The federal government doled out nearly a billion dollars in stimulus payments to prison inmates in 2021 under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, according to IRS records obtained by the Washington Examiner.
The third-round stimulus payments to prisoners totaled $924.3 million, which was much greater than previously reported. The checks went out despite efforts by Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana to bar stimulus funds from going to prisoners. Senate Democrats voted unanimously against the amendment in a 50-49 party-line vote in March 2021.
“In one of the most inexplicable votes in Senate history, Senate Democrats sent terrorists and perverts $1,400 checks paid for by U.S. tax dollars. It is a vote that should tick off every American,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott, a senator from Florida, said in January. “The Boston Marathon bomber and Larry Nassar are in prison for their evil deeds killing Americans and molesting children. They do not deserve our money.”
“Senate Democrats’ shameful vote will live in infamy and will be a major reason why Republicans will take back the Senate and end the madness,” Scott said.
The IRS reported that the money went to approximately 645,000 people who were incarcerated at the start of the year, according to FOIA records provided to the Washington Examiner by the NRSC.
The figure is much higher than the $783.5 million figure previously reported by Fox News in July.
“Individuals will not be denied Economic Impact Payments solely because they are incarcerated,” the IRS said on its website. “An incarcerated individual may be issued a payment if all eligibility requirements are met and the individual filed a 2020 or 2019 tax return that was processed by the IRS.”
Cotton railed against Democrats for voting to provide stimulus payments to criminals such as Dylann Roof, who was convicted of murder after he killed nine black people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.
“Dylann Roof murdered nine people. He’s on federal death row. He’ll be getting a $1,400 stimulus check as part of the Democrats’ ‘COVID relief’ bill,” Cotton tweeted after Senate Democrats shot down his amendment.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois defended his party’s move to secure stimulus payments for prisoners, arguing that the families of such people needed financial support.
“Children should not be forced to go hungry because a parent is incarcerated. Relief payments would allow families to replace lost income and pay rent and put food on the table,” Durbin said in March 2021. “I would urge my colleagues to understand what we are facing with our criminal justice system today. We need to bring more justice to it and caring for the families of those who are incarcerated.”
The federal government also provided stimulus payments to prisoners in 2020 under former President Donald Trump’s watch.
The IRS tried to block stimulus payments from going to prisoners in 2020, but a federal judge ruled in October 2020 that prisoners were eligible for the checks because the law contained no provision that barred such individuals from receiving stimulus funding.