Vermont COVID-19 Equity Fund - FAQs

What is the Fund? 

The federal government passed a law in the Spring of 2020 (the CARES Act) that gave direct “economic impact payments” or “stimulus payments” to many people in the United States. Through this program, adults received $1,200. Households got an extra $500 for each child claimed as a tax dependent. 
The federal government excluded many people from receiving these payments because of their immigration status. In response to this exclusion, Vermont created the Economic Stimulus Equity Fund in the Fall of 2020. This program is also known as the Immigrant Families Covid Fund. It was set up to give payments at the same level to people living in Vermont who were left out of the federal program because of their immigration status or the immigration status of their spouse. You can read the law that created the Fund here

How much are the payments? 

All eligible adults will receive $1,200 for themselves, plus $500 for each eligible child. This is the same amount that people received from the 2020 federal stimulus. 

How do I know if I am eligible for the state Fund? 

You are eligible to receive a $1,200 payment if all of the following applies to you: 

  • You are an adult (18 years or older), 
  • You resided in Vermont on April 1, 2020, 
  • You currently reside in Vermont, 
  • You had an adjusted gross income of less than $99,000 in 2019 (or if filing taxes jointly, an adjusted gross income of less than $198,000), and 
  • You are ineligible to receive a 2020 CARES Act stimulus payment from the federal government “due to reasons of immigration status” (see the next question for more information). 

If all of the above applies to you, you are also eligible to receive $500 for each child if all of the following are true: 

  • You are the child’s parent or legal guardian, 
  • The child is under 17 years of age, and 
  • No other parent or guardian is claiming that same child for a payment from this fund. 

Why would someone have been ineligible to receive a 2020 federal stimulus payment due to reasons of immigration status

Many people didn’t receive the 2020 stimulus payment from the federal government. This could have happened for a number of reasons. It’s important to understand that this state Fund is for people who did not receive a 2020 federal payment specifically because of ineligibility due to immigration status. 
If one of these statements applied to you at the end of 2020, the federal government decided that you are ineligible to receive the 2020 stimulus payment due to immigration status: 

  • I do not have a social security number, OR 
  • I have a social security number but it isn’t valid for employment, OR 
  • I have a social security number but I haven’t been in the United States for enough days to meet the IRS “substantial presence” test. (If you have more questions about this, you can read the IRS definition on their website.) 

If one of these statements applied to you, you may be eligible to receive a payment through this Fund. 
If none of these statements applied to you, you are not eligible to receive a payment through this Fund, even if you have not yet received a 2020 stimulus payment from the federal government’s CARES Act. You may still receive that federal payment along with your next tax return. If you think you should have received that payment but have not, you should visit the IRS website for more information or call Vermont Legal Aid for tax help at 1-800-889-2047. 

I didn’t receive a 2020 federal stimulus payment because my spouse doesn’t have a valid social security number. Am I eligible for a payment from the state Fund? 

No. When the CARES Act was passed in the Spring of 2020, the law initially excluded mixed-status families. This meant that if a married couple filed taxes jointly and one spouse did not have a valid social security number, then no one in that household could receive a 2020 stimulus payment. However, in December of 2020, the federal government changed the CARES Act to allow eligible tax filers to receive the $1,200 federal stimulus payment (plus $500 for children), even if their spouse is ineligible for the stimulus themselves due to immigration status. 
That means that if you have a valid social security number and file taxes with a spouse who does not, you are now able to receive the 2020 federal stimulus. You should receive that payment in 2021 or when you next file taxes. Because you are now eligible to receive the federal stimulus, you should not register to receive money from the state Fund. 

When can I register to receive my payment? 

The registration form is available until May 1, 2021. As long as you register before May 1st and are eligible you will receive a payment through the Fund. 

How can I register to receive my payment?

The process is designed to be very simple. Simply fill out this registration form. It should take less than 5 minutes. The form has a series of questions. Your answers to these questions will determine if you are eligible, how much money you will receive in your payment, and how you will receive your payment. The form will not ask you to provide any documents to prove if you are eligible to receive a payment.

What happens with the personal information I give on the registration form? Will it be kept safe and confidential?

The Fund has a number of safety measures to protect the personal information of everyone who registers. This means that your name, address, phone number, and any other information about you will be kept safe and confidential. 

  1. The state law that created the Fund requires that any personal information collected about you will be kept confidential. Any personal information collected about you is exempt from inspection and copying under the Vermont Public Records Act. 
  2. When VCF reports to the state about the Fund, they will not provide any individual’s personal information. This means that nobody from the government will know that you received a payment. 
  3. Distribution organizations will create procedures and safeguards to protect any personal information they obtain about you. They will not disclose that information to any other entities or agencies. This means that only the distribution organizations will know that you registered for or received a payment. 

How can I receive my payment?

You can be paid by mail or you can have the payment hand delivered to where you live. If you ask to receive your payment through the mail, someone from the Fund may call you with follow-up questions to determine your eligibility. If you ask for your payment in person, you will be asked to sign a form to confirm when you receive the payment. The payment can only be left with you. No one else can receive the payment for you. 
The Fund prefers to pay you by check. If using checks is difficult for you for any reason, you can ask for your payment in cash. 
If you choose to receive your payment in the form of cash from the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO), you must go to a CVOEO office to pick up your payment. If you select this option, CVOEO will be in touch with you to coordinate the payment pick up. 

When would I receive my payment?

You can expect to receive your payment a few weeks after you register. All payments will be made by the end of March 2021.

How much is the Fund and where does the money come from? 

The Vermont State Legislature set aside $5 million dollars from the state’s 2021 “General Fund” for this program. This amount was calculated to cover everyone who might register for payments, based on best estimates of how many people may be eligible. Any leftover money will return to the Vermont state budget. 

Will receiving a payment affect my immigration status or make me a "public charge?"

In some cases, if you apply for a green card based on a family or work relationship, the federal government will look at whether or not you have received public benefits during the time that you have lived in the United States. The government considers that information when deciding 
if you are likely to apply for more benefits after you become a permanent resident. The government calls this becoming a “public charge.” 
If you have a “humanitarian” status, like asylum, being a “public charge” does not stop you from getting a green card. People in other situations, like people with a family petition, might want to know whether receiving a payment through this Fund could negatively impact them when they apply for a green card in the future. 
Based on what the law says right now, it is not likely that the federal government will consider a payment from this Fund when deciding whether a person is likely to become a “public charge.” In other words, receiving a payment through this Fund will most likely not make a difference in your ability to get a green card in the future. 
There is a small exception for people in removal proceedings who are applying for green cards from the Boston Immigration Court. Current “public charge” laws are applied differently in Massachusetts than they are in Vermont. The Boston Immigration Court might consider payments received through the Fund when deciding whether a person in this uncommon situation might become a “public charge.” If you have questions or concerns about how receiving a payment from the Fund might impact your eligibility for immigration benefits or status, you should contact an attorney. The Vermont Bar Association can help you find one. 
If I get benefits from the government for me or my children (like food stamps or health benefits), will receiving a payment from this Fund affect my eligibility? 
Payments from the Fund do not count as “income” or “resources.” Registering for a payment from the Fund won’t change whether or not you or your children are eligible for assistance programs that consider income or resources, like Dr. Dinosaur (health insurance), 3Squares (food stamps), and Reach Up (cash assistance). 

Who is responsible for overseeing the Fund and distributing payments?

The Vermont Agency of Administration and the Vermont State Director of the Office of Racial Equity are the state government agencies responsible for the program. The state has contracted the Vermont Community Foundation (“VCF”) to administer the Fund. VCF is coordinating with a number of community-based organizations to promote the Fund and distribute payments. 
Organizations that will distribute payments include: 

Who can I contact if I have questions about the Fund? Is there anyone who can help me to fill out the form?

If you have any questions, please call Indra Acharya, the Project Manager, at (802) 559-0679. If you know people at any of the organizations listed above, you can reach out to them, too. 
In case you have questions later: You may want to take screenshots of the form or print it before you submit it. Once you submit the registration form, you won’t be able to see what you filled out. You may also want to take screenshots or print the page confirming that you submitted your registration.

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