What Cities Need to Do Now to Ensure Black Communities Get Stimulus Payments

April 24, 2020 - (5 min read)

Some people have already received their stimulus payment, some are waiting to receive them, and some may never receive them unless they also receive guidance from their city. Due to things like lower access to internet and banking, low-income Black individuals will likely face the greatest challenges in receiving a stimulus payment. Local leaders can support their communities by working with financial capacity-building organizations and diving into the data to ensure that all eligible residents receive a stimulus payment.

About 90 percent of the 153 million individuals or married couples that filed a tax return in 2018 should receive a stimulus payment automatically by direct deposit through their bank account or by mail. Up to 50 percent of the 25-27 million individuals or married couples that did not file a tax return in 2018 should receive one automatically based on Social Security retirement or other federal benefits.

But the remaining 50 percent or more are at risk of not receiving a stimulus payment unless they provide basic information to the Internal Revenue Service to receive their payment in the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool. In order to best help their at-risk populations, cities must understand their characteristics. Given that COVID-19 has had a disparate impact on communities of color, specifically the Black population, and has revealed racial inequities that impact individuals and families’ lives, NLC analyzed the demographic characteristics of non-filers, or those who are not required to file taxes.

The biggest demographic group affected may be unmarried individuals without dependents given that Millennials are now the largest cohort in the workforce, and many make a relatively low income. Over 97 percent of non-filers have an income below $20,000.

Over 9-10 million households non-filers may be unmarried with no dependents. Black non-filers are expected to make up a large share of these households because:

  1. Unmarried Black non-filers with no dependents, make up a larger share (16 percent) of all unmarried households with no dependents compared to the Black population (12 percent).
  2. Low-income Black households have lower access to banking, at nearly 46 percent compared to 77 percent for White households.
  3. Low-income Black households have lower access to broadband at home, at 66 percent compared to 79 percent for White households.
Race % Total individuals % Individuals who do not file taxes % Individuals who do not file taxes that do not receive Federal benefits Access to banking Access to broadband at home
Black 12% 20% 16% 45.8% 66%
White 59% 75% 59% 77.1% 79%
Asian 5% 3% 3% 69.2%
Hispanic 18% 12% 10% 49.7% 61%
Other 6% 1.3% 1.1% 55.8%


  1. Apply a racial lens to your population data to determine who is disproportionately impacted. Communities like Chicago, which created a Racial Equity Rapid Response Taskforce, and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, which created a comprehensive dashboard, are model examples.
  2. Work with your city departments of planning, economic development, open data team or the regional chamber of commerce to review the data associated with your city’s residents who are not required to file taxes. This will assist your city in tailoring communication strategies to specific wards (or districts) and neighborhoods.
  3. Work with your communication staff to develop a multi-prong campaign strategy which can include promoting social media, webpages or microsites, virtual town halls, fact sheets and postcards; developing talking points for council members; or partnering with the school system, faith-based community and community-based organizations.
  4. Engage with VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) providers, credit counseling agencies, local area agencies on aging and partner financial capacity building organizations to spread the work and act as resource in the community. These providers are likely to see an increase of low- and moderate-income tax filers seeking assistance to file their tax returns in order to receive their stimulus payments and help with tax preparation given the three-month federal tax filing deadline extension.
  5. In partnership with local providers such as VITA and nonprofit credit counselors, engage in special outreach to your residents who do not receive Social Security retirement or other federal benefits, to ensure they receive a stimulus payment by first connecting them to banking services and then providing basic information to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to receive their payment in the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here
  6. Work with your internet providers to find out which residents have poor or no access to broadband. Offer or highlight specialized services that the city or partners, such as VITA, can provide for no fees to fill out their information for them.
  7. Share best ways to receive funds or get money into residents’ hands for those who do not have access to banking.
    1. Work with the U.S. Postal Service to allow stimulus checks to be cashed directly at the post office. Currently, USPS issues and can redeem its own money orders: https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Money-Orders-The-Basics.
    2. Explore the possibility of the city cashing checks for city staff and residents at large.
    3. Consider limiting through essential services guidance the ability of cash checkers to operate during these times and help individuals connect with non-predatory check cashers such as credit unions. Many providers now offer accounts that can be opened remotely online or through a mobile app without going to bank branch with as little as a smartphone with access to the Internet.
  8. Keep residents up to speed on scammers.


About the Authors

Anita-Yadavalli-smallAnita Yadavalli is the Program Director of City Fiscal Policy at NLC. Anita leads NLC’s Public Sector Retirement initiative, with a focus on research and education for city leaders on retiree healthcare benefits, as well as research and programming on other city fiscal policy issues.


Patrick Hain smallPatrick Hain is the Program Manager for Financial Empowerment in the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.


Lauren_Lowery_smallLauren Lowery is the Program Director for Housing & Community Development at the National League of Cities.



David Park is the Program Director for Municipal Data & Analytics at the National League of Cities.