Inmates are now eligible to receive CARES Act stimulus checks

Law firm that filed the lawsuits says county jail inmates are included.

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Kan. – A few days ago, a box from the IRS showed up at the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office in Columbus.

“The inmates received an instruction form, and then a blank 10-40 form,” says Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves.

Those forms were sent so that inmates at the jail can apply for stimulus checks from the federal government.

A recent federal court summary judgment on October 14th means that the IRS cannot deny paying Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) — from the CARES Act passed in March — to inmates just because they are incarcerated.

For some background, shortly after the CARES Act was passed the IRS updated their eligibility requirements to exclude deceased people and people who are incarcerated. Before that change was made, the IRS had already sent out around 100 million dollars in checks to inmates across the country. So along with the change, the IRS required the recipients to repay them.

Then, in April, the California law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein filed a class-action lawsuit in Federal Court against the IRS, U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the United States Government.

“I’m surprised that there’s a potential that they’re (inmates) even eligible because a federal law prohibits any inmates in the county jail anywhere in the country to receive federal benefits,” says Sandy Horton, Executive Director of the Kansas Sheriff’s Association. “The National Sheriffs’ Association has proposed legislation for the past several years along with the National Association of Counties to at least alter that suspension for inmates that are pre-trial inmates. Innocent until proven guilty in jail, yet you lose all your benefits. We have not been successful in changing that. I think the only difference here is the judge ruled inmates and their families.”

Under the ruling, the IRS also has to extend the deadline for inmates to file applications for EIPs, as well as send the necessary paperwork to prison officials for inmates. According to the media contact for Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, the ruling includes people incarcerated in local county jails like Cherokee County.

“Primarily it will impact state prisons more than county jails. But, there are instances with county jails where an inmate may have been incarcerated maybe a couple of years waiting for trial,” says Groves. “So there is potential for somebody to be incarcerated today that may have been incarcerated when those initial stimulus checks went out.”

Groves explains that every inmate in the Cherokee County jail has filled out an application and that they are on their way back to the IRS.

But other local jails that we spoke to haven’t heard from the IRS at all. We reached out to sheriffs in Allen, Crawford, and Bourbon counties in Kansas, as well as the sheriffs for Barton, Jasper, and Newton counties in Missouri. None of them have received any paperwork from the IRS, as of the date of this story.

Sandy Horton with the Kansas Sheriff’s Association says he hadn’t heard about the ruling when we first contacted him while working on this story.

It is important to note that the IRS has not put out official information stating that paperwork is being sent to county jails. We reached out to the IRS for comment, but the IRS doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

So with the November 4th deadline quickly approaching, Horton says the Sheriffs’ Association will be sending as much paperwork as they can to sheriffs across Kansas.

“The way I read the order, until the sheriff receives the packet from the IRS, I don’t see there are any legal requirements on the sheriff. In all good faith, we should probably be proactive with that and go ahead and do what we can to distribute the forms,” says Horton.

The deadline for inmates to send a paper application to the IRS is November 4th. It has to be postmarked by that date. Inmates can also apply online using the IRS non-filers tool until November 21st.

Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein has much more information on their website about the lawsuit, which can be found here: