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Puerto Rico residents on Social Security won't get stimulus checks until June

Puerto Rico slowly reopening economy
Puerto Rico slowly reopening economy despite rising numbers of COVID-19 cases 07:35

Puerto Rico residents who collect Social Security must wait until June to get their federal stimulus checks, according to the Social Security Administration. That would make them among the last Americans to receive the payments, which are intended to boost people's income as the coronavirus slams the U.S. economy.

The Social Security Administration attributed the delay — which also affects people living in American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and U.S. Virgin Islands — to "special rules" for people who live in official U.S. territories. The rules require tax authorities in each territory to disburse the stimulus funds, called Economic Impact Payments, to Social Security recipients who reside there. The IRS is issuing the checks for Americans who live within the 50 states and Washington, D.C. 

"It is anticipated that beneficiaries in the territories could begin receiving their Economic Impact Payment in early June," the Social Security Administration said. The Treasury Department estimates that 87% of eligible Americans have gotten the payments.

About 900,000 Social Security recipients live in U.S. territories, with the largest share — 820,000 — living in Puerto Rico. While the stimulus payments appeared simple at first glance, the rollout has been plagued by confusion and frustration for many consumers, with millions still awaiting payment. 

Trump sends millions of Americans signed letter explaining stimulus checks 06:14

The program was created under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law on March 27. At the time, the Treasury Department said the payments would deliver "fast and direct relief" to the economic collapse that has followed the coronavirus.

The CARES Act offers payments of $1,200 for single people with annual income of less than $75,000 and $2,400 for married couples who earn less than $150,000. Children under 17 are eligible to get $500. That could prove an urgent injection of cash in Puerto Rico, where the median household income is about $20,000 — less than one-third the U.S. median household income of $62,000.

Social Security complications

Matching the stimulus payments to taxpayers has proved complicated, especially since some Social Security recipients aren't required to file taxes, which means the IRS doesn't have data on file for them.

Earlier this week, the Social Security Administration said many Americans that get extra Social Security benefits for low-income aged, blind or disabled people are likely to receive their stimulus payments this week via direct deposit or through the mail beginning on Friday. 

Puerto Rico struggles with coronavirus testing 07:10

People on Social Security have faced a number of hurdles getting their stimulus payments. Early on, the Treasury Department said Social Security recipients who aren't required to file tax returns would need to file a "simple tax return" to qualify. But after an outcry from lawmakers, Treasury reversed the decision

"The Social Security Administration has been working with the IRS to provide the necessary information about Social Security and SSI beneficiaries in order to automate and expedite their Economic Impact Payments," said Andrew Saul, commissioner of Social Security in a statement on Thursday. "We continue to work hard for those beneficiaries who are awaiting their payment from the IRS."

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