Marylanders Could See RELIEF Act Stimulus Payments This Week, Franchot Says

Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) appears alongside other top fiscal officials to discuss how his office is processing RELIEF Act stimulus payments during a virtual briefing on Tuesday. Screen shot.

Eligible Marylanders could begin receiving RELIEF Act payments from the state by the end of the week, Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) said at a briefing Tuesday.

Franchot said his office has already started processing roughly 267,000 electronic payments and 149,000 paper checks for 422,531 eligible stimulus recipients, totaling more than $175 million, will soon head out to low-income Marylanders who filed for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in 2019 and still live in the state.

“Those are out of our office,” Franchot said. “They’re delivered to banks. Banks then have to do a certain amount of protection of the taxpayers by doing fraud protection reviews.”

More than 98% of the state stimulus payments will be processed by the end of the week, Franchot said. He added he expects the electronic payments to start appearing in eligible people’s bank accounts on Friday.

The speedy processing of the stimulus payments came just a day after Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), alongside legislative leaders, signed the billion-dollar RELIEF Act into law. That relief effort was fast-tracked through the legislature in recent weeks, despite heated debate over who should be included in the bill’s immediate stimulus checks.

The finalized RELIEF Act provides immediate payments of $500 for families and $300 for individuals who filed for the EITC in 2019 and still reside in the state.

Franchot said there is roughly $2.7 million in stimulus payments that can’t currently be sent out, since his office doesn’t have a valid bank account for verified addresses for those recipients. He warned that 6,574 Marylanders won’t be able to receive their stimulus checks until they contact his office to update their information.

“Their payments are currently in a holding pattern,” Franchot said.

He added that his office has launched an online portal so Marylanders can tell if they’re eligible for the payments. People can also email their RELIEF Act questions to [email protected], or call 1-833-345-0787.

Franchot also acknowledged that the stimulus payments won’t go to every low-income Marylander. He added that he expects a “flood of calls” from people asking why they aren’t eligible for the stimulus payments.

“We’re not the legislature, and we’re not the governor, who made this program,” Franchot said.

He reiterated that, even though he thinks the legislature’s amendments improved upon Hogan’s RELIEF Act, he still feels that the relief effort “falls far, far short of the goal of genuine relief.”

Franchot warned that, because the EITC requires a Social Security number, many tax-paying immigrants who file taxes with individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITIN) won’t receive stimulus checks. He also said the EITC is an underutilized program, with some Marylanders who qualify not claiming the tax credit.

And he again reiterated his call for Hogan and the legislature to provide larger stimulus checks to a broader group of Maryland taxpayers.

“No one can seriously think that a few hundred dollars, a $300 check, is going to make a dent in the mountain of debt that’s been accumulated over the past year by many of these wonderful Maryland families and citizens,” Franchot said.

Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) have pledged to quickly pass legislation that would extend EITC benefits to ITIN filers for the 2020, 2021 and 2022 tax years. More than 86,000 ITIN filers paid more than $100 million in state and local taxes last year, according to Franchot, and many of those taxpayers would meet the EITC income criteria.

“No Marylander deserves to wonder where their next meal will come from, how to buy their child’s diapers, or how to pay for life saving medicine – especially when they go to work every single day,” a statement from Jones and Ferguson, released shortly after the final passage of the RELIEF Act, reads.

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Bennett Leckrone
Leckrone is a December 2019 graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. He has interned at The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Columbus Dispatch, PennLive.com, The Dayton Daily News and The Troy Daily News. Leckrone is a Report for America corps member.