$1.4 Billion In Stimulus Payments Were Given To Dead Americans
A government watchdog just released a report to Congress saying that $1.4 billion in stimulus payments were sent to more than a million Americans who had died, according to a report by NBC News.
The payments were sent out a part of the $2 trillion stimulus package called the CARES Act to help Americans who were struggling financially due to the effects of the pandemic. An independent nonpartisan congressional agency—the Government Accountability Office—was reviewing the federal government response to the pandemic when they stumbled upon the $1.4 billion.
In order to be eligible for payment, Americans needed to show their 2018 or 2019 income tax returns or fill out a tax return. In an attempt to deliver payments quickly, the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service stated that the first three waves of payments were sent using previous operational policies and procedures "which did not include using [Social Security Administration] death records as a filter to halt payments to decedents."
The GAO also stated in their report that the IRS legal counsel "determined that the IRS did not have the legal authority to deny payments to those who filed a return for 2019, even if they were deceased at the time of payment,” and were recommended to use the same guidelines for 2018 returns.
Relatives of dead Americans were initially under the impression that they could keep the payments, but the IRS stated in May that the money “should be returned to the IRS.”
The GAO, though, said that the IRS does not have a current plan in place to address ineligible recipients of the stimulus checks. The agency recommended considering “cost-effective options” to reach the ineligible recipients on how to return the payments.
The GAO also faulted the U.S. Small Business Administration for their handling of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which was created to help small businesses during the pandemic. The SBA also provided aid to unintended recipients, like large companies rather than their small business intention.
Earlier this week, President Trump indicated that he would be open to another round of “very generous” stimulus checks to those still suffering financially from the economic shutdown.
Last month, the House passed a $3 trillion HEROES Act which included another round of payments, but the Senate has not voted on the bill because leaders say that they want to see what, if any, kind of aid is needed.
Read the full report here.