Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) published new information last week, revealing that the Biden administration distributed more stimulus funds to federal inmates than previously disclosed.
The overall amount of taxpayer-funded payments sent to imprisoned persons was $80 million higher than the amount announced in July 2021, according to a press release. The funds were distributed to federal inmates as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
“After the revelation that the convicted Boston Marathon bomber received a $1,400 stimulus check, I began to dig into how much taxpayer money did the Biden administration send out to criminals serving in federal prison,” said Rep. Budd. “The answer I received is truly outrageous.”
The Department of the Treasury responded through a letter to Rep. Budd’s requests for updated figures on how many Economic Impact Payments (stimulus payments) were issued to federal prisoners under the Biden administration.
The approximately 597,000 people incarcerated during the calendar year 2021 received third round Economic Impact Payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, totaling an estimated $863 million.
Requirements to receive the checks include being a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or qualifying resident non-citizen. A valid social security number is also required, and the recipient could not have been claimed as a dependent on a 2019 or 2020 tax return. Their income must have been under $80,000 (single or married filing separately) for 2019 or 2020 or under $160,000 for married individuals filing jointly.
On August 21, 2020, the permanent injunction issued in Scholl v. Mnuchin restricted the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from withholding Economic Impact Payments solely because of incarceration status, according to the Treasury’s letter. It required the agencies to reconsider payments withheld and claims denied purely due to incarceration status.
The Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service said it could not disclose if funds were sent to an inmate’s trust account or third-parties such as family members as it does not have access to the data.
“I firmly believe that taxpayer money should never be sent to individuals who are serving in federal prison for truly evil crimes like murder, terrorism, and rape,” added Rep. Budd. “Each and every taxpayer dollar is sacred and should be treated that way. The Biden administration needs to take responsibility for this massive misuse of taxpayer funds, and Congress must hold them accountable.”
Inmates with outstanding criminal fines and restitution are commonly referred to Fiscal Service for collection through the Treasury Offset Program (TOP), which offsets qualifying payments.
Even though the American Rescue Plan expressly exempted third-round Economic Impact Payments from the offset, the Fiscal Service has contacted the Department of Justice to see if it can offer assistance.