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Some Maryland residents discover they're ineligible for state stimulus despite being in need

Governor Larry Hogan signed the bipartisan RELIEF Act of 2021 Monday. Some Maryland residents have taken to social media to criticize the state's eligibility rules.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The State of Maryland is now sending out stimulus relief checks to some of its residents, but not everyone who lives there is happy with the process so far.

On Monday, Governor Larry Hogan signed the RELIEF Act of 2021. The bipartisan, $1 billion legislation measure includes stimulus payments of $500 for families and $300 for individuals who claimed and received the Earned Income Tax Credit.

On Friday, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot announced his agency had finished processing 98% of RELIEF Act payments to eligible recipients in the state.

But Marylanders like Kate McGowan, of Calvert County, said they learned this week they will not receive a check despite being in need.

McGowan said she works a full-time job on top of two other side jobs that have been affected by the pandemic.

“Between that and the fact that we haven't gotten our promised federal relief yet, it kind of just feels like sort of being kicked when I'm already down,” she said.

Marylanders are eligible to receive RELIEF Act payments if they received the Earned Income Tax Credit [EITC] on their 2019 Maryland State Tax Return.

The federal EITC is a benefit for working people with low to moderate-income. The State of Maryland typically provides its residents a state EITC equal to a percentage of the federal credit if a taxpayer claims the latter on their federal return.

In order to qualify for the EITC, a single filer with no children, like McGowan, would have needed to earn less than $15,820. In 2019, McGowan said she earned $17,500.

She said she thinks her income in 2020 likely would have qualified her for EITC now.

“I definitely made less money this year because of the pandemic,” McGowan said.

McGowan and other Marylanders directed criticism toward Governor Larry Hogan on social media Friday over their ineligibility for stimulus relief.

Some residents said they were curious as to why the qualifications for stimulus checks are tied to 2019 state tax returns and not 2020 when the pandemic occurred.

Hogan’s Communications Director Michael Ricci explained the Governor’s original relief bill included a round of stimulus for 2020 filers, but the state legislature ultimately took his proposal out of the bill.

Instead, lawmakers chose to expand EITC relief over the next three years.

According to the Governor’s office, the legislation will now increase the refundable credit to 45 percent for families and 100 percent for individuals.

That means relief could still be on the way for locals who did not receive a stimulus check from the state.

“People who have filed their 2020 taxes are receiving a higher earned income tax credit which is worth a greater amount than the Governor’s proposal,” said Alexandra Hughes, chief of staff to Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones.

Essentially, if a Marylander found themselves just on the outside of qualifying for a state stimulus check due to their 2019 tax return, they could still stand to earn a higher EITC this year so long as their 2020 income matches the appropriate qualifying level of the credit.

Marylanders can qualify for Earned Income Tax Credits if they earned less than the following amounts in 2020:

  • $50,954 ($56,844 married filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children
  • $47,440 ($53,330 married filing jointly) with two qualifying children
  • $41,756 ($47,646 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child
  • $15,820 ($21,710 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children

McGowan said she thinks it is great the state decided to expand the EITC. However, she said she still has some concerns.

“I mean, it's a means test, ultimately,” she said. “And, I don't feel like, right now, when we're all suffering because of a global pandemic, we really need more means tests. I think everybody clearly needs some help. Like, everyone could use $300, right?”

RELATED: Maryland is sending RELIEF Act stimulus checks ASAP. Here's how to track online

RELATED: IRS: All stimulus checks have been sent, focus turns to tax season

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