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CARES Act Relief and Incarcerated People: What You Need To Know

UPDATE: The IRS has now been ordered to extend the deadline for paper filers to November 4th, 2020.

Late last month, a federal judge in California issued a ruling requiring the IRS to process applications for incarcerated people to receive economic relief under the CARES act, in a class action on behalf of people who did not receive their stimulus checks because they are in prison.

The CARES Act never precluded incarcerated people from eligibility. But the IRS put language on their site that misled people to believe they were disqualified, and instructed prison mailrooms to return all stimulus checks. This week, the GDC’s banking unit said they had not received any updated instructions, and would continue to return the checks, until they are “told otherwise.”

On October 8th, the same court ordered the IRS to extend the deadline for paper filers to October 30th. The order required the IRS to update its website to make it clear that people in prison are indeed eligible, and to notify prison officials of the change no later than midnight tonight. Then, on October 16th, the deadline was again extended, this time to November 4th.

The court also required that the IRS provide all prisons with correct forms and sample forms, and mail individualized notices to every single known incarcerated person no later than October 15th. It seems the IRS will use a database from October 2019 to mail individualized notices, so people who have been transferred or released may not receive the notice. We have attached the forms below, and we encourage you to print and send them to loved ones inside so they may apply as soon as possible. 

Most people imprisoned in Georgia have no source of income. They may receive money from a short list of friends and family, and all funds must be sent through These friends and family, many of whom are struggling financially themselves during the pandemic, bear the burden of helping people inside who work for free and pay inflated prices for food and necessities such as soap, toothpaste, deodorant, and other supplies, not to mention the cost of phone calls and J-Pay messages, ever more crucial since visitation has been suspended. The money some will receive, who successfully apply and whose checks are not illegally obstructed, will be a huge help to them and their loved ones alike.

Other state correctional systems have similarly facilitated the IRS’s attempts to disqualify people in prison. But the Sept. 24 ruling cleared up any doubt, misinformation, and threats. Make no mistake, people in prison are eligible for CARES relief. Please help them receive it.