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According to a report released Thursday by a government watchdog agency, more than 1 million dead people were given stimulus money intended to keep the economy from flatlining (irony? no?) during the pandemic.
It was revealed back in April that dead people were getting checks due to the need to get said checks out to people quickly, but Thursday's report appears to give a more precise idea of just how many deceased got paid.
The Government Accountability Office, which took a critical look at how the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has been handled, says that as of April 30 the dead people figure was around 1.1 million, with payments to those dead people totaling about $1.4 billion. The GAO says a legal interpretation was to blame because it hindered the IRS and the Treasury Department from using government death records to prevent the checks from going out.
The payments were sent as a part of a $2 trillion CARES Act package, which had been signed into law in March, giving individuals meeting certain requirements a one-time payment of $1,200 (plus $500 for each child that qualified). The IRS says that a total of about 159 million checks worth $267 billion were sent out.
As we said both above and at the time, reports came out in April that the IRS made some $1,200 direct deposits into the bank accounts of the dead. In May, it acknowledged that issue and asked that those getting money on behalf of the deceased give it back immediately.
The IRS gets its information from other government sources, with the Social Security Administration being responsible for death records. However, death records were used by neither the Treasury nor IRS to stop payments when the first checks were sent out due to a legal interpretation the IRS was using. As such, payments were given based on tax returns for the past two years, not accounting for those who died in those years.
USA Today writes that the legal counsel for the IRS said the agency didn't have legal authority to stop payments for those who filed a tax return in 2019, even if they were dead when that payment went out. Those same rules were used for people who put together a 2018 return.
After learning that dead people were getting payments, the Treasury and IRS changed that interpretation to stating that if a person is dead on the day of payment then they aren't entitled to payment. That new (some might even say better) plan was implemented when the final round of checks went out.
Anyway, those checks came in addition to juiced unemployment benefits, and a loan program intended for small businesses that also had some bugs taken advantage of by big companies.
new more exact information comes as President Trump and congressional leaders have openly considered giving out more another wave of money to deal with the extended economic issues caused by the virus.