Mixed-status families faced unique challenges in receiving Economic Impact Payments (EIPs), direct payments from the federal government meant to assist households with financial hardship and expenses incurred throughout the COVID-19 pandemic (also known as stimulus checks). EIP eligibility policies fluctuated throughout the pandemic, initially deeming ineligible US citizen and permanent resident spouses and children who filed taxes with a family member who did not have a Social Security number, and then changing and expanding the eligibility criteria in subsequent EIP rounds.
This study seeks to understand mixed-status families’ experiences in receiving and accessing EIPs and the impact EIPs had on their children and families’ well-being. Participants also provide suggestions for improving access to and information on EIPS so that other mixed-status families will be less fearful and motivated to retroactively claim the funds in the future.
Why this matters
The EIPs lifted millions of people above poverty and had one of the largest antipoverty impacts among federal government programs. Yet, the US Government Accountability Office has reported that millions of people may still be eligible for receiving an EIP, as of June 2022, and among the groups they consider being underserved and having difficulties in receiving the funds are mixed-status families.
What we found
- EIPs made a large impact on mixed-status families’ well-being, covering their housing costs and paying off accumulated debt, in addition to their children’s well-being, which supported their children’s education and health needs throughout the pandemic. Both parents and children felt emotionally relieved and less stressed.
- Mixed-status families who had a history of filing taxes automatically received the EIPs; however, many expressed confusion and fear, and viewed the receipt of the funds as a potential risk to their immigration status and debt to be repaid.
Based on their experiences, participants provided the following suggestions for community-based organizations, policymakers, and mixed-status family member themselves:
- Community-Based Organizations and Policymakers
- Improve information about EIPs in communities that specifically addresses misinformation, and post information in schools, clinics or doctor offices, day care centers, and community-based organizations.
- Provide education and counseling on the tax system so that mixed-status families understand eligibility of various government programs that provide relief and support instead of believing misinformation claiming they are ineligible or that funds need to be repaid.
- Be proactive in seeking out information, be brave, and ask questions and find reputable tax preparers.
How we did it
Between August and September of 2022, the Urban research team conducted 12 interviews with adult members of mixed-status families living in Washington, DC. We recruited participants with the assistance of three organizations: Barbara Chambers Children’s Center, Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), and La Clínica del Pueblo. The interviews included topics related to how families used the funds and the impact on their children, health, housing, basic needs, and economic well-being, among other areas. We interviewed participants about the ease of and concerns about receiving the stimulus funds, and asked for suggestions on how to better assist mixed-status families who had not received EIPs to claim funds.