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The Big Reason You May Not Get a Stimulus Check

By Maurie Backman – Apr 30, 2020 at 5:36AM

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Hint: It's not because you make too much money.

With COVID-19 battering the economy and driving millions of Americans into unemployment, lawmakers knew they had to do something to provide relief to those struggling. That's how the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act was born, and it's loaded with provisions designed to help Americans who are suffering financially.

One much talked about provision is the $1,200 stimulus payment millions of Americans are currently anticipating. In fact, an estimated 88 million people have received their stimulus cash already.

Man at laptop sitting across the table from boy writing in notebook


If you're not one of them, it could be that your money is still on the way. Or, it could be that you're not eligible for a stimulus payment. If your earnings exceed $99,000 as a single tax filer and you don't have dependents, you won't receive stimulus cash at all. The same holds true if you're a married couple filing jointly with an income of $198,000 or more. But here's another reason why you may not have received a stimulus check yet, and there's none on the way: You're behind on child support.

You may lose that stimulus money after all

Normally, when you're behind on certain debts or obligations, like back taxes or federal student loan payments, you risk having your tax refund garnished. Under the CARES Act, you won't lose your stimulus payment for those same reasons -- but overdue child support is the one exception. If you're behind on child support, your relief check could be partially garnished or garnished in full, depending on the amount you owe.

Here's even more bad news: If you file a joint tax return with your spouse, and your spouse is behind on child support, your entire stimulus payment could be subject to garnishment -- even if your spouse is the only one responsible for paying child support.

It's not just your stimulus you have to worry about

If you've lost your job due to COVID-19, you're generally eligible for unemployment benefits if you're out of work due to no fault of your own. But if you're behind on child support payments, you may have a portion of your unemployment benefits garnished as well. The specifics there depend on what state you live in, but that's certainly something to keep on your radar.

Some people withhold child support out of spite or laziness, but right now, a lot of people are struggling financially, and some may be behind on child support because they simply don't have the money. If that's the situation you're in, it could pay to talk to an attorney and see what options you have, since it's not just your stimulus payment that could get garnished in this situation. Remember, if you're due a tax refund, you'll risk having that money garnished as well if you're behind on child support. And if you are still working, you'll risk having your regular wages garnished as well, which is certainly the last thing you need at a time like this.

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