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Not long after the $1,200 coronavirus stimulus checks began going out to American taxpayers, the reports started popping up: People were receiving stimulus payments that had been sent to their dead relatives. In some cases, checks were showing up to stimulate the spending of people who had been dead for quite a few years.

The stimulus payments were a massive undertaking involving dispersing more than $200 million to taxpayers in a matter of weeks in an attempt to keep families afloat while the economy was nearly completely shut down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Considering the complexity of the endeavor, it's not surprising that some mistakes were made.

The problem has come in the wake of these errors. The U.S. Treasury Department has not yet come clean with enough information about how the mistakes happened or what's being done to correct them. It isn't even known how many mistaken payments were made or how much stimulus money they account for.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said people who erroneously received the payments for deceased relatives should return the money. Wanting to do the right thing, many survivors of the deceased payment recipients wanted to do just that, but it took weeks for the department to offer instructions on just how to send the money back.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both the Senate and the House has been asking questions about the mistaken payments. They quite reasonably want to know how many payments were made and how much of the money has been recouped.

While they wait for answers, the legislators have crafted a bill aimed at preventing any future mistaken payments to deceased taxpayers. It would allow other federal agencies, like the Treasury Department, to access the Social Security Administration's death records to be sure their own records are up to date and do not mistakenly include deceased people.

This is sensible legislation that deserves serious consideration. And at the same time, the Treasury Department must get to the bottom of the stimulus payment foul-up and offer a report with specifics about how it happened and how much money was mistakenly dispersed.

Editorial on 05/20/2020

Print Headline: Whose bank again?


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