Isaac Neiss succeeded in claiming his Covid-19 Economic Impact Payment, but it meant jumping through some hoops. His story is the first episode in our exposé on the hurdles for others like him in Indian country. Photo by Talli Nauman / Native Sun News Today

Native Sun News Today: Pandemic consolation prize: View from Indian Country

Lakota family beats odds, shows way to score stimulus check

RAPID CITY – Ronald “Isaac” Neiss figured he would not be eligible for a $1,200 individual stimulus check under the U.S. government’s emergency pandemic relief program. However, the 20-year-old local Sicangu Lakota man decided it would be worth a try to apply, and he scored a welcome reward.

‘I don’t know how long we are going to be in quarantine, so I thought I might need the money,” he told the Native Sun News Today. He said he would put it into savings to use for necessities.

Neiss received the check for the full amount from the U.S. Treasury Department on April 23. Yet with the department putting out the word of “last chance” and “time is running out,” many of his friends and relatives failed to take advantage of deadlines for obtaining the one-time economic boost.

Their reasons are manifold. Challenges nationwide are well-documented. Hurdles specific to Indian country are less-well attended.

The good news is: If you missed the most recent May 13 deadline for applying to get your Covid-19 stimulus check, you can still qualify and receive as much as $1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child in your family.

The funds come from the U.S. Congress’ $2-trillion March authorization of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, which also included outlays for tribal and other governments, small business assistance, and unemployment security.

The Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, which oversees tax return filers’ annual contributions and refunds for federal budget management purposes, is in charge of the personal stimulus payouts.

Officially known as Economic Impact Payments, these consolation prizes aim to compensate individuals for hardships endured during the public health crisis. They are estimated to number in the range of some 280 million checks altogether.

Neiss’ payment arrived one day after an IRS target date for distribution, while millions of expectant recipients across the United States were getting the jitters over seeing no deposits or incorrect amounts in their mailboxes and electronic bank accounts.

Delays and underpayments were not uncommon due to what The Washington Post termed “glitches” in the filing and collection methods used by both the bureaucracy and private tax consulting firms. After all, they were sorting their way through a maze of accounting steps as novel as the pandemic coronavirus itself.

On May 8, having sent out more than $200 billion in the stimulus program's first four weeks, and with more than half of eligible recipients still waiting for their money, the IRS announced a five-day window for filing to receive payment via direct deposit.

By that date, one of the system’s big bugaboos had been tamed: The accessibility was enhanced at the previously impractical “Get My Payment” electronic page on the IRS website, and the agency prompted: “Use Get My Payment by noon Wednesday, May 13, for a chance to get a quicker delivery.”

It urged, “For many taxpayers, the last chance to obtain a direct deposit of their Economic Impact Payment rather than receive a paper check is coming soon. Time is running out for a chance to get these payments several weeks earlier through direct deposit."

It added that after May 13, “The IRS will begin preparing millions of files to send to the Bureau of the Fiscal Service for paper checks that will begin arriving through late May and into June.” So even if you can’t get it fast, you can still get it.


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