The United States finds itself in a very uncertain time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many families have found themselves experiencing financial strife because of a declining economy and fear for their own health and safety.

The economic struggle is so widespread and drastic that Congress responded by passing the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Part of the CARES Act involves sending stimulus checks to eligible Americans. For many, this check has provided temporary relief.

Unfortunately, this relief is not extended to everyone.

Why are some immigrants and their spouses being declared ineligible?

Stimulus checks pull information from your 2019 tax returns, or your 2018 AGI if you hadn’t yet filed 2019 taxes, in order to determine eligibility. The information pulled includes:

  • Gross income of 2019 or 2018
  • Number of children in the household
  • Whether you file taxes single or jointly
    • The type of identification number provided

It is this last bullet point that is causing many immigrant couples difficulties. A provision in the CARES Act prohibits payments to people who file taxes jointly with someone who uses a Taxpayer Identification Number, a common substitute for Social Security numbers by undocumented immigrants.

It doesn’t matter if at least one person uses a social security number: if either member of a couple who filed joint taxes used a Taxpayer ID Number, both people are found ineligible to receive relief. They will also be denied any bonus payments distributed based on the number of children in their household.

How is Chicago handling this situation?

In early April, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot signed an executive order stating that all residents of Chicago will have equal access to COVID-19 relief programs, regardless of citizenship status or country of origin. This includes access to the COVID-19 Housing Assistance Grant program, a city-driven program that provides rent assistance for citizens undergoing financial hardship.

Immigrants are what keep America strong and running, and sometimes that favor is not returned. While immigrants and their families face barriers to their wellbeing during this crisis, it may be up to state and city legislation to help see people through this time. The health and safety of millions of families may depend on it.