More than 100,000 Alabamians missing $33 million from stimulus checks

Published 11:10 pm Monday, August 4, 2008

MONTGOMERY – The federal government is having a hard time giving away $33 million in Alabama.

The Internal Revenue Service says more than 104,000 Alabamians are due federal economic stimulus checks, but they haven’t filed the federal tax returns necessary to get the checks. Those checks would total more than $33 million, and they would mostly go to senior citizens and disabled veterans.

IRS officials joined Gov. Bob Riley and other state officials Monday for a news conference to educate people about how they can get help filing their tax forms and qualifying for the checks before the Oct. 15 deadline.

“$33 million should be going to the people of Alabama, but it won’t be going to them unless they ask,” Riley said.

According to the IRS, Alabama is the 17th highest state in the number of people who have not applied for their checks. Florida is fourth, Georgia ninth, Tennessee 15th and Mississippi 27th.

Susie Daniels, a 66-year-old former day-care provider from Montgomery, is among the thousands who haven’t applied. Daniels is a member of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Montgomery, where Riley had his news conference Monday. She stood in the background listening closely Monday.

“I didn’t think I would qualify,” the widow said in an interview after the news conference.

Daniels said she plans to file a tax return and await a check. “The first thing I’m going to do is fill my car up with gas,” she said.

Viola Watley, manager of the New Town Senior Citizens Center in Montgomery, said several elderly people who visit the center haven’t filed returns.

“A lot of them haven’t filed because they are afraid it will mess up their Social Security,” she said in an interview Monday.

Benita Wilson, a senior tax accountant with the IRS, said the stimulus checks won’t mess up anyone’s Social Security or other government benefits.

Riley said there is no state or federal income tax on the checks, and filing a tax return to get the economic stimulus checks does not commit a person to filing a tax return in future years.

Paying a tax preparer to file a tax return can eat up a good portion of a $300 or $600 stimulus check. Because of that, Riley and others promoted free ways for people to get help filing their tax returns.

People can contact the IRS offices in Birmingham, Dothan, Florence, Huntsville, Mobile or Montgomery. They can also call the IRS’s toll-free number 1-800-829-1040 or check its Web site (

Help is also available by calling the social services assistance line 211.

“I’m going to dial 211 as soon as I get home,” Daniels said.