US Treasury Sends $1.4billion Economic Stimulus Cheques to Over 1 million Dead People Photo: Forbes

US Treasury sends $1.4bn stimulus cheques to dead persons, says Report

*Fraud is a huge issue with relief cheques, says government’s watchdog GAO

*Insists Revenue Service has no plan towards recouping the missent payments

*Expresses concern over lack of a national aviation-preparedness plan for communicable disease outbreaks

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

While many have thought it is possibly not something that anyone at the Donald Trump White House, in Washington, D.C., United States (US), wants brought up in a media briefing, the Government Accounting Office (GAO), the government’s top watchdog in a new report, says the US Treasury sent COVID-19 stimulus cheques totalling approximately $1.4 billion to more than a million dead people in the country.

It was gathered that the GAO, at least to its credit, was upfront about the blunder amid the efforts at containing the raging pandemic in the US in recent times.

Report also revealed that in preparing its first CARES report to the US Congress on the government’s response to the COVID-19 infection, the government watchdog declared that it had received that information from the Treasury Inspector-General for Tax Administration as part of an April 30 accounting.

According to the report, the US Government Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Treasury in all made 160.4 million payments worth $269.3 billion to taxpayers as of May 31, 2020.

The stimulus payments that went to the deceased persons were said to have been made because of the “scramble by officials” to get out all the stimulus cheques.

US President Trump had earlier signed a bill for $2.2 trillion Economic Stimulus Package during COVID-19  Photo: Al Jazeera

The problem stems partly from the fact that the Treasury Department and its Bureau of the Fiscal Service do not have access to the Social Security Administration’s complete set of death records, according to The Washington Post’s investigation.

Meanwhile, the Government Accounting Office has suggested to the IRS that it “consider cost-effective options for notifying ineligible recipients how to return payments,” and the IRS said it would be “happy to”, stated the report.

However, GAO has interrogated the Revenue Service’s response in the phrases as “happy to” and “did”, insisting that they are two different things.

The watchdog said that while the IRS had posted a notice on its Web site that stimulus cheques made out to deceased or incarcerated people should be returned to the treasury, the IRS has no plan in place to take steps toward recouping those missent payments.

Alleging that instances of fraud run rampant in the US Government’s IRS, watchdog GAO didn’t hold back on what it found, saying, the group essentially unearthed something going wrong in about every square inch of Washington, D.C.

The GAO found many instances of fraud, as it used the word “fraud” in its report 196 times, while linking the fraud to COVID-19, including medicare fraud, tax fraud, and so on, reports ConsumerAffairs.

It was further learnt that a major concern the GAO expressed in its report was that the Small Business Administration (SBA) failed to provide details on how it plans to identify and respond to risks in PPP to address potential fraud, including in loans of $2 million or less.

Another big, fraudulent elephant in the GAO’s room is also the fact that the US Department of Labor has yet to provide information to state unemployment agencies about the risk of improper payments being made to workers who may be receiving unemployment benefits and PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) funds.

“Confusion about this issue increases the risk of improper payments to beneficiaries and misuse of limited funds,” remarked GAO.

Report indicates that the Department of Labour officials neither “agreed or disagreed” with the GAO’s recommendation.

Nonetheless, the Ministry’s officials said they reached out to the SBA for its help in informing its guidance and expects to release that information to state unemployment insurance agencies sometime in 30 days, report said.

Besides the two fraud issues, a consumer concern the GAO raised is the lack of a national aviation-preparedness plan for communicable disease outbreaks. The Department of Transportation (DoT) said it agreed, but it passed the buck to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

According to the DoT, “(The HHS and DHS are) responsible for communicable disease response and preparedness planning, respectively, (and) should lead any efforts to address planning for communicable disease outbreaks, including for transportation.”

Renard Pongrac, American, while commenting on the missent stimulus payments and alleged COVID-related fraud raised by the GAO, said: “It is unbelievable that the US Treasury Department would send out more than 1 million stimulus checks to people who are deceased.

“Some imbeciles at the US Treasury Department are responsible for this complete mess-up and it should be investigated and whoever was responsible should be terminated immediately, and then prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“This really goes to show how the US Government handles money. As well I know a significant amount of people who are alive and breathing and are fully qualified to receive a stimulus check and they still haven’t received a dime…!”

Michael J. Cummings also remarked that “these days, anything is possible. So, maybe the GAO does deserve credit for sharing what its auditing uncovered.”

Another American, Jan Champer, who related of his experience on the missent payment to his dead relative on ConsumerAffairs site, said: “I filed a tax return as I was told to report him dead. Called social security to report death. Called Department of Navy to report death. What more could I do…. Got the check and mailed it back with letter.”

Champer stated that he “got one for my brother. He died 10-26-18. Sent it back. This bothers me because if they cannot keep track of the reported dead social security recipients, and someone who had received funds for injury from Viet Nam.

“How can they trust mail in ballots to vote for President? How many ppl (thieves) cashed the checks??? The check was made out to my brother and had “DEC” after the name.”

Additional reporting by Alexander Davis and Isola Moses

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