From left: The Gray family of Hyattsville, Maryland — Omari, 18; Shane, 14; Tahira Gray; Kayla, 8; Jade, 11; and LaRonda Gray. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
From left: The Gray family of Hyattsville, Maryland — Omari, 18; Shane, 14; Tahira Gray; Kayla, 8; Jade, 11; and LaRonda Gray. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

LaRonda Gray and her husband, Tahira, already know how they will allocate the stimulus money they received Tuesday, March 15.

“Pay bills first and foremost,” she said. “During COVID-19, our children had a growth spurt. We need to buy them some summer clothes. Now, we’ll be able to update their wardrobes.”

Upon LaRonda Gray receiving a text message after her bank had deposited the money into the family’s account., she informed her husband of the good news.

“Then, I turned on the music,” she said. “It was exciting but at the same time, I felt exhausted. So, exhaled – a sigh of relaxation for our family as we looked forward to getting things going.”

The couple from Hyattsville and their four children will be among the thousands of Prince George’s County residents who have or will receive a stimulus check of $1,400 per person. The family of six received $8,400.

The IRS anticipates distributing $422 billion to more than 100 million taxpayers.

Some people received their money as soon as Friday, March 12, one day after President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law. That’s because some banks authorized the release of the money earlier.

The IRS said in a statement checks are scheduled for direct deposit Wednesday, March 17. According to the COVID-19 legislation, the IRS has until the end of the year to disperse all payments. Americans who filed their 2019 or 2020 tax returns, like the Grays, will receive their payments first through direct deposit.

Eligibility requirements are based on those who are single with an annual salary up to $80,000 and couples who file jointly at the maximum salary of $160,000.

The IRS released a payment tracker Monday on when stimulus payments could be received at www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment.

“Get My Payment updates once per day, usually overnight,” according to the agency website. “Do not call the IRS. Our phone assistors don’t have information beyond what’s available on IRS.gov.”

For those who filed their tax returns on paper, they will receive a check or prepaid debit card. However, because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the current and ongoing tax season, delivery of those items could be delayed.

“Even though the tax season is in full swing, IRS employees again worked around the clock to quickly deliver help to millions of Americans struggling to cope with this historic pandemic,” said Chuck Rettig, IRS commissioner, in a statement Friday.

Although the agency will maintain the traditional deadline for filing taxes which this year is Thursday, April 15, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot announced last week that state taxpayers will have until July 15 to file without penalties.

The change comes due to the pandemic and the state’s RELIEF Act legislation passed by the General Assembly last month that requires changes on state and federal forms.

LaRonda Gray said her family of six has endured a slew of stressful moments during the pandemic.

Prior to COVID-19, her husband had worked at a D.C. law firm for about 15 years as an administrative assistant but was laid off in June 2019. He began contracting work for the U.S. Army in January 2020. Then, almost six months later in May, he was laid off again. Last month, even with a decrease in salary, he returned to work for a contractor with the federal government.

During the period of his unemployment, Gray said her husband did not receive unemployment benefits. Meanwhile, the family has accumulated an estimated debt of $10,000.

To maintain a semblance of financial stability, they applied for credit cards, loans and received assistance from family members. Additionally, the couple applied for a state energy assistance program in November to help with electric and heating bills. They received a phone call last week requesting more information.

While her husband works, Gray stays at home with the children. The three youngest children continue virtual learning in the Prince George’s public schools. Gray homeschools their oldest child, Omari, 18, who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and asthma.

Omari plans to enroll in Prince George’s Community College in the fall, where his mother’s currently a student pursuing early childhood education. LaRonda said her son, who has an interest in the stock market, suggested how the family should use its stimulus payment – as an investment that would gain interest.

“That would be great we have to get out of debt first,” she said. “COVID has taught us many lessons. If we had an emergency fund established, we would’ve had money to pay the rent on time and buy the kids the necessities they needed sooner. The stimulus money will definitely help get us back on our feet. In fact, I did the happy dance when President Biden signed off on it [the stimulus plan].”

County Council member Jolene Ivey (D-District 5) of Cheverly said families like the Grays, who reside in her district, deserve the stimulus payments.

“They’re a really strong family who’s doing everything right that they can possibly do,” she said. “They’re wonderful parents and you really want them to succeed. It’s not just them but thousands of families just like them in the county and the region who just need extra help.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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