Florida inmates can get stimulus checks following court ruling, corrections officials say

Following a court ruling, Florida corrections officials said Friday that inmates who receive stimulus payments of up to $1,200 will have the money deposited into their accounts.

Florida correctional facilities had been returning inmates’ checks to the Internal Revenue Service after the federal agency issued guidance saying that incarcerated individuals were ineligible to receive stimulus checks from the federal government.

“The IRS required that incarcerated individuals sent an Economic Impact Payment in error return the fund to the IRS. Funds received for inmates in [Florida Department of Corrections] custody were returned to the IRS,” said Michelle Glady, a department spokeswoman.

But a class-action lawsuit filed by incarcerated individuals and a federal court ruling led state corrections officials to reverse course. U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton for the Northern District of California ruled last week that the government should not withhold those checks from people solely because they are incarcerated.

“FDC has reviewed the ruling and any checks received will be deposited into the inmate’s account,” Glady said on Friday.

The IRS forms inmates need to apply for the stimulus money are printed and available at all correctional institution libraries, Glady said.

There are roughly 88,000 inmates in Florida’s prison system, and many of them are eligible to receive stimulus payments.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, known as the Cares Act, lays out who is ineligible for checks. The law, for instance, excludes dependents and foreigners without legal residency, but does not disqualify incarcerated people.

It is not exactly clear how many Florida inmates are eligible. Adopt An Inmate, an organization that advocates for inmates, has sent inmates forms and instructions to help them claim their checks from the IRS. It has also asked Florida corrections officials to “immediately process the mail” so inmates can apply.

Prisoners have until Nov. 4 to claim stimulus money, said Melissa Schmitt, who works with the organization.

Stimulus checks mailed to the institutions may be subject to deductions if the prisoner owes restitution, court fees, Schmitt.