Almost $1.4 billion in payments intended to stimulate the U.S. economy amid the coronavirus outbreak instead went to more than 1.1 million deceased people, according to a new government report.
A report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released Thursday outlined a number of problems within the federal coronavirus response, including the issuing of stimulus checks to deceased Americans.
“The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Treasury moved quickly to disburse 160.4 million payments worth $269 billion. The agencies faced difficulties delivering payments to some individuals, and faced additional risks related to making improper payments to ineligible individuals, such as decedents, and fraud,” a portion of the GAO report reads. “For example, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, as of April 30, almost 1.1 million payments totaling nearly $1.4 billion had gone to decedents.”
The new GAO report indicated the cause of the misdirected payments may have been caused by a lack of data sharing between Social Security administrators and the U.S. Treasury or Bureau of Fiscal Services (BFS).
The Social Security Act provides IRS access to SSA’s full set of death records, but does not provide such access to Treasury and BFS, which distribute payments,” the GAO report reads. “We have previously suggested that Congress consider amending the Social Security Act to explicitly allow SSA to share its full death data with Treasury for data matching to prevent payments to ineligible individuals.”
The GAO noted that such data sharing between the SSA and the Treasury likely would not have prevented the misdirected payments, however sharing data with the Treasury “could help reduce similar types of improper payments in other circumstances.”
It is unclear how the federal government plans to recover the misdirected payments.