The IRS will not seize the stimulus checks, but states or private debt collectors could do so, as already happened to some people’s $1,200 checks from 2020’s CARES Act. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed an order prohibiting banks from allowing such garnishment in his state.
Allowing debt collectors to grab the payments will, as with so many other things during the coronavirus pandemic, exacerbate existing inequities. Black and Latino people were more likely than white people to tell a pollster they needed the $1,400 just to “get by”: 50% of Black people, 40% of Latino people, and 22% of white people reported that need. In each group, women were more likely to say they needed the payments to get by, and Black and Latino people were more than twice as likely as white people to say they had used past COVID-19 relief payments for housing.
Women also face high levels of need during the pandemic, having been more likely to lose or have to leave their jobs, hits that come on top of already unequal pay that leaves many women economically vulnerable to begin with.
Through the pandemic, 23% of Black women say they’ve had to borrow money from family or friends. Just 9% of white men say the same. When it comes to using a food bank, 21% of Black women say yes compared with 8% of white men. Need is a matter of race and gender and the intersection between them in this country, so when Republicans take action to make all economically vulnerable people more vulnerable, they take action against some groups more than others. And they know they’re doing it.