Thursday, October 21, 2021
Mitchell Caminer (Chicago), Enjoined and Incarcerated: Complications with Incarcerated People Seeking Economic Relief under the CARES Act:
Congress passed the first round of checks as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) in late March 2020 to infuse more than $2 trillion into the national economy and address the overlapping medical and economic emergencies stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. But incarcerated individuals were initially excluded from receiving stimulus checks, despite being eligible to receive them. This delay in delivering immediate cash assistance through the CARES Act to incarcerated individuals exposes the inadequacy of the tax administrative doctrine in resolving emergency relief disputes and how exclusionary measures embedded in the tax system and other economic policies inhibit the rehabilitation prospects of incarcerated people.
Millions of Americans made personal and financial sacrifices in 2020 to aid the public health efforts, including incarcerated individuals. In return, those who were denied economic relief on an arbitrary basis by the government should not have to wait until the following tax year to seek a legal remedy. In other words, the legal framework for challenging tax decisions is too unsympathetic toward many taxpayers that rely on policies embedded in the tax code for immediate economic relief. Further, by providing nearly universal economic stimulus, Congress recognized the plight of incarcerated individuals during a pandemic and moved away from the exclusionary stimulus measures enacted in prior economic crises. Providing economic stimulus to those in incarceration is sound economic stimulus policy so long as punitive measures for individuals in and exiting incarceration are embedded in tax and economic policy.