Almost $1.4 Billion In Coronavirus Relief Payments Sent To Dead People

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The Government Accountability Office, Congress' auditing arm, cited the number of erroneous payments to deceased taxpayers in a report published Thursday on the government programs.

The federal government's $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package was created and passed to support Americans in a time when the US economy was taking a hit and millions of citizens were anxious about how they were going to pay their bills.

"IRS has access to the Social Security Administration's full set of death records, but Treasury and its Bureau of the Fiscal Service, which distribute payments, do not", said the report, recommending that "Congress provide Treasury with access to the Social Security Administration's full set of death records, and require that Treasury consistently use it, to help reduce similar types of improper payments".

As a result, the dead person's heir or executor of the estate may have received a check in that person's name.

The report includes the first major detailing of how those payments were made, with the agency stating in its response that IRS counsel initially "determined that IRS did not have the legal authority to deny payments to those who filed a return in 2019, even if they were deceased at the time of payment".

The IRS has asked those who may have received an extra payment to return the money, but has not said it is a legal obligation.

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Thus the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury moved quickly to disburse 160.4 million payments, which totaled $269.3 billion, the report found.

As the Washington Post noted, the IRS has previously ruled that stimulus checks issued to dead people are required to be returned, but there is now no plan on how to accomplish this, and no steps have been taken other than an announcement posted on the IRS website on May 6 declaring that a "payment made to someone who died before receipt of the payment should be returned to the IRS".

Donald Trump is in favor of further relief payments.

Last month, the Democratic-led House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act that included another round of direct payments, but the Republican-controlled Senate has yet to vote on the bill as leaders say they want to wait to see what, if any, additional aid is needed. The report was based on financial and expenditure data from various federal agencies.

The GAO said the Small Business Administration is stonewalling collection of data to show detailed information regarding loan recipients. The money does not need to be repaid if funds are used to keep workers on the payroll and other conditions are met.

The GAO singled out the the agency for withholding data it needed to conduct oversight.

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