WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, September 30th, 2020, Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), and Gwen Moore (WI-04) led 107 House Members in sending a bipartisan letter to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) urging the agency to issue missing economic impact payments (EIPs) to survivors of domestic violence. Nearly every state has reported increases in domestic violence cases since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and caseworkers and advocates of domestic violence survivors across the country have documented cases of abusive partners stealing or withholding EIPs from survivors. The IRS has decided to issue catch-up EIPs to individuals who did not receive their payments, and the Members are calling on the agency to provide this same relief to survivors of domestic violence.
The Members wrote: “…Our dedicated caseworkers have attempted to help constituents recover EIPs that went to the abusive spouse of a domestic violence survivor or was intercepted by an abusive partner. With respect to those victims who are married, caseworkers have been told by the IRS that this is indeed a difficult situation, and constituents should attempt to resolve the split of shared assets, including the EIP, through a divorce settlement. This suggestion is simply untenable and ignores the hardship that these individuals face each day. Further, it forgets those victims who are not married to their abusers but reside at the same address. We are encouraged by your public statements expressing sympathy and heartfelt interest in helping survivors of domestic violence, as well as your recognition that this an issue where the IRS can provide significant assistance.”
Nearly all victims of domestic violence experience economic abuse and a lack of financial independence is cited as the most common reason for remaining in an abusive relationship. EIPs could empower survivors to leave their abusive partners and support a fresh start. The IRS has a responsibility to ensure all qualifying individuals receive these essential payments.
“With people across our nation complying with stay-at-home orders, law enforcement has unfortunately seen an increase in the number of domestic violence calls they are receiving,” said Fitzpatrick. “We must do everything we can to support victims in their time of need, and our bipartisan request to the IRS will hopefully deliver the economic support that they deserve. I am proud to join my colleagues in urging the agency to issue missing economic impact payments (EIPs) to survivors of domestic violence, and I look forward to continuing our bipartisan work.”
“This pandemic has exacerbated the terrifying hardships that victims of domestic abuse experience at home, and I am deeply concerned by the sharp increase of domestic violence cases we are seeing in Maryland and across the country,” said Raskin. “Congress passed the CARES Act to provide vital support to people in our communities—from small business people to the unemployed to the hungry to large corporations—during this public health and economic crisis. We must ensure survivors of domestic violence receive the essential relief they were guaranteed through the CARES Act, and the IRS should take immediate action to address this lingering injustice.”
“EIPs, or economic recovery rebates, are a key part of the federal government’s attempt to help all families affected by the unprecedented economic downturn our nation is now experiencing,” said Moore. “Receiving an EIP can mean the difference between a survivor having the means to leave an abuser and being forced to stay in a dangerous situation, which is critically important now given that cases of domestic violence are rising during the pandemic. But unfortunately, abusers are using EIPs as a tool of control to inflict financial abuse on their victims. That’s why I am joining my colleagues in demanding the IRS take a series of steps to guarantee domestic violence victims have access to the payments they are rightfully entitled to.”
The letter is supported by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), and The Community Tax Law Project. A copy of the letter is available here.