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While controversy swirls at the White House, Chicago teachers go on strike and Democratic primary contender retired Admiral Joe Sestak walks 105 miles across New Hampshire.

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Half A Million Californians Missing Out On Free Money

October 13, 2008

Sacramento, CA - Stocks are plummeting, retirement funds are dwindling – it's no time to leave money on the table, so to speak. But that's exactly what a half-million Californians are doing. The state has the highest percentage of people in the nation who have yet to claim their one-time economic stimulus checks from the U.S. government - and the deadline to file to receive a check is this Wednesday, October 15.

In Los Angeles County alone, 133,000 are missing out. Charee Gillins of AARP California says the majority of them are age 65 and over.

"Older people are already feeling the pain of a tough economy, which is why we're out there spreading the message that it's not too late to file. This is money these individuals are entitled to. They just don't know how to get it."

Those who are missing out are generally people who don't normally have to file annual income tax returns, she explains. They're still eligible for the economic stimulus payment, however, because they received at least $3,000 in Social Security, veterans benefits or earned income in 2007.

Congress approved the stimulus plan in February to boost the nation's lagging economy by putting rebate checks of $300 to $600 in the hands of taxpayers. Gillins says many older Californians aren't used to filing tax forms, or aren't convinced the rebate applies to them.

"A lot of these individuals have not filed a tax return in years. Many of them are skeptical, or didn't realize they were even eligible."

The Internal Revenue Service reminds retirees and disabled veterans that the stimulus money won't affect their eligibility for Medi-Cal, Medicaid or other federal programs. It won't be counted as income for 2008; nor will it require them to file tax returns in future years.

For last-minute assistance with filing the necessary form, call 1-877-926-8300, or visit the AARP Web site, at www.aarp.org.

Lori Abbott/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - CA