More than one million dead people received coronavirus stimulus checks this year, according to a report from a government watchdog agency.
The payments to nearly 1.1 million people totaled $1.4 billion, the Government Accountability Office revealed Thursday.
Treasury Department officials said that the late-March CARES Act mandated that they distribute the money as “rapidly as possible,” the report says.
The revelation follows anecdotal reporters of dead people getting stimulus checks — and comes as Congress begins to consider a new coronavirus package that may include more direct payments.
The CARES Act sought to blunt the economic devastation of the pandemic by sending checks up to $1,200 to taxpayers, with an extra $500 per dependent child. The bill also gave a federal boost of $600 per week to unemployment insurance pay.
According to the GAO report, the Treasury Department and the IRS didn’t decide to cut off the dead until May when 72 percent of payments already were issued.
“Treasury and IRS, in consultation with counsel, determined that a person is not entitled to receive a payment if he or she is deceased as of the date the payment is to be paid,” the report said.
Stimulus money went to people who filed 2018 or 2019 tax returns. Much of it was transferred electronically into bank accounts.
The report notes that the IRS posted on its website on May 6 that money sent to dead people should be returned, but that “IRS does not currently plan to take additional steps to notify ineligible recipients on how to return payments.”
The GAO says the IRS should “consider cost effective options for notifying ineligible recipients on how to return payments” and that Congress should consider allowing the Treasury Department access to Social Security death records to make sure the dead don’t receive more checks.
This week, President Trump said in an interview that he supports issuing another round of stimulus checks as part of a “very generous” bill. House Democrats also support the idea and in May approved a bill that would authorize more checks.
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