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For months, incarcerated people across the country have received conflicting and confusing information about whether they can legally collect federal coronavirus stimulus funds, while the Internal Revenue Service flip-flopped on the question.

A federal judge recently made clear that those behind bars do qualify for the $1,200 checks, approved by Congress earlier this year as part of the largest economic aid package in U.S. history. U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton ruled the decision to exclude them was arbitrary and capricious.

Ruling in favor of two Californians who brought a class action suit on behalf of other incarcerated or formerly incarcerated people, Hamilton found that nothing in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (Cares) Act prohibited those in jails and prisons from receiving the relief funds, and last week laid out detailed instructions for the IRS to make sure those entitled to payments have accurate information.

“It’s very clear that the IRS is in the wrong and they have to make these payments to incarcerated folks,” said Los Angeles-based civil rights attorney Lisa Holder, one of the lawyers on the case on behalf of the Equal Justice Society. “They don’t have any viable legal argument.”

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