WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Over $1.4 billion in coronavirus stimulus payments was sent to people who were already deceased, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
- The agencies that distribute the payments — the Treasury and its Bureau of the Fiscal Service — reportedly do not have access to the Social Security Administration’s full set of death records.
- The GAO recommended Congress provide the Treasury with those records to “reduce similar types of improper payments” in the future.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that more than 1 million stimulus payments — worth over $1.4 billion — were mistakenly sent to people who were already deceased.
According to GAO’s findings, the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sent nearly 1.1 million payments to decedents as of April 30.
The GAO, which serves as Congress’ independent watchdog, shared its findings in a press release Thursday.
The release stated, “The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Treasury moved quickly to disburse 160.4 million payments worth $269 billion.” However, this led to “risks related to making improper payments to ineligible individuals, such as decedents, and fraud.”
The statement explained that the agencies that distribute the payments — the Treasury and its Bureau of the Fiscal Service — do not have access to the Social Security Administration’s full set of death records. Among the agencies involved, only the IRS has access.
To “reduce similar types of improper payments” in the future, the GAO recommended Congress provide the Treasury with those records and require that they use it “consistently.”
Similar large amounts of government assistance might need “key safeguards” when disbursing, the GAO advised.
The IRS advised in late May that payments to decedents should be returned to the agency. However, it is still unclear how the agency is expected to notify recipients.
The payments were part of the Congress-approved $2.6 trillion coronavirus stimulus package meant for people, businesses, healthcare systems, and state and local governments.
The GAO’s report was based on available economic, health, and budgetary data, data and documents from federal agencies, and interviews with federal and state officials and industry representatives.