Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Tuesday a $9.6 billion coronavirus relief package that includes $600 stimulus payments for about 5.7 million people.
But the state has about 40 million residents, so who all qualifies? The payments won’t be as far-reaching as the federal relief payments approved by Congress last year.
But state lawmakers are aiming the money to reach the pockets of people who were left out of those previous checks, including immigrants.
“Those that have been left behind in the federal stimulus, California is not going to leave you behind,” Newsom said Tuesday.
Am I eligible for a $600 payment?
There are four ways someone can qualify:
1. If you claimed the California earned income tax credit on your 2020 income tax returns. In general, this covers people who earn $30,000 a year or less. Last year, nearly 3.9 million returns applied for the credit, so this is how most people receiving the stimulus payment will qualify.
Each year, more than 20% of people who are eligible for the credit don’t claim it, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. The spending plan lawmakers approved Monday includes $5 million for “outreach” to let people know how to apply for the money.
People who have already filed their 2020 returns can file an amended return, said state Sen. Nancy Skinner, a Democrat from Berkeley and chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee.
2. If you use an individual taxpayer ID number to file income taxes and earn $75,000 a year or less after deductions. These are mostly people who don’t have Social Security numbers, including undocumented immigrants.
Most of them were not eligible for the federal relief checks Congress approved last year. Because of that, the Democratic-controlled Legislature wrote the bill in such a way that those who also qualify for the earned income tax credit could get $1,200, not $600.
This group is expected to account for about 565,000 stimulus payments.
3. If you get money from the federal supplemental security income (SSI) or state supplementary payment (SSP) programs, or the state’s Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants.
The federal program is designed to help older, blind and disabled people with little or no income, but is mostly limited to U.S. citizens. CAPI provides similar benefits to Californians who aren’t citizens.
This group is expected to include more than 1.2 million people.
4. If your household is enrolled in the CalWORKS. The state public assistance program that helps families pay for housing, food and other vital expenses in low-income households with children whose parents are absent, disabled or dead.
There will be about 405,000 payments disbursed to CalWORKS participants.
When will the checks get sent out?
People who are eligible for the money through tax returns should get it between 45 days and 60 days after receiving their state tax refunds, according to the Franchise Tax Board.
Those who sign up for direct deposit should see the money in four to five weeks, but it could take as long as seven weeks for those receiving a check by mail, H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the California Department of Finance, told the Los Angeles Times.
Those in CalWORKS will have their payment placed on a debit card, which they’re expected receive by mid-April, Palmer said.
State officials are still working with the federal Social Security Administration to hammer out how and when payments will be disbursed to those on SSI, SSP or CAPI, the Times reported.
Where is the money coming from?
California has the money to do this in part because the state — the nation’s most populous with nearly 40 million residents — has lots of wealthy people who have been less impacted by the pandemic and continue to pay taxes.
The result is California has an estimated $15 billion one-time surplus to spend this year, a number that could grow even higher later this year once more people file their tax returns.
“We need to acknowledge that this pandemic has not hit us all equally,” said state Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, a Democrat from Fresno.