Some 'mixed-status' families won't receive stimulus check

Published: Apr. 20, 2020 at 5:53 PM EDT
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As the federal government deposits millions of coronavirus relief checks into bank accounts, some Michigan families are finding out they won't be getting one.

The ''Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act'' or ''CARES Act'' requires married couples who file together to both have valid social security numbers, creating an issue for families with mixed citizenship or immigration statuses.

The Lopez Agency in Lansing specializes in tax filings for those with an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) and mixed-status families. Many of their customers are affected and have called looking for answers.

"The IRS is closed and they've instructed people to call their tax preparers and we are kind of just in the middle giving bad news all day," said Margarita Lopez. "There are other credits and tax benefits where mixed-status families are excluded from as well. This one is just hitting really hard because it's a sensitive time," said Lopez.

Laura, who was born and raised in Michigan, filed her taxes with her husband who has an ITIN. She says she is frustrated that they can't benefit from government relief even though she is a U.S. Citizen.

"What do we do, we were expecting this money but because I'm married to my spouse that has an ITIN number that files, we won't be receiving anything," said Laura. "The government is basically saying because you married to who you married, you're going to be left out or punished because you fell in love with who you did."

The same situation happened to Audrea Yanez-Matinez. She and her six U.S. Citizen children won't receive any money because she and her husband who uses an ITIN filed jointly.

"We have a large family and we pay our taxes and we try to do everything the right way, so to know that we weren't allowed to get that extra help like everyone else was kind of like a slap in the face," said Yanez-Martinez.

There is an exception if one of the tax filers is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Simon Marshall-Shah with the Michigan League for Public Policy estimates there are 69,000 ITIN filers in the state.

Jacob Sapochnick, a lawyer with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, says they are hoping the next bill includes help for taxpayers left behind.

"We're collecting cases and evidence from clients. We want to see what happens in the second bill. If the second bill is going to exclude mixed families, I think there's going to be a group of us coming together to sue them," said Sapochnick.

News 10 reached out to local lawmakers in the United States Congress. None have returned our requests for comment.

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