As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government provided Economic Impact Payments (EIP), also known as stimulus checks, to individuals and families to help mitigate the impact of closures, layoffs, and other economic hardships. Unfortunately, the people who need EIP funds the most are least likely to get them. Ensuring that low-income households can receive their funds quickly is an essential step to help more people cover basic needs.
Get My Payment Illinois is a coalition that formed quickly to support Illinois residents’ access to their entitled EIP funds. At the same time, it created a national model for how nonprofits can collaborate to ensure delivery of government benefits reach those most in need.
Speedy design made delivery of EIPs difficult for lower-income Americans who don’t earn enough to file taxes. As a result, the IRS lacks payment information for them. Other vulnerable Illinoisans didn’t receive checks because of a changed address or bank account, experiencing homelessness, lack of internet access, or lack of a Social Security number.
For the unbanked, not only are payments delayed, but they face additional challenges in accessing their funds, such as high check cashing fees or traveling longer distance to a currency exchange, often via public transportation. If these individuals manage to jump through the hoops to receive their EIP, there is the chance that part or all their funds could be seized by debt collectors, banks, or other creditors, such as payday lenders and student loan companies. The process of accessing your payment when there are countless barriers can become very difficult, consuming, and disheartening.
“So many of us don’t believe this is meant for us. If Ryan hadn’t talked me into it and told me he was sure I was eligible, I would have never gone through with it.” –Brian, a resident who received assistance from Get My Payment Illinois
Get My Payment Illinois, a coalition of nonprofits—including Heartland Alliance, New America, Economic Awareness Council, BankOn Chicago, and Heartland Human Care Services—that is working to ensure economically vulnerable residents receive their EIP payments, without additional debt. The coalition is deeply committed to help lift that burden through its main goals of:
Ensuring low-income Illinoisans have one clear resource for EIP questions,
Providing unbanked residents safe, affordable bank accounts to receive payments more quickly,
Helping those who haven’t recently filed taxes access their EIP payments and tax credits; and
Advocating for the protection of EIP payments from predatory lenders.
The Chicago Community Trust is proud to provide grant support to Get My Payment Illinois. Through support from the Trust and other funders, here are some of the activities the coalition has completed:
Information and assistance through their hotline and website.
Television and newspaper placements to raise awareness, including a Univision interview, a Streetwise ad, and articles in local Black and Latinx papers.
Trainings for nonprofit and government agency staff, including Cook County government.
Mailing 28,000 information packets to people in Illinois prisons with Uptown People’s Law Center.
Since May 1, 2020, Get My Payment Illinois has helped 63,108 people learn more about how to access their EIP payments on the coalition’s website, assisted 1,291 people with complicated tax problems or without internet access through their hotline, and shared information about BankOn accounts with 2,035 people.
As they seek more resources, the Get My Payment Illinois coalition will continue to raise awareness about EIP payments and provide assistance to Illinois residents. Any additional funding raised will go towards mini grants for on-the-ground outreach across the state.