Nearly 70 percent of the $1.6 billion in coronavirus stimulus payments that were sent to dead people has been recovered, a Treasury Department official told the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The Treasury official’s comment was included in a GAO report published on Monday about the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We were unable to verify that amount by the time we finalized our work on this report,” the GAO said in its report. “We are working with Treasury to determine the number of payments sent to decedents that have been recovered.”
A GAO official told The Hill that the office is still analyzing Treasury’s data.
A $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package enacted in late March provided for one-time direct payments for most Americans of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. According to the GAO’s report, Treasury and the IRS have disbursed 164 million payments, the vast majority of which were disbursed by May.
The GAO said in its report Monday that Treasury and the IRS sent almost 1.2 million payments totaling $1.6 billion to dead people. The watchdog said in a report issued in June that the IRS initially did not exclude deceased individuals from getting payments, but that subsequently Treasury and the IRS determined that people are not eligible for payments if they were deceased at the time the payments were made. The IRS updated its frequently asked questions page in early May to add that payments sent to deceased individuals should be returned.
The GAO recommended in its June report that the IRS consider cost-effective options for how to notify recipients about how to return stimulus payments for which they’re ineligible.
In its report on Monday, the GAO said that “Treasury and IRS have taken steps to implement this recommendation and are considering further actions.” The IRS has instructions on its website about how to return payments sent to deceased individuals, and Treasury has held and canceled some payments sent to deceased individuals.
Treasury had considered sending letters to request that recipients return outstanding checks for dead people and repay any amounts paid by direct deposit or checks that have already been cashed. However, Treasury told the GAO that it hasn’t moved forward with the letters because Congress is considering legislation that could change the eligibility requirements for the payments, according to the report.