DOWNTOWN While a tough economy is leaving many people struggling to balance the soaring costs of gas, food, and healthcare, more than 133,000 Los Angeles-area residents, including nearly 1,800 Santa Monicans, have failed to take advantage of their economic stimulus rebate, leaving an estimated $40 million unclaimed.

Nearly 70 percent of those yet to file in Los Angeles County are over the age of 65, and many others are veterans receiving government aid. The deadline to file is Oct. 15.

To receive the stimulus rebate, people who didn’t need to file a tax return this year, but who received at least $3,000 from Social Security benefits, veterans benefits, or earned income in 2007, must submit a simplified version of a 1040A tax form to the IRS.

The form can be found by using an online tool at People can also request an economic stimulus application packet from AARP by calling (877) 926-8300.

The AARP announced an aggressive effort to ensure people — particularly, those with lower incomes — have the facts they need about the stimulus rebate because time is running out to claim their checks.

By launching a community outreach campaign, advertising efforts and calls to members, AARP intends to help older individuals who don’t file income tax returns receive their stimulus payment of $300 and $600.

“Many older people are already feeling the brunt of a tough economy, this is no time for anyone to leave money on the table,” said Tom Porter, AARP California state director. “AARP is working to ensure older Californians who don’t usually file income taxes don’t miss out on the federal rebate money they are entitled to.”

California ranks first in the nation, with nearly 500,000 people who haven’t filed for the economic stimulus rebates. Among counties, Los Angeles ranks first with 133,604 people leaving their money unclaimed. Nationally 4.35 million people have yet to file for their rebates, leaving a total of nearly $1.7 billion in unclaimed payments.

According to a recent AARP survey on how the economic slowdown is affecting older Americans, nearly 60 percent of people over 65 are finding it more difficult to pay for items such as food, gas and medicine, while 12 percent have had to postpone paying bills and nearly 50 percent are having trouble affording their utilities.

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