COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The debate over stimulus checks is playing out in Congress, but it impacts thousands in South Carolina.
The Migration Policy Institute estimates 40,000 U.S. Citizens or Green Card Holders were ineligible for federal stimulus checks because they were in a mixed-status family.
In the spring, Congress passed the CARES Act. It created stimulus checks for eligible citizens and their children.
However, citizens in mixed-status families (where a spouse or parent does not have a social security number) were not eligible for the aid.
As a result, the Institute estimates 30,000 U.S. Citizen or Green Card Holding children in South Carolina were not eligible.
Karen Guerrero is the mother of a U.S. Citizen and is currently working on her legal status.
Guerrero’s daughter did not receive the federal aid from the government as a result of Guerrero’s lack of social security number.
She said the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of federal support has forced her to make tough decisions.
Guerrero doesn't speak English, so a translator from the SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center translated for WIS.
“Last month [Guerrero] was only able to pay half of her rent. It was a really, you know, she had to explain to her landlord that it was a choice between feeding her daughter or paying all of the rent and so she had to only give him half,” Guerrero said through the translator.
She said strained federal assistance programs have struggled to provide her aid.
She said she is hoping Congressional leaders provide more support in the form of stimulus checks and other funding for programs that help those who are less fortunate.
“There needs to be a little bit more fairness in the policymaking because a lot of immigrants are here are part of families with U.S. citizens like her, they’re working hard, they’re paying their taxes,” she said through the translator.
“It’s really difficult to be in a situation where you’re doing everything you can, but the government is excluding you from the help they’re giving to other people.”
At the recommendation of a University of South Carolina law professor, WIS spoke with UNLV tax and business law professor Francine Lipman.
WIS asked for context on the two bills working their way through Congress that would create a new round of stimulus checks.
Lipman said the HEROES Act (passed by the House) retroactively provides the CARES Act stimulus checks to mixed-status families, while the plan backed by Senate Republicans (the HEALs Act) would provide stimulus checks without the aid for mixed-status families.
Sen. Lindsey Graham's office (R-South Carolina) said the issue is being negotiated, while Sen. Tim Scott's office (R-South Carolina) did not provide a statement.
Rep. James Clyburn's office (D-Columbia) sent the following statement:
“Stimulus payments are essential not just for the families who receive them, but for the small businesses who rely on these families as customers. House Democrats have fought against discrimination towards immigrants and to fight for the many American taxpayers, including some American citizens, who are not currently eligible for these payments in the CARES Act. The HEROES Act fixes this problem with the CARES Act payments retroactively and avoids the problem with the new payments in the bill. These provisions should be enacted into law so that all can fully contribute to the economic recovery.”
Rep. Williams Timmons' office (R-Greenville) sent the following statement:
“Congressman Timmons believes all qualifying American citizens should receive a stimulus payment. Many families were precluded from the original payments because a parent or spouse is a foreign national and not a U.S. citizen. Citizens in these types of family situations should not have been denied the stimulus payments, and Congress must fix this exclusion in any additional legislation that provides stimulus payments.”