(CBS Local) — The federal government’s economic stimulus payments are being distributed to a broad spectrum of Americans, including a number of people who are dead.
The payments designed to help combat an economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic are meant to cover as many people as possible. The Internal Revenue Service is relying on data that goes back two years in some cases, resulting in payments to people who are no longer alive.
U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, said he was alerted to the situation by a text message from a friend 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, Massie, one of the few lawmakers who opposed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act stimulus bill, tweeted.
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. pic.twitter.com/GBRPcmYMXW
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) April 15, 2020
The IRS began sending more than 80 million payments via direct deposit this week to middle- and low-income households.
Mailed checks for those who don’t have bank account information on file will start going out next week, but it could take months for all the payments to be distributed, Bloomberg reported.
Errors such as payments to deceased people are a consequence of lawmakers trying to balance accuracy with distributing the money as quickly as possible, says Gordon Gray, director of fiscal policy at the American Action Forum, a conservative policy research group.
“Congress erred on the side of speed, which nearly everyone agreed was the right answer in this case,” he told Bloomberg.
Nina Olson, the former head of the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an internal IRS watchdog, doubts the IRS will ask for the money back. She told Marketwatch the CARES Act stimulus bill contained no “clawback” provisions to retrieve money sent to a dead person after it’s been handed out.