THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT sent $1.4 billion in coronavirus stimulus money to nearly 1.1 million dead people, Congress’ independent watchdog agency said Thursday.
The finding was part of a report from the Government Accountability Office examining the federal government’s coronavirus relief spending in March and April. It comes as lawmakers weigh another round of stimulus funding while the economy struggles to recover from the coronavirus-induced recession.
The watchdog agency said that the payments to dead people came during the first three rounds of stimulus checks that were rushed out in April. The CARES Act directed stimulus checks of up to $1,200 to be sent to individuals who filed taxes in the last two years and made less than $99,000 a year. Families were eligible for more money.
GAO found that the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service did not use government death records to exclude deceased individuals from receiving a stimulus check in part because of a legal interpretation the agencies were operating under. While the IRS has access to death records kept by the Social Security Administration, the Treasury and the Bureau of the Fiscal Service – which actually sent out the checks – does not.
The IRS in May said on its website that payments to dead people must be returned to the government, but it does not have a plan recoup the funds, the GAO said.