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Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde May 18, 2020

House coronavirus bill would aid immigrants, relatives cut out of previous aid package

If Your Time is short

  • The HEROES Act, a proposal backed by Pelosi, would allow tax-paying immigrants who are in the country illegally to receive emergency relief funds during the coronavirus pandemic. The help would also extend to their family members who are U.S. citizens and green-card holders.

  • Immigrants in the country illegally who pay taxes using an ITIN would also retroactively become eligible for a payment under the CARES Act enacted in late March. 

  • A tax policy group estimated that if the HEROES Act became law as written, about $16.4 billion would go toward households of ITIN filers or of mixed status.

House Democrats are advocating legislation that would send Americans a new round of checks to help with financial problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic. A Facebook post says that under their proposal, immigrants in the country illegally also stand to benefit, getting billions of dollars.

"Pelosi’s new coronavirus bill allows illegals to receive billions in relief funds in past, current, and future payments," said text over a photo of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holding a gavel, with a crowd of people, purportedly immigrants, in the background.

The caption on the May 12 Facebook post said the payments "would not just be a one-time check, they would give them past, current any future payments of YOUR money as 33 million Americans are unemployed."

The post is from We Build The Wall, Inc., a group that's raising money to build sections of barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Pelosi does support a bill that would allow immigrants who are in the country illegally and who pay taxes to get coronavirus emergency aid from the federal government. But the Facebook post needs clarification and additional information.

HEROES Act expands eligibility for stimulus checks

The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or the HEROES Act, was introduced May 12 and passed the House May 15, 208-199, with only one Republican vote. 

Among the key provisions of the roughly $3 trillion bill, it gives nearly $1 trillion to state and local governments, creates a $200 billion hazard-pay fund for essential workers, and provides $75 billion to support coronavirus testing, contact tracing and patient isolation.

The bill also offers a new round of direct payments to families — $1,200 per person and up to $6,000 per household. The payments would go out to people who filed tax returns for 2018 or 2019 (and to some who didn’t), with the total amount based on income. For instance, a single person who earned less than $75,000 would get $1,200; those who earned $75,000 or more would receive less. 

The proposal seeks to augment the financial assistance that started mid-April when one-time checks were sent under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act.

Under the CARES Act, however, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents were ineligible for a check if they filed a joint tax return with a spouse who used an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN.

ITINs are issued by the IRS to people who don’t have a Social Security number, including immigrants in the country illegally, so they can use it to pay federal income taxes. (Some international students and researchers and their spouses also use ITINs.) 

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The IRS in 2014 said ITIN filers pay over $9 billion in annual payroll taxes.

RELATED: Claim about stimulus check eligibility for Americans married to immigrants missing context

Pelosi and other House Democrats have said that "mixed-status" families should not have been left out of the CARES Act. So the proposed HEROES Act includes them in its aid package, and retroactively makes ITIN filers eligible for the CARES Act payment as well.

The left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, using IRS data, estimated that this provision would benefit more than 4.3 million adults and 3.5 million children in households of ITIN filers or of mixed immigration status, paying them a total $16.4 billion ($7 billion under the CARES Act and $9.4 billion under the HEROES Act).

The beneficiary figures include ITIN filers as well as their spouses and children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Meg Wiehe, deputy executive director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, said it was difficult to discern from the IRS data exactly how many prospective beneficiaries are immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

Julia Gelatt, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, said a lot of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can get support through unemployment insurance, stimulus payments, food stamps and other public benefits.

ITINs are used for federal tax reporting, but they do not provide legal immigration status, and immigrants in the country illegally are generally ineligible for federal public benefits, such as food stamps.

The goal of the HEROES Act, as it relates to unauthorized immigrants and their family members, is to help people who are struggling financially and who have no access to other financial support, Gelatt said.

The HEROES Act financial assistance isn’t exclusive to ITIN filers; U.S. citizens and green-card holders who file taxes using a Social Security number would also benefit, with the same aid amounts and income thresholds. The payments to all eligible people are estimated to cost more than $400 billion.

Our ruling

A Facebook post said, "Pelosi’s new coronavirus bill allows illegals to receive billions in relief funds in past, current, and future payments."

The HEROES Act, a proposal backed by Pelosi, would allow immigrants who are in the country illegally and who pay taxes to receive federal relief funds during the coronavirus pandemic.

Immigrants who pay taxes using an ITIN would be eligible for an aid payment under the HEROES Act, and retroactively under the CARES Act, which corresponds to the "current" and "past" payments cited in the post. It’s unclear what is meant by "future" payment. We contacted We Build the Wall for comment, but did not hear back.

A tax policy group estimated that if the HEROES Act became law as written, about $16.4 billion would go to households of ITIN filers or of mixed status. Beneficiaries would include U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who live in a household with an ITIN filer.

The post is accurate but needs clarification or additional information. We rate it Mostly True.

Our Sources

Facebook post, May 12, 2020; archived version of the Facebook post

House Appropriations Committee, HEROES Act Title-by-Title Summary, One page summary

Speaker.gov, Pelosi Remarks on Press Call with Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Mixed-Status Families on Denial of COVID-19 Stimulus Checks, May 1, 2020; Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of The Heroes Act, May 15, 2020

Congress.gov, H.R.748 - CARES Act, H.R.6800 - HEROES Act

IRS.gov, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, page last reviewed or updated April 16, 2020; Immigration and Taxation 2014 report

The Joint Committee on Taxation, Estimated Revenue Effects Of The Revenue Provisions Contained In H.R. 6800, The "Health And Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions ('Heroes') Act," Scheduled For Consideration By The House Of Representatives On May 15, 2020

Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Analysis: How the HEROES Act Would Reach ITIN Filers, May 14, 2020

Migration Policy Institute, Vulnerable to COVID-19 and in Frontline Jobs, Immigrants Are Mostly Shut Out of U.S. Relief, April 24, 2020

Email interview, Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, May 15, 2020

Phone interview, Julia Gelatt, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, May 15, 2020

Phone interview, Meg Wiehe, deputy executive director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, May 15, 2020

C-SPAN, House Debate on $3 Trillion Coronavirus Economic Aid, May 15, 2020

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House coronavirus bill would aid immigrants, relatives cut out of previous aid package

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