A report on the federal government's response to the coronavirus pandemic by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that $1.4 billion in stimulus checks were sent to people who were dead. In March, Congress passed the $2 trillion CARES Act, which provided a $1,200 check to more than 160 million eligible Americans.
The Treasury Department rushed to get the payments out as quickly as possible to help those who were unable to work as states ordered businesses to close to control the pandemic. The GAO found that the IRS did not check with a list of death records kept by the Social Security Administration before dispersing the money.
The report also revealed that lawyers working for the IRS "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."
The GAO said that 1.1 million deceased Americans erroneously received a stimulus check.
In May, the IRS announced that relatives of the deceased individuals cannot keep the stimulus checks and must return the money. This can be done by mailing a check or money order to their local IRS office. The agency does not have a plan in place to notify ineligible recipients but has agreed to look into "cost-effective options" to recover the money.
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