OMAHA, Nebraska — People incarcerated in the United States received around $1.3 billion in COVID-19-related stimulus payments from the federal government under the administrations of two presidents.
In response to a letter from United States Representative Don Bacon of Nebraska, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provided confirmation in July of the total amount of stimulus payments made to inmates.
The letter from the IRS did not include information regarding the number of offenders who had been given the payments in 2020 and 2021. It said 1.1 million stimulus payments were made to state and federal inmates.
After a federal judge determined in October 2020 that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) could not exclude prisoners from the payments since Congress had not limited inmates from receiving them, the payments were finally able to be started.
When it was getting close to the end of former President Donald Trump’s term in office, members of the House of Representatives, including Bacon, voted to approve funding for another round of stimulus payments.
When questioned over that vote, Bacon responded, “We didn’t aware the… stimulus went to prisoners. When we were aware of it, we endeavored to take action in response to it. According to Bacon, he found out in the early years of 2022 that convicts were receiving payments.
Bacon cast a no vote in February on the most recent batch of stimulus funds, which were supported by Vice President Joe Biden. House Republicans, including Representative Bacon, backed an amendment to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act proposed by Vice President Joe Biden to exclude prison inmates. Bacon stated that Democrats did not agree with it and that the law was ultimately passed.
Bacon referred to the payments made to inmates as “an illustration of the budgetary recklessness of Democrats.” [Case in point]
State Senator Terrell McKinney of Omaha, who is an advocate for the respect of the rights of persons who are incarcerated, stated that those stimulus money should be spent on people who are currently incarcerated.
According to what he said, “the vast majority of them are not economically well-off.” That makes it possible for them to communicate with their families, to shop for food and other necessities inside, and to keep their families from feeling burdened in any way.
Families with loved ones in prison often struggle to support them behind bars, he said. The majority of these family members are either grandparents or single parents who are surviving on a fixed income.
According to McKinney, prisoners, especially those serving life sentences, continue to be citizens of the United States and human beings with rights. He made the point that more than ninety percent of people who are incarcerated will eventually rejoin society.
McKinney stated that “we’re either going to treat them as humans, or they’re going to continue to cycle in and out.”
According to Bacon, he contacted the IRS after reading a news article in February that discussed the matter. He stated that he desired further information, specifically regarding the number of convicts on death row who were given the cash.
He was informed by the IRS that 163,000 stimulus payments had been distributed to prisoners who were serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. The data from the IRS does not differentiate between lifers and those serving death sentences.
According to Bacon, inmates on death row should not be eligible to receive stimulus payments. “If you’re going to do anything with that, give it to the people who were hurt by them…. They (the convicts) are receiving financial support from the taxpayers.
Advocates for prisoners all around the country have maintained that the additional cash that are delivered to offenders help to stabilize their families, which are already in jeopardy because a family member or friend is incarcerated.
According to Tena Hahn Rodriguez, the interim executive director of Black and Pink National in Omaha, which is an organization that believes the incarceration system should be eliminated, both convicts and their families require assistance.
She said, “They have families who adore them,” referring to the children. They put in their time for a few cents on the dollar. There is no valid reason to exclude them, their children, or their families from participation in this activity.
Bacon’s opponent in the election for the 2nd Congressional District, State Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha, chose not to comment on Bacon’s letter or on the question of whether or not state and federal prisoners ought to have been given stimulus payments.
In recent weeks, Vargas has been critical of Bacon for his vote against ARPA, which would have included monies for the stimulus package. Vargas stated that he would have been willing to vote in favor of the bill during a prior interview.
According to Bacon, if you voted for the previous option, you also voted for the current one.