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Jill Terreri Ramos
By Jill Terreri Ramos March 19, 2021

Malliotakis makes mostly accurate claim about stimulus

If Your Time is short

  • The American Rescue Plan provides stimulus checks for individuals, which phase out for incomes between $75,000 and $80,000. 
  • For married couples filing jointly, the payment phases out completely at $160,000. 
  • People who are incarcerated are eligible for benefits, if they are citizens or legal residents and have incomes under the same limits.   

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican from New York City, joined in the chorus of Republican criticism against the $1.9 trillion financial relief plan signed by President Joe Biden. 

"If you are a hard-working law-abiding citizen who earns $80,000, you don’t get a stimulus check," Malliotakis wrote on Twitter. "But if you are a convicted murderer or rapist sitting in jail, you do."

The claim has been widely circulated. Is she right?  

Income limits

The American Rescue Plan Act, signed by Biden on March 11, provides a stimulus payment of $1,400 a person for those with incomes up to $75,000 if they file their taxes individually. For married couples, each spouse would get $1,400 if their combined income is $150,000 or less. Single filers earning slightly more than $75,000 will receive a smaller stimulus check, as will married couples earning slightly more than $150,000. But the law phases out the stimulus checks entirely for individual filers who earn $80,000 or more or a married couple making a combined $160,000 and filing jointly. 

Mallitokis, who represents Staten Island and part of Brooklyn, made a claim about convicted murderers and rapists in jail. In most cases, people who are awaiting trial are held in jail, and people who have been convicted of serious crimes are in prison. In any case, the incarcerated are eligible for stimulus payments, as long as they meet the income limits and are legal residents or citizens. People who are in jail or prison could have income from pensions, investments or other sources. 

Featured Fact-check

PolitiFact fact-checked a similar claim -- that Democrats "voted to give stimulus checks to criminals in prison," and rated it Mostly True. The fact-check found that Democrats rejected a Republican amendment that would have barred the checks for people in prison, and that in the past, both parties supported plans with direct payments to prisoners. 

The CARES Act, an economic relief package signed by President Trump, also did not bar inmates from claiming the economic impact payment, said Janet Holtzblatt, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, who worked on tax issues at the Congressional Budget Office. The IRS, however, interpreted that law differently. Its decision was challenged, and a court ruling in October reversed the IRS position and allowed prisoners to receive the first round of payments, she said.

We reached out to Malliotakis' office and did not hear back. 

Our ruling

Malliotakis is correct that if you earn more than $80,000 you do not get a stimulus payment. But this is true only if you file taxes as an individual. If you file jointly with your spouse, you could earn $80,000 and get a stimulus check if your spouse earns less and your combined income is less than $160,000.

Her claim about jail inmates receiving stimulus payments is correct, as long as they are under the income limits. This was also true of the CARES Act, enacted under the Trump administration. 

Because her claim is accurate but needs clarification and additional information, we rate it Mostly True. 

Our Sources

Twitter, tweet, @nmalliotakis, March 8, 2021. Accessed March 11, 2021. 

PolitiFact, "Yes, Democrats voted to send stimulus checks to prisoners, as Republicans did last year," March 9, 2021. Accessed March 11, 2021. 

PolitiFact, "What’s in the revamped pandemic and stimulus bill now in the Senate?," March 5, 2021. Accessed March 17, 2021. 

Washington Post, "Murderers, undocumented immigrants: Hyped-up claims about who’s getting stimulus checks," March 9, 2021. Accessed March 11, 2021. 

Washington Post, "Stimulus check calculator," March 11, 2021. Accessed March 17, 2021., H.R. 1319, American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, became Public Law 117-2 on March 11, 2021. Accessed March 16, 2021.  

Congressional Research Service, report, "COVID-19 and Direct Payments: Comparison of First and Second Round of ‘Stimulus Checks’ to a Proposed Third Round in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA; H.R. 1319)," March 8, 2021. Accessed March 16, 2021. 

Email interview, Janet Holtzblatt, senior fellow, Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, March 15, 2021. 


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Malliotakis makes mostly accurate claim about stimulus

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