Salisbury citizen left out of stimulus payments because she married an immigrant

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 10, 2020

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — Maria Ortiz was looking forward to the economic impact payment provided by the federal government through the CARES Act.

Ortiz, a citizen who lives in Salisbury, has a newborn and two other children. Her car had just started “acting up.” But Ortiz soon realized that because she married an immigrant and filed their taxes together she would not receive the $1,200 payment.

In cases where both spouses file jointly, both spouses must have valid social security numbers to receive a payment, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The one exception is if either spouse is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the taxable year. Then, only one spouse needs to have a valid social security number.  If the spouses file separately, the spouse may qualify for a payment and the other spouse without a valid social security number will not.

And Ortiz’s husband, Alfredo, is not a member of the military.

Ortiz, who married her husband in August, said they filed together to help with the immigration process, as her husband is trying to get a visa for residence. Now, she feels discouraged.

“I feel like I’m discriminated against because I married an immigrant,” she said. “As a citizen, I am let down.”

She has reached out to her congressional representative, Ted Budd, R-13 and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis’s office. But she hasn’t received a response.

In a response to the Salisbury Post, Budd’s spokesman Curtis Kalin said the congressman supported the bipartisan CARES Act and that funds would be prioritized for people who are legal citizens. Kalin said the intent was not to leave anyone out and Budd believes further help can be achieved in future relief packages.

Daniel Keylin, a spokesman for Tillis, said non-payments for American citizens in these instances is something that could be addressed in the next stimulus bill.

Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican whose district splits Rowan County with Budd’s, said he will stay focused on finding ways to provide relief for all citizens as discussions continue on additional relief efforts.

“While I believe funds should only go to American citizens, I had numerous concerns with how direct payments were distributed,” Hudson said. “It doesn’t seem fair that a citizen married to someone with an ITIN is excluded.”

Ortiz said she had to get a loan to purchase a new car. She has bills on bills and is struggling to make ends meet.

“It would have helped big time,” she said about the stimulus payments.

A White House petition was started calling Congress to included mixed status, social security numbers and and individual taxpayer identification number, in the CARES Act for economic relief fund. The petition was created April 16 and has more than 14,000 signatures.

“We pay our taxes every year and demand to be included at least for those who have SSNs on those returns,” the petition states. “We are AMERICAN CITIZENS and so are our children and we demand to be included. No taxpayer left behind act or a new amendment including those with SSNs on joint returns with ITIN holders.”