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How to cash a stimulus check for someone in jail

By Nooreen B Reviewed by Izzy M Edited by Sarah R
Modified on February 20, 2024
how to cash a stimulus check for someone in jail

During the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government sent three stimulus checks to all American adults as economic relief payments. Many people lost their jobs, were struggling if they were business owners, and needed financial assistance for hardship in general, those who were not eligible or needed more funds may have turned to installment loans. If someone you know is in jail and is just now receiving their stimulus check, you may wonder whether you can cash it for them. Below you will find more information on cashing a stimulus check, cashing alternatives, and some brief information on stimulus checks in general. 

A General Understanding of Inmates and Bank Account Access

When a person is incarcerated, any money they have will go into a trust account. Any money from friends or relatives given to them while they are in jail will also be sent to that account. They can only use this money for allowed purchases through the commissary. Once that person serves their sentence, they can withdraw any leftover funds in the trust account. And so, although you may be able to cash a stimulus check for someone in jail, they will only be able to use those funds through their commissary until they leave jail. 

General Requirements for a Stimulus Check?

There are some general requirements that Americans need to meet to be eligible for all three stimulus checks. The conditions for the first, second, and third payments were a little different from one another. 

Here Is What the Federal Government Required for the First Stimulus Check:

Permanent American Residency

To receive any of the stimulus checks, including the first one, you must have been a United States citizen, permanent resident, or qualifying resident alien and live in the United States. 

Social Security Number and Tax Filer Identification Number or TIN

To receive the first and second stimulus payments, you or your spouse must have a valid social security number. You will need tax filer identification number to receive the actual payment. 

Dependent Requirements

To receive any three of the stimulus checks, another person cannot claim you as a dependent on their tax return, usually done through a child tax credit. If you are unsure about tax credits, learn more about your tax credit claim limits.

Income Requirements

You would have qualified for the first stimulus check if your 2018 or 2019 income was under $99,000 (single or married filing separately) or $198,000 (married filing jointly). 

Here Is What Is Different for the Second Stimulus Payment:

The only thing that changes for the second stimulus check is the income requirements. Your 2019 income must have been under $87,000 (single or married filing separately) or $174,000 (married filing jointly).

There Are a Few Things That Change for the Third Stimulus Check:

For the final stimulus check, the requirements changed a little bit. Here are what the conditions look like for the third and final stimulus check payment: 

Social Security Number and Tax Identification Requirements

Unlike the first and second stimulus checks, there will be different requirements for social security numbers and TIN requirements. Unlike the first and second stimulus checks, one spouse does not need to have a social security number. Any household member, even dependents with a social security number, can accept the payment for the entire household. 

Income Requirements 

The income requirements for someone receiving the third stimulus will look like this; Your 2019 or 2020 income was under $80,000 (single or married filing separately) or $160,000 (married filing jointly). 

Can Imprisoned People Get Stimulus Checks?

Regardless of why a person is in jail or for how long, as long as they meet the basic requirements needed to qualify for stimulus check payments, they are entitled to their stimulus payments just like any other American. 

What Happens to An Incarcerated People’s Primary Bank Accounts 

When a person is sent to jail, in most cases, they will still have a bank account set up on the outside. There are a few things they can do to continue managing their checking and savings accounts. The most popular is providing a trusted person with power of attorney over their accounts, which gives them access to their debit card and pin information, mobile banking, and everything else related to the funds. Remember that all bank account activity will continue when a person is in jail, including their automatic payments to unpaid debts. 

Options To Cash a Stimulus Check for Someone Who Is in Jail?

Unlike cashing checks such as personal checks, a stimulus check for someone else can be more complicated. Your options to cash a stimulus check will be limited and depend on your relationship with the person in jail and the permissions you may have regarding their bank account. Here are some common scenarios that you may be in and how you can go about cashing a stimulus check for someone in jail:

Depositing the Check into a Shared Bank Account and Then Taking Out Cash

If you and the person in jail share a joint bank account, you can deposit the check for them into your joint checking account. From here, you can use your debit card to then withdraw the funds from your joint account. 

Depositing the Check and Using the Other Person’s Debit Card to Get Cash

To cash another person’s stimulus check this way, you will need to take their debit card along with their 4-digit pin code. You can then deposit that check for them into their bank account with their debit card at an ATM. Once the check hold has cleared, you can withdraw the money as cash. 

Alternatives To Cashing a Stimulus Check?

The fact is that cashing a stimulus check for someone who is in jail doesn’t do much for them, as they will not be able to use cash for anything, and so you may want to look at alternatives. Below are a few options that are more convenient that can get funds straight into their bank account: 

Have the Stimulus Check Sent Straight to the Other Person’s Bank Account

One alternative to cashing a stimulus that can be much easier is to have the funds sent directly to the incarcerated person’s bank account and then have those funds transferred into the trust account for use. For this to work, you will need access to their banking information, including their account number, to make that transfer. Individuals who filled their previous tax returns online should have received a direct deposit from the IRS directly into their bank account. 

Keep the Stimulus Check Safe Until They Are Out of Jail So They Can Deposit or Cash It Themselves

Another option is simply waiting for the incarcerated individual to get out of prison and have them deposit or cash it themselves. Keep in mind that a stimulus check is a U.S Treasury check that expires after one year, so that should be accounted for. 

What to Do If Your Loved One Didn’t Receive Their Stimulus Payments at All While in Jail?

When stimulus checks were first announced through the Cares Act, there was a lot of confusion for those incarcerated, and many people were late to filing and receiving their stimulus payments. The good news is that many incarcerated people were eligible for every round of stimulus payments. 

The general deadline to claim the first and second round of missed stimulus payments is October 1, 2022, and the deadline for claiming the third stimulus check is November 2022. Keep in mind that instead of the federal government sending the check in the mail, these stimulus payments will be tax credits when you file your federal tax return. So, the incarcerated person will need to make sure they complete their tax return to receive the proper tax refund.

However, If your friend or family member is in jail, they will not have access to the internet, a computer, or a smartphone, which means they cannot claim their stimulus check online. The good news is that with their personal information and power of attorney, you can fill out the necessary online form and have them sign it. Or you can print out and provide the correct paperwork so they can fill it out themselves to claim the stimulus checks. Or if they are released before the deadline, they can claim it on their own. 

For the first and second stimulus payments, you will need to go to GetYourRefund.org, and for the third stimulus, you will need to go to GetCTC.org.

Alternative Funding Options to a Stimulus Check for Incarcerated Individuals 

If your loved one needs money immediately, you may not have time to wait for a stimulus check payment. And wait times can be lengthy with tax returns. Other options can work to get your friend or family the money they need; here are some things to consider: 

Lending Money to Your Family Member

One thing you can consider is lending money to your incarcerated friend or family member while in jail and setting up a repayment plan once they get out. It is always a good idea to remember that lending or borrowing money from family members and friends can get complicated. 

Consider Loans With Monthly Installments

There are all kinds of loan options available, including personal loans with steady monthly payments. Having decent credit can help you get the money you need to help your loved one at a low-interest rate. 

Look Into Bad Credit Loan Options for Funding

There are various bad credit loan options out there that can help you get funds regardless of your credit score. 

Get Permission To Sell Assets

With permission, consider liquidating the incarcerated person’s assets so they can afford their jail stay. 

The Bottom Line With Cashing a Stimulus Check for Someone in Jail 

Incarcerated people were set to receive stimulus checks; however, not everyone was aware or did the correct paperwork to receive each new round of stimulus checks. If you are a power of attorney on a bank account of an incarcerated friend or family member, then cashing their stimulus can be reasonably straightforward. Check cashing can also be easy if you share a joint bank account with that incarcerated individual. However, without these stipulations, cashing a stimulus check can be difficult. The good news is that you can consider alternative options if you are simply trying to get financial assistance for your family member or loved one. 

References:
What Happens to My Money if I go to Jail or Prison? | Criminal Lawyer
What do I do if I didn’t get my stimulus checks? – Get It Back
How can I get my stimulus checks if I am incarcerated? – Get It Back
Can You Endorse Your Stimulus Check to Someone Else to Cash?

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