Governor announces approval of distribution plan for $600 stimulus

By The Star Staff

Check your bank accounts.

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi announced Tuesday the immediate start of the process for disbursing the $600 pandemic stimulus aid to working citizens residing in Puerto Rico, after receiving U.S. Department of the Treasury approval of the distribution plan for the second round of the Economic Impact Payment.

“With great satisfaction I inform you that we already have the authorization of the federal government to implement the distribution plan of the additional Economic Impact Payment of $600 and today [Tuesday] the first payments are being made and will be reflected in the bank accounts of thousands of citizens for the next few days,” the governor said. “I must acknowledge the work of the secretary of the Department of the Treasury, Francisco Parés Alicea, and his work team, who were able to formalize the agreements with the Internal Revenue Service [IRS], and achieve approval in a period of 23 days after the signing of the legislation at the federal level. There is no doubt that this aid will be a relief for many families that have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 emergency and we will be diligently working to complete the disbursements in the shortest time possible.”

On Dec. 28, 2020, just a few hours after the federal law that gives way to this second round of $600 payments, known as the COVID-Related Tax Relief Act of 2020 (CRTRA) was signed, the island Treasury Department submitted a draft Distribution Plan to the IRS for consideration. The first Economic Impact Payment plan for last year’s $1,200 stimulus payment took 36 days to approve.

“About 23 days after submitting our draft proposal to the IRS, we already have a distribution plan approved by the federal Treasury and within hours of receiving that authorization we began the process of sending out the payments of $600,” Parés Alicea said. “As we anticipated, this process of disbursements will be much faster because in 95 percent of the cases, the [island Treasury] department already has the necessary banking information to carry out direct deposit. We have established a work plan that contemplates hundreds of thousands of consecutive payments, almost daily, during the coming weeks.”

The new federal aid of $600 will reach about 2.8 million people, whether as individuals, couples or dependents, representing a total of some $1.7 billion.

Parés Alicea estimated that most of the payments, which will be $600 per individual and $600 per qualified dependent, or $300 in joint custody cases, will be completed in mid-February.

“In three or four weeks, 95 percent of the people who qualify for this new aid will have their money deposited or their check pending,” he said.

As established by federal law, the additional $600 payments will be received by individuals with valid Social Security accounts, who have been residents of Puerto Rico during the taxable year and who have not been claimed as dependents on another person’s income tax return.

Under the CRTRA, the eligibility guidelines make certain areas more flexible for more citizens to qualify. For example, under the current distribution plan, incarcerated individuals may be eligible to receive the $600 payment. No withholding will be made for outstanding debts with the Child Support Administration. In the case of married couples, at least one of them will be required to have a Social Security number that can be validated with IRS protocols.

The Treasury secretary also highlighted that the Unified Internal Revenue System (SURI by its Spanish acronym) will be operating today, exclusively in the distribution of aid, and therefore it will not be available for any other transaction for at least 24 hours.

“Aware of the need that people have to receive the payment of $600, we are going to give priority to the deposit of this money, temporarily suspending in a preventive manner all the services offered through SURI,” Parés Alicea said. “In this way, we are also protecting the system to avoid further setbacks and to ensure that we successfully meet this extraordinary fund distribution agenda. As of Thursday, January 21, 2021, SURI will be operating at capacity.”

SURI’s interruption coincides with the filing date of the monthly sales and use tax return, which merchants submit on the 20th of each month. However, Parés Alicea indicated that both the return and the corresponding payment with the return, as well as any other declaration, notification, appeal for review or any other process or contribution payment whose expiration date is January 20, 2021, are running through Monday, Jan. 25.

Parés Alicea once again emphasized that most of the people who received the $1,200 do not have to do anything in SURI if they maintain the same bank account, so it is not necessary for them to enter SURI. He pointed out, meanwhile, that there is a link available in SURI only for those people who changed to a bank account other than the one where they received the $1,200, either as a result of a recent merger between two banks or because they opened new accounts. The link is also available for those who received the first payment of $1,200 by check and want to receive the additional $600 by direct deposit.

It is not necessary to register in SURI to change the account number. It is accessed through the Federal Economic Impact Payment (Pago de Impacto Económico Federal) link that is on the main page and then in the option Update your Account Information (Actualizar la Información de su Cuenta). If assistance is needed, citizens can write through the SURI Assistance (Asistencia en Suri) link also found on the SURI home page.

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