CARES Act: Stop Penalizing US Citizens

The Problem

Many US citizens who filed their taxes jointly with their non-citizen spouse receive no stimulus check under the CARES act. Exceptions include active duty military and spouses who have already received a social security number, a process that can take months if not years. Many of these citizens work on the front-lines, in health care and other essential services, putting their lives at risk to protect Americans. 

Impact on US Citizens

We estimate at least 2 million US citizens, including US citizen spouses and their US citizen children, are impacted by this exclusion.


Congress has the power to fix this problem, and fix it quickly. US citizens need help urgently and the US government has a responsibility to protect its tax-paying citizens immediately.

The courts also have the power to strike down this exclusion.

Our Work To Date

2008 History

The exclusion in the CARES act flows directly from a penalization of law-abiding spouses of US citizens from similar legislation in 2008. After the sharp economic downturn in 2007, Congress passed a stimulus bill to pay checks to US citizens, but they excluded US citizens whose spouse was waiting for a social security number. In response, American Families United formed the "Reform the Rebate: Stop Penalizing Law Abiding Spouses Campaign" in coalition with The Association of the US Army, and the Rutherford Institute. The campaign was successful in earning press in the Stars and Stripes, Associated PressLA Times, The NY Times, and The Mercury News. Relief for active duty military, but not for all US citizens, was signed into law in HR 6081, the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008.

2020 Time Line

March 19 - the Senate introduces the first version of the CARES act, which excludes all US citizens whose spouse has not yet received their social security number and has filed taxes jointly (see section 2101, (h)(1)(b))

March 20-23 - we communicate the issue to most legislators we met with on our 2020 lobby days

March 23 - the House introduces a counter-proposal that fixes the problem for all US citizens, an apparent victory

March 26 - the House/Senate compromise version of the CARES act, HR 748, is published, and we identify an exclusion mirroring final relief in 2008, addressing the issue only for families of active duty military

March 27 - we follow up again with champions for US citizens on both sides of the aisle with the ask to address the issue

March 27 - HR 748, the CARES act, is passed into law with no changes to this section

March 29 - we reach out to the LA Times offering an exclusive on the story, and bring many stories for consideration over the coming weeks

April 3 - Rep. Correa (D-CA) and dozens of co-sponsors, including many we communicated with earlier, introduce HR 6438, the Leave No Tax-Payer Behind Act to address the issue for all tax filers

April 20 - the LA Times publishes a break-through story, bringing national attention to the issue

April 21 - we begin efforts in locating possible plaintiffs for a class action lawsuit

April 24 - an American Families United family files a class-action lawsuit

April 28 - Rep. Newhouse (R-WA) sends letter to Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy calling for all US citizens and their dependents to receive stimulus checks

April 28 - Spokesman Review breaks the story of the class action lawsuit

April 29 - News 12 New Jersey airs an in-depth investigative report on the issue, featuring American Families United, with vocal support from Senator Menendez (D-NJ)


December 2020 - $5.8 billion in direct relief for previously excluded families, addressing the CARES Act exclusion of US citizens married to foreign nationals, and their children, is passed into law, including both a retroactive inclusion in the first economic impact payments, and second economic impact payments. The reform includes additional relief for other SSN holders in the same way.

February 2021 - $5.5 billion is direct relief for to US citizens married to foreign nationals and their children is passed into law as part of the third COVID economic impact payments. This reform includes additional relief other SSN holders, including children in households whose parents are both ITIN holders.