This guide will walk you through the process of applying for your stimulus check. It also contains useful resources for obtaining the documents you need to apply, as well as information about where to cash it free of charge without a bank account.

In March, the United States legislature passed the CARES Act, a coronavirus stimulus bill designed to address the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to the $2.2 trillion bill, the majority of U.S. citizens are eligible to receive a $1,200 check (or more if you have children). On May 22, IRS reported that nearly 17 million Economic Impact Payments had been distributed in the state of California.

While many have already received their $1,200 stimulus checks without taking any extra steps, there are many more who might be wondering: “Where is that money the government promised me?”

If you have not yet received your check, or if you have questions about how to deposit it free of charge, this guide should help point you in the right direction.

Note: If you are receiving Supplemental Security Income or State Disability Insurance, your Economic Impact Payment will arrive automatically through whatever means you receive your benefits. There are a few reasons you might not have received your stimulus payment even if you are receiving these services (for example, you may not automatically receive your Economic Impact Payment if you only started getting these benefits after January 1, 2020). For more information about this, you can call Bay Area Legal Aid’s legal advice hotline: (800) 551-5554.

Applying for your stimulus check

If the following describes you, you may need to sign up online in order to get your stimulus check:
  1. You are an American citizen. (The IRS is only offering stimulus checks to U.S. citizens. If you are not a U.S. citizen, scroll to the bottom of this article for a list of mutual aid resources for undocumented people in the Bay Area.)
  1. You have a Social Security number.
  1. You are a “non-filer,” meaning you haven’t filed a tax return in the last 2 years.
  1. Your annual income is under $75,000. If you are married and filing jointly, the threshold is $150,000. (Note: if you make between $12,200 and $75,000 and have not yet filed your taxes, filing your taxes will ensure you get your stimulus payment.)
  1. You are not being claimed as a dependent of a U.S. taxpayer

The deadline to submit information to submit your non-filer form to the IRS has been pushed several times, which has created some confusion. However, the current deadline is July 15th, so it is not too late to sign up.

Here’s what you need to sign up.

First, you will need your Social Security number.

If you do not have your Social Security number for any reason, you will need a government issued ID and a mailing address to request a new card from the Social Security Administration. This task can be accomplished online. (If you need help getting a mailing address, keep reading, some places are listed below.)

Next, you need to access the IRS website.

You will need access to a smartphone or computer with an internet connection in order to access the IRS website. The IRS isn’t accepting paper forms.

Even though libraries are currently closed, you can still connect to the internet outside most libraries when sitting outside. Certain cellphones are also able to produce wifi hotspots.

You will also need a government issued ID or your ID number.

In addition to your Social Security number, you need a government issued ID, or at least your ID number. If you don’t currently have an ID, that process is a little more complicated. You will need to go to a physical DMV location to fill out a new ID application. Fortunately, some branches are still open. (Scroll to the bottom of this article for DMV locations that are currently open.)

The DMV is not currently accepting new appointments, so if you have to go, try to get in line before they open to save yourself some time. A new ID without the fee waiver costs $30. To obtain a fee waiver, you can visit Homeless Action Center or Roots Community Health Center during their open hours. You will need to provide proof of your enrollment in EBT or CalWorks in order to qualify for a fee waiver.

You will also need an email address.

You will need an e-mail address in order to make an account on the IRS website. Your account will allow you to check on the status of your payment after you’ve submitted all your information.

Lastly, you need a mailing address to receive the paper check.

There are several places where you can sign up for a mailing address if you are living unsheltered.Amongst other options, you can go to the Berkeley Drop in Center in South Berkeley or sign up to receive mail through Catholic Worker. (Scroll to the bottom of this article for more information about how to sign up for a mailing address.)

Once you have collected all the above information, you will be ready to apply for your stimulus check. Here’s the IRS form you need to fill out to get your stimulus checks as a non-filer.

The deadline for the direct deposit option has passed, which means you will be receiving a paper check in the mail. It may take two weeks to arrive.

The IRS recently indicated that someEconomic Impact Payments will be sent out as prepaid debit cards. Unfortunately, you can’t explicitly request a debit card at this time. The IRS will decide who gets a debit card instead of a paper check.

If you do receive a prepaid debit card, your card will arrive in a plain envelope, and you will need to go online (here) to and set it up before you can access the $1,200.

If you get a paper check, keep reading to learn how to deposit it.

Depositing your stimulus check

You can cash your check for free at a few select locations.

If you already have your paper check in hand, from now until July 19th, anyone can cash their stimulus check for free at all Safeway stores including Pak ‘n Save. Most other stores will charge you a fee to cash your stimulus check.

You could also open a checking account.

If you’re worried about carrying that much cash, however, you might consider opening up a checking account with your local credit union. Banks are considered essential services, and remain open. If you are not comfortable walking into the bank, many traditional banks are also accepting online checking account applications. Golden 1 Credit Union is accepting online applications. They also have a mobile banking app, which would allow you to use your smartphone’s camera to deposit your stimulus check.

There are a few digital alternatives to a checking account.

Cash App is reportedly allowing users to deposit their stimulus checks for free. Cash App offers a Cash Card service. Once you sign up, they will send you a free debit card connected to your account balance. PayPal is also allowing people with bank accounts to deposit their stimulus check for free. They also offer a separate Cash Card service, which will send you a free debit card after you sign up.

Additional resources

If you are struggling to fill out your non-filer form or have other questions about your stimulus check, you can call the Bay Area Legal Aid’s Legal Advice Line (local phone numbers listed here). You can also schedule an appointment with Lawyers in the Library, a free program hosted by the Oakland Public Library that allows you to make a one-on-one appointment with a volunteer lawyer. You may also be able to receive assistance through Earn it Keep it Save it, Alameda County Social Services, or San Francisco Human Services.

There are also other online resources that can help walk you through the process of applying to receive your stimulus payment. Check out Tipping Point or Bay Area Legal Aid’s website if you’re having trouble.

Open DMVs

The following Bay Area DMVs are currently open for customers with appointments OR for transactions that require in-person visits:

Daly City, Fairfield, Fremont, Pittsburgh, Pleasanton, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Oakland Coliseum, Concord, Oakland Claremont, San Francisco, San Jose DLPC, and Santa Rosa.

Applying for a reduced fee or no-fee ID card qualifies as a transaction that requires an in-person visit. So does any commercial Driver License transaction. You can find more information about open DMV locations here.

Where to sign up for a mailing address

Night on the Streets Catholic Worker (Downtown Berkeley)

To receive mail through the Catholic Worker, you must first sign up with JC Orton. You can find him in his navy-blue van on the corner of Shattuck and Kittredge Monday-Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. The mail service is free of charge, and no government issued ID is required to retrieve mail.

For more information, you can call JC at (510) 684-1892.

Berkeley Drop in Center (south Berkeley)

To receive mail through the Berkeley Drop in Center, simply list their address as your mailing address:

3234 Adeline Street
Berkeley, CA 94703

You may pick up mail from the Berkeley Drop in Center on Mondays and Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

You must show your ID to pick up your mail.

Homeless Action Center (HAC)

If you are not already a client of HAC, you cannot have your regular mail sent here. However, you can send certain emergency documents to HAC even if you are not a client. These include ID cards and birth certificates. However, HAC is unable to accept your stimulus check *unless* you are already a client.

HAC is currently open from Monday to Thursday from 1:00-5:00 p.m. Simply list their address as the location for your ID to be delivered. Their addresses are:


3126 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705


2601 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

General Delivery Mail Service (San Francisco)

Anyone without a permanent address can have their mail delivered to any United States Postal Office that accepts General Delivery. In San Francisco, that address is:

391 Ellis Street San Francisco, CA 94102

To pick up your mail, you will need a government issued ID with a first and last name that matches the name on your mail. More information about general delivery here.

Resources for undocumented people in the Bay Area

The following document contains a variety of migrant-focused COVID-19 resources. (Compiled by East Oakland Dreamers.)

Este documente tiene una variedad de recursos de corona virus para migrantes. (Compilado por East Oakland Dreamers.)

Governor Newsom has also instituted a disaster relief assistance for undocumented Californians impacted by COVID-19. You can apply for a one-time payment of $500 through local non-profit agencies. In the Bay Area, those are the local branches of Catholic Charities of California in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara. The deadline to apply is June 30.

Learn more about one-time disaster relief assistance for undocumented Californians here.

El gobernador Newsom también ha instituido una asistencia de ayuda financiera por el desastre para los californianos indocumentados afectados por COVID–19. Pueden recibir $500 para cada persona a través de agencias locales sin fines de lucro una vez. En el Área de la Bahía, esas son las oficinas locales de Caridades Católicas de California en Alameda, Contra Costa, Marín, San Francisco, San Mateo y Santa Clara. La fecha límite para solicitar es el 30 de junio.

Obtenga más información sobre la asistencia única de ayuda por desastre para los californianos indocumentados aquí.

Download this guide

This document is designed to be printed out and cut/stapled into a zine.

Chris Lee is a writer and visual artist based in Oakland. They previously worked as a technical stage producer in San Francisco.