‘Second stimulus checks may be out by end of Jan.’


The Department of Finance expects to start releasing to CNMI taxpayers the second batch of stimulus checks worth a total of $47 million by the end of this month or in early February.

It’s down to $600 for individual taxpayers, though—half of the $1,200 that was handed out to taxpayers during the first round of stimulus checks.

“The stimulus is at $600 at the moment,” said Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig during a radio news briefing Wednesday. He said the U.S. Senate did not allow last Tuesday a vote to increase the stimulus from $600 to $2,000, as had been endorsed by President Donald J. Trump.

“So we’re still rolling out and going for the $600 as it is passed into law,” Atalig said.

He disclosed that he and his team at DOF had a conference call with their partners at the Internal Revenue Services and they expected to submit their implementation plan to the IRS by the end of that day, Wednesday, and have IRS approve the plan.

“Keep in mind the stimulus checks are processed differently here in territories…unlike in the U.S. mainland where IRS directly submits and sends payments to the taxpayers,” Atalig said.

In the CNMI and other territories, he said, the territories must submit an implementation plan on how they’re going to distribute the stimulus checks.

Atalig noted that Finance had a “very successful” implementation program and rollout in the first stimulus CARES Act distribution. He said they are just updating some of the challenges and some of the lessons learned that they had in their plan to be implemented in the second rollout.

Atalig said he expects the distribution of the second stimulus checks to be a lot smoother. “I think more people are informed on the challenges that we had in the early stages of rolling out the stimulus here in the CNMI,” he said.

Atalig said they anticipate three to four weeks from last Wednesday to get things done, so they are looking at the end of January to be able to roll out.

“Keep in mind we have to wait for the implementation plan to be accepted and approved by IRS. Once that is approved, we await for the transfer of funds to us,” he said.

Atalig said their initial plan will be to just submit and upload the distribution to those that have fair, clean tax returns on the first list by using 2018 data.

Atalig said there are differences in different taxpayers income between 2018 and 2019 and so those are the things that they need to iron out.

“However, those that have clean tax returns and pretty much not much of a big change within their 2018 and 2019 tax returns will probably get their stimulus checks right away, as soon as we receive the funds from IRS,” he said.

Atalig said they expect IRS to review and approve their implementation plan in the next 10 days.

He expects the stimulus funds in the second round to amount to about $47 million.

In the first round, Atalig said, they distributed over $58 million. “Those are the estimates we have from [the Division of] Revenue and Tax, which we are going to be submitting to IRS today [Wednesday],” he said.

Atalig said that, based on the first stimulus, they received the funds about three to four weeks after the passage of the stimulus bill. “And so the timeframe would be at the end of January. We will be probably distributing our stimulus checks by the end of January [or] early February, and continue until we we’ve submitted everything to all our taxpayers,” he added.

Trump signed last week the $900-billion pandemic relief package that will provide cash to businesses and individuals. The bill includes $600 checks for Americans who earn less than $75,000 per year. The massive bill also includes $1.4 trillion to fund U.S. government’s operations through September 2021.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said last week that he wants to get the stimulus funds out to people as soon as possible.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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