Over 1 million stimulus checks worth, $1.4 billion has been sent to deceased people in the United States, according to data released on Thursday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
As of May 31 2020, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Treasury has disbursed 160.4 million payments worth $269.3 billion to taxpayers.
According to the report by GAO, as of April 30, almost 1.1 million payments totaling nearly $1.4 billion had gone to the deceased.
In response to the national public health and economic threats caused by COVID-19 in the U.S, four relief laws were enacted as of June 2020, including the CARES Act, in March 2020.
These laws have appropriated $2.6 trillion across the government in six areas—Paycheck Protection Program (PPP); Economic Stabilization and Assistance to Distressed Sectors; unemployment insurance; economic impact payments; Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund; and Coronavirus Relief Fund.
The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report bimonthly on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This finding is part of the GAO initial report, which examines key actions the federal government has taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic and evolving lessons learned relevant to the nation’s response to pandemics, among other things.
According to GAO, the reason behind the payment to the deceased is because the arm of the treasury department that issued the stimulus payments checks does not have access to data of the decedents, although the IRS has access to the Social Security Administration’s death records.
Thus, GAO recommended that Congress should give the Treasury Department access to the deceased data.
It also recommended that Internal Revenue Service (IRS) should consider cost-effective options for notifying ineligible recipients how to return payments. IRS agreed with the recommendation.
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The IRS had in May in its new guidance said that a “payment made to someone who died before receipt of the payment should be returned” and it also provided instructions on how to send back checks that were received in error.