July 28, 2020 - Douglas Myser

$1.4 billion in stimulus to the dead. More than a million Americans who had died received COVID-19 stimulus payments totaling $1.4 billion, a government watchdog said in a report to Congress. The finding is part of a sweeping review of the federal government's response to the nonpartisan  congressional agency. The report paints a clearer picture of what critics called a muddled rollout by the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department of more than 160 million payments worth $269 billion. Congress passed a massive $2 trillion stimulus package, called the CARES Act, in March to soften the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic for American workers and businesses. $1.4 billion in stimulus to the dead.

Eligible Americans received checks, called Economic Impact Payments, based on their 2018 or 2019 income tax returns, or by filling out a simple tax return. Individuals making up to $75,000 a year received checks for $1200 and couples making up to $150,000 and filing a joint return received $2400 with an additional $500 per qualifying child. The payments decreased for those making more than $75,000, with an income cap of $99,000 for couples. GAO's report said Treasury officials said that, to meet the CARES Act's mandate to deliver payments as "rapidly as possible", Treasury and the IRS sent out the first three batches of payments using previous operational policies and procedures for stimulus payments "which did not include using [Social Security Administration] death records as a filter to halt payments to decedents."

GAO also reported that IRS legal counsel had "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 had advised applying the same rules to recipients who had filed a 2018 return. There was an initial backlog when the IRS began sending the first round of payments and relatives of dead Americans all over the country said they received coronavirus relief payments.

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