Waiting for her overdue stimulus check, Kim Daniels sheltered at home to protect her four-year-old granddaughter Ariala Brave Eagle from coronavirus while the girl’s mother stayed on the job, an essential worker at a nursing facility. Photo by Talli Nauman / Native Sun News Today

Native Sun News Today: Pandemic consolation prize: View from Indian Country

PART I

RAPID CITY -- Kim Daniels’ long wait for a stimulus check from the U.S. government’s pandemic emergency relief program has been frustrating for the 59-year-old local Oglala Lakota grandmother and an all-too-common case of a tribal member “falling through the cracks” of the universal payment system intended to alleviate hardship during the Covid-19 health crisis.

Hers is one of many examples that have convinced some denizens of Indian country that elected tribal leadership should take a more hands-on approach to helping constituents obtain their share, which is $1,200 per adult and $500 per dependent child.

“There are a whole lot of people falling through the cracks,” said a Sicangu Lakota protagonist of that viewpoint, Rose Cordier of the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. “So many people out there don’t know about it and are skeptical that even if they try to get it, it’s not gonna happen,” she told the Native Sun News Today.

Daniels, whose career was in professional accounting, learned soon after the March 27 endorsement of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, that she automatically would receive a $1,200 stimulus deposit in the same place where her Supplemental Security Income arrives, she said.

“At first I thought I wasn’t eligible to even get it,” she said. She took heart when she read the rules of the process spelled out at the website of the Internal Revenue Service, which is in charge of the millions of individual CARES Act distributions for the U.S. Treasury Department. The guidance is entitled Get My Payment.

Then she became discouraged. Daniels has a computer, an internet connection, and the skills to use them. Yet for more than a month, she could not access the information at the online portal advertised as the gateway to “check on the status of your Economic Impact Payment.”

Each day that she tried to find out when she could expect the money, “It kept telling me my payment status was not available,” she told the Native Sun News Today. Meanwhile the application and deposit target dates promised by the Administration came and went with no funds landing in her account, she said.

That turned out to be a problem for Americans all across the United States until the IRS managed to fix the portal. Many missed the April 22 deadline for applying to obtain $500 per dependent child and now must wait until 2021 to seek it.

Finally, in the second week of May, Daniels was able to push through the portal to a message saying her payment was set for deposit in her account on May 13. “I was glad to get that because it gave me some kind of hope,” she said.

Nonetheless on May 16, when the money still had not turned up, she began to think its arrival might be more of a question of “if” rather than “when,” she noted.

Meanwhile she was sheltering at home during the pandemic, providing childcare at least eight hours a day for her four-year-old granddaughter Ariala Brave Eagle, so that her daughter could maintain her employment as an essential worker at a nursing facility.

Cordier helped some people get online to apply for their stimulus checks, but other people receiving social security payments, like Daniels, haven’t received payment, she said. Unlike Daniels, some must file an application for a stimulus check.

For example, someone who did not need to file a tax return in 2018 or 2019 is not currently on the IRS rolls so must apply. In that group, all you must do to register for and receive the payment is go to the IRS website and set up a non-filer account. You have until October 15 to apply and receive Economic Impact Payments by the end of 2020.

At the website, you also can find out if you need to file a tax statement for the past year. If you find out you do in order to obtain your stimulus check, for example if you are self-employed, you have until July 15 to file the information.

NATIVE SUN NEWS TODAY

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