Coronavirus: Dead people are receiving $1,200 stimulus checks and their families don’t know what to do

Griffin Connolly
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks in the press briefing room with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Small Business Administrator Jovita Carranza on 2 April, 2020: Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks in the press briefing room with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Small Business Administrator Jovita Carranza on 2 April, 2020: Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Untold numbers of dead people have received up to $1,200 from the government as the Treasury Department began sending out coronavirus stimulus checks via direct deposit this week.

Most — if not all — of the stimulus money that has accidentally been paid out to Americans who have died recently appears to have been sent to formerly joint bank accounts of the deceased and their surviving loved ones from when they filed taxes jointly.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is using direct deposit information from tax returns from as far back as 2018 to send out roughly a quarter of a trillion dollars in direct payments to qualified Americans.

A spokeswoman for the Treasury Department indicated that the department would have more guidance on Thursday for what family members of dead people who received direct payments should do.

Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie was one of the first public figures to highlight the issue of dead people receiving direct payments from the government, tweeting out a screen shot of a text from a friend who said his dad, who died in 2018, had received $1,200 from the government.

“Ok this is insane, but just the tip of the iceberg. This is a direct text to me from a friend. I called to confirm this actually just happened,” Mr Massie tweeted along with the screen shot.

Mr Massie, a Republican, was the only member of Congress to vote against the $2.2trn stimulus package in March that authorised the direct payments to Americans, among dozens of other emergency provisions to provide economic relief for people suffering from the consequences of the health crisis.

Other Twitter users also wrote that they opened up their bank accounts on Wednesday and were surprised to find an extra $1,200 credited to their recently departed loved ones.

“My husband passed away in May, 2018 and I received [a] stimulus check for him deposited to my account. I did not filled my 2019 taxes yet,” one person tweeted in response to an Independent reporter’s tweet about Treasury’s errant payments to dead people.

Another woman tweeted that she was widowed in March 2019 and filed her 2019 taxes as married, filing jointly, but that her husband was deceased.

“I just received $2400 from the stimulus package... what happens to widows like me who are getting the $2400? Will they want the $1200 back?” the woman asked.

This is hardly the first time the federal government has accidentally paid out gobs of cash to the deceased.

The federal government wastes millions of dollars per year on just such payouts and subsidies.

The problem is so bad, it’s something that has brought Democrats and Republicans together: Last May, Senator Gary Peters, the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced a bipartisan bill to help curb federal payouts to dead people through programmes such as social security, heating and cooling bill welfare from Health and Human Services, and subsidies for farmers. Since the 1990s, the Agriculture Department has paid out well over $1bn to dead farmers.

Over the course of the Obama administration’s rollout of its stimulus deal in 2009, the Social Security Administration paid out more than $18m to roughly 72,000 dead people.

Read more

Tracking the coronavirus outbreak around the world in maps and charts

When can we really expect coronavirus to end?

Everything you need to know on supermarket delivery slots

The dirty truth about washing your hands

Listen to the latest episode of The Independent Coronavirus Podcast