U.S. Government Is Sending $1,200 Stimulus Checks To Dead People While Those Alive Still Wait

U.S. Government Is Sending $1,200 Stimulus Checks To Dead People While Those Alive Still Wait

The U.S. Treasury expects to ultimately pay some 170 million people overall with this stimulus package

As part of the massive COVID-19 stimulus relief package, the IRS has been sending $1,200 checks to millions of Americans. This is an effort by the government to help people impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Though the process has been slow and steady, some people are still waiting for their money. While that is going on, it appears that some dead people are also getting paid. Family members and friends have stated that they are seeing stimulus payments in the bank accounts of their deceased loved ones, according to reports from several news outlets. 




“Payments have gone out to surviving spouses and to bank accounts that relatives kept open to settle a dead loved one’s estate,” the Washington Post reported. Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) went on to share a screenshot on Twitter which showed a conversation between himself and a friend who said that his father received the $1,200 stimulus check even though he died in 2018. These stimulus checks were to be sent to people based on their federal tax returns from 2018 or 2019, and some people who filed taxes for those years have since passed away.



Lawmakers have pressed the IRS to carry on with these payments at the earliest as the agency has said that it has already issued 80 million payments. The U.S. Treasury expects to ultimately pay some 170 million people. In an effort to speed the payments, lawmakers have told the IRS to rely heavily on tax information that it already has on file, which in most cases is a year old. It also directs the agency to first look at people's returns this year to determine if they are eligible for the payments or not.



The IRS does not have real-time data available for deaths, according to Politico, and there appears to be a lag in records as data are being passed from states to the federal government. The White House released a synopsis of remarks made by President Trump during a coronavirus task force press briefing on Friday. President Trump addressed the issue saying that “Anything—anything that was sent out—it’s like, sometimes you send a check to somebody wrong. Sometimes people are listed, they die, and they get a check. That can happen... We’ll get that back." “This has been a tremendous success. And any mistake that was made, they’ve been caught. And it’s less than 1 percent. That’s a very good percentage. I can tell you, for government,” Trump said in the briefing.



While the IRS is supposed to check death records well before confirming each payment, the government currently lacks the real-time info on who has died in recent months. The data that appears is a bit outdated and there is a lag in reporting. “There are gaps in the process,” said Jack Smalligan, a former top official at the White House budget office. “It’s inevitable.”



A spokesman for the IRS, Eric Smith, also spoke to the Washington Post and stated that the government is actively working on a way to resolve this issue. Nina Olson, the former head of the Taxpayer Advocate Service, told Market Watch that the “CARES Act stimulus bill contained no 'clawback’ provisions for stimulus checks sent to a dead person, meaning the agency can’t retrieve the money after it’s been handed out.”



The Social Security Administration is the department of the government that is responsible for tracking and recording the deaths of citizens in the country. Due to its routine habit of sending monthly Social Security checks to tens of millions of people, it needs to know when they die. “SSA has a responsibility to make sure the benefits it’s putting out are going to people who are not deceased, and it’s ended up assuming that broader responsibility [for the entire government] because it makes no sense for multiple federal agencies to be compiling the same information,” said Smalligan, now a senior policy fellow at the Urban Institute.

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