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Many in Hub need to claim stimulus checks

Jin-ah Kim
Many in Hub need to claim stimulus checks
Elizabeth Salazar (left) of the Elm Hill Family Service Center explained the eligibility requirements for receiving a federal economic stimulus payment to Roxbury resident Ada Stallings (right), then helped her re-file her 2007 tax return to ensure she qualified. Many Massachusetts residents, including more than 16,000 in Boston, who would qualify for payments ranging from $300-$1,200 have yet to file the necessary tax returns to get their checks. The deadline is Oct. 15. (Photo: Jin-ah Kim)

Herman McCrory, 63, was quite happy to learn that he would be getting a $300 stimulus check.

McCrory, a longtime Roxbury resident, said he learned he qualified for the payment — which he said he plans to use to pay bills — through the Elm Hill Family Service Center, one of 13 sites operated by Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) Inc.

While the surprise was pleasant for McCrory, local advocates and policy analysts are concerned that many Massachusetts residents are unaware that they qualify, won’t be as lucky, and could lose out on the money to which they are entitled.

Until he had his taxes prepared at the center, McCrory said, “Nobody [had] told me about this.”

Congress in February authorized the disbursement of economic stimulus payments to boost the flagging economy, ranging from $300-$600 for a single person and from $600-$1,200 for married couples. To be eligible for the payments, residents must have had at least $3,000 in “qualifying income” in 2007 — including wages, Social Security, retirement or disability income, veteran’s or survivor benefits, among other funds — and must also file a tax return for 2007.

But because many low-income seniors and people with disabilities are not usually required to file tax returns, a large number of those who are eligible and could benefit most from the financial boost are in danger of missing the boat. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), as many as 5 million people with disabilities and low-income seniors had not yet filed 2007 tax returns as of late June, and are at risk of missing out on their payments.

A number of those in danger live in Massachusetts. According to an analysis of IRS data conducted by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit research group, more than 151,000 Massachusetts residents had yet to claim stimulus payments, totaling just over $45.3 million, as of late July.

About 16,000 of those yet to claim stimulus payments live in Boston, the 21st-highest total of any city in the nation, according to the CBPP. The office of Mayor Thomas M. Menino said last week that a disproportionate amount of those who have not received stimulus checks live in Dorchester, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain and Mattapan.