sewell spoke of the more than 157,000 Alabamians receiving retirement, survivors and disability insurance in Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, whose annual average payment is about $14,000 – Sewell asserted that these people would be “adversely affected” by having to file additional documents to receive their relief payments.

Late Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it would reverse its earlier decision and clear the way for Social Security beneficiaries to receive direct payments like all other tax-filing American citizens.

“This is a huge win for the seniors in our district, especially those who rely on Social Security as their only form of income in retirement,” Sewell said. “Many of these beneficiaries do not have access to broadband internet and are sheltering in place due to this public health crisis, making [it] all the more important that they automatically receive their coronavirus direct payment as quickly as possible. While I am pleased the administration has pledged to ensure Social Security beneficiaries automatically receive their fair share, I am continuing to work to confirm this decision also applies to Social Security Insurance beneficiaries and veterans receiving pensions. This is simply a matter of equity.”

Simultaneously, from the upper chamber of Congress, Jones and 41 Senate colleagues addressed a similar letter calling on the U.S. Treasury Department to authorize direct payments to Social Security beneficiaries.

In the letter, Jones and his colleagues asserted that requiring an additional document would be “a significant burden” on seniors and disabled people, particularly in light of the fact that volunteer filing services have been halted due to the ongoing health crisis.

Following Wednesday’s announcement by the department that beneficiaries would receive direct payment, Jones celebrated.

“We need to make it as easy as possible for folks to get the help they need during these difficult times, especially given the record-shattering unemployment numbers we saw today,” Jones said. “I’m relieved that the administration reversed course here to allow Social Security recipients to automatically receive the direct cash assistance provided by the CARES Act without having to file a tax return. My office has received numerous calls and messages from Alabamians about this issue and I hope that this announcement finally clears up any confusion or concerns that Social Security recipients may have about the benefits included in the economic relief package we passed through Congress last week.”

According to Sewell’s office, for those who have banking information on file with the IRS, CARES Act money should begin showing up in Americans’ bank accounts April 17, with checks to be mailed later.