The Feds Sent More than 1 Million Coronavirus Stimulus Payments to Dead People, GAO Says

As much as $1.4 billion might have been paid to deceased Americans. The IRS says that money must be returned.


More than 1 million stimulus payments totaling nearly $1.4 billion were sent to deceased Americans during the federal government's unprecedented emergency spending in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That's just one of the major findings in a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report reviewing the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the $2.3 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress in late March. In addition to mailing checks to some dead people, the GAO found that federal agencies—like the Small Business Administration, which was tasked with processing more than $600 billion in payments to businesses forced to close by the pandemic—struggled to handle the massive surge in spending. That's caused confusion and left government auditors unable to do important oversight work.

"Consistent with the urgency of responding to serious and widespread health issues and economic disruptions, agencies have given priority to moving swiftly where possible to distribute funds and implement new programs," the GAO concluded. "As tradeoffs were made, however, agencies have made only limited progress so far in achieving transparency and accountability goals."

A major element of the CARES Act was the direct payments of up to $1,200 sent to every American. As of May 31, the Treasury Department had issued more than 160 million payments worth $269.3 billion via paper checks, prepaid debit cards, and direct deposits to bank accounts.

To distribute the money, the Treasury Department used 2019 tax return records, but it did not use "third-party data, such as the death records maintained by the Social Security Administration (SSA), to detect and prevent erroneous and fraudulent tax refund claims," the GAO found. As a result, individuals who may have died since filing their 2019 tax returns received direct payments through the CARES Act.

Mostly, that's because of the complexities of the federal bureaucracy. The GAO report states that the IRS has full legal access to the Social Security death list, but the Treasury Department's Bureau of Fiscal Service (BFS), which handled the distribution of the CARES Act payments, does not. Congress should allow the BFS to have access to that data if another round of stimulus payments are sent, the GAO suggests.

Officials from the IRS told the GAO that they raised that potential problem to Congress even before the CARES Act was passed. After the bill was passed, IRS attorneys determined that the agency did not have the legal authority to withhold payments from deceased individuals.

Officially, the IRS says that any payment made to a dead person must be returned, but the GAO notes that "the IRS does not currently plan to take additional steps to notify ineligible recipients on how to return payments."

The small business loans distributed as part of the CARES Act stimulus are another situation where the government's rush to get money out the door may have led to mistakes. The Paycheck Protection Program backed more than 4.6 million loans totaling over $500 billion, but the GAO found that many borrowers were not given proper guidance on how the loans would operate, including what rules would make a business eligible for loan forgiveness once the pandemic had passed.

"Because of the number of loans approved, the speed with which they were processed, and the limited safeguards, there is a significant risk that some fraudulent or inflated applications were approved," the GAO concludes.

The Treasury Department is refusing to disclose vital information about loan recipients, which will only make accountability measures more difficult to implement.

Fast-tracking the direct payments and other aspects of the coronavirus response  might have caused money to be wasted, but other reports indicate that the stimulus package accomplished its goal. Stuffing billions of dollars into the economy caused the poverty rate to fall even as millions of Americans were kept out of work by COVID-19 outbreaks, according to a report from the University of Chicago. Meanwhile, Commerce Department data shows that personal income rose by about 10 percent during April.

Still, the full cost of the CARES Act stimulus will be felt for years to come. That one-time infusion of cash has caused the expected budget deficit for 2020 to quadruple from about $1 trillion to nearly $4 trillion.

NEXT: Prison Guards Who Locked Naked Inmate in Cell Filled With 'Massive Amounts' of Feces Got Qualified Immunity

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  1. And they’ll all be voting in November!

    1. Several times, in multiple states.

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      2. For a guy they can relate to.

    2. Yeah, no need to worry about mass voting by dead folks. Because, unlike money, the government is ON TOP of their voting rolls

  2. Officially, the IRS says that any payment made to a dead person must be returned”

    Reanimate them and haul them into court!

    1. Be sure they wear a mask! In that one case, everyone will agree.

  3. hahahahahahahahahahahaha.

  4. Kind of make you think maybe they should have just said
    “Hey, guys? There’s a real bad flu running around, so please stay indoors as much as possible, wash your hands as often as you can, and stay away from other people if you feel sick. If you are old, weak, or have a bunch of illnesses already, you probably want to stay as alone as possible and wear a mask around the few people you really, really need to see.”
    Maybe a few more cases, maybe a few more deaths, certainly a lot more secure economy.

    1. But that doesn’t make people afraid enough to accept big government into their hearts, so they’re sticking with plan A.

    2. At the time, various ‘experts’ were falling over each other to declare the government’s response ‘too little, too late’. I remember thinking at the time that it was instead too much, too soon. The overreaction to this virus, from both government and the sheep who reflexively allow themselves to be herded by that government, might be bigger than all previous government and sheep over-reactions in my lifetime.

    3. The leftists would never have accepted that.
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  5. Officially, the IRS says that any payment made to a dead person must be returned, but the GAO notes that “the IRS does not currently plan to take additional steps to notify ineligible recipients on how to return payments.”

    I’m confused. Is the government’s position that these dead people really are capable of returning the check?

    1. What I’m wondering is did the corpses receive physical checks, or were their checking accounts still open and able to receive direct deposits? If paper checks arrived in the mail, who cashed them—and more importantly, how? If they haven’t been cashed, can’t the Treasury simply void them? Can’t they put a stop on any electronic transfers?

      1. The check can be deposited by the heir who filed the dead person’s final taxes. My mother died in March of 2019, after which I filed her taxes for 2018. The stimulus check that was sent had her name followed by “(DECD)” and my name below hers, so I was able to deposit it into my own bank account.

      2. You could also have joint checking accounts. If I had filed jointly with my spouse and then passed away, the account used in the tax return would still be open. The money would have been sent to my husband as if the both of us were still living.
        Also the debit cards have no security. I opened my Grandmother’s for her. I then called in and set her pin and then used it online to register her car. No one checked or cared if I was supposed to be using the money.

      3. The payment was electronically deposited in my mom’s account. I’ve had to keep it open because under Medicare, providers have years to demand payment for services. My mom died last April and I was still getting bills for medical expenses like an ambulance ride last February in December. It took that long for Medicare to finally deny a portion of the cost. We also kept it open to pay IRS for 2019’s filing.

    2. Why should they have to? Where does the Constitution say that citizenship ends at death?

    3. Makes as much sense as most of what they do . . .

    4. They cashed the check. So technically they should be able to return the check.
      It is the government and I read in the NYT that they are very good at helping people. So they must know what they are doing.

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  6. The stiffs’ grandkids must have been so happy to find out that Grandma and Grandpa didn’t actually spend their inheritances.

  7. I’ve read the CARES Act, and as written (in terms of who filed tax returns for 2018 or 2019, or received certain benefit payments in those years) it appears perfectly legal for the heirs to receive and cash these payments.

    However, IRS has posted a FAQ at their site saying that the money should be returned to them. So this question is almost certainly headed in front of a judge sometime this year.

  8. From the cradle, up to and including, the grave.

  9. ‘Merica!!!!!

  10. So exactly how do the dead return their payments? And if they don’t, will the IRS send the cops out to arrest them?

  11. Gee I wonder why vote by mail only election can be problematic.

  12. The tragedy and sadness of big, slow government. If only those stimulus checks had arrived a little sooner. (sigh)

  13. So, if I’m dead, I have to send the money back?

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  15. How are they going to send warrants?

    1. “No knocks” to the cemetery, or course.

  16. So some retards think that voter fraud cannot happen yet here we have an example of 1,000,000 dead people getting money.

    I wonder if 1,000,000 ballots could ever go out to dead people, the wrong address, get lost, be intercepted, and then filled out by someone else and returned?

    Gee…..let me think…..

    Voting in person and with ID, end of story and this, among many other government blunders demonstrates why.

    1. mjs_28s, Two entirely different matters. Voting is under local and state management, and under those conditions voter fraud has been found to be miniscule. You parrot idiot Trump’s view about voter fraud.

      1. Since every time someone breaks into my home, they only steal loose change, I see no reason to install locks on my door because I trust that those stealing change will never upgrade to steal anything major. This makes sense.

        That said, is anyone else at all concerned that they keep finding ballots in car trunks and random places during close elections? What the fuck are they doing with these ballots, really, because it doesn’t seem like they even know where they put them half the time.

        Also, that pretty heavily implies that a whole lot of votes are literally just lost every single election except for the one’s that are contested which…doesn’t sell the idea of competency to me.

      2. Have you never rented an apartment and received voter info sent to the previous renter?
        In California, if said previous renter moved out of state and did not notify the county registrar, they will not have any idea. Those ballots will keep coming until the voter did not send one back for several elections. If you fill them out and send them back, it could go on forever.
        There is no money or time to check on whether an address is real, so homeless people vote here as well.

      3. Except when some Democrat election official “miraculously” finds a trove of ballots in their trunk which (again) “miraculously” are 90%+ for the candidate for their party and are just sufficient to push their candidate over the top (see Washington State and Minnesota).

    2. When I was stationed overseas in the US Navy, how was I supposed to vote in person?

  17. This article is inaccurate, I believe, in that I recall reading that they used 2018 income tax records, not 2019. And in most cases there was no filing for 2019, I think, when payments went out. The deadline was extended to July 15, and it was hard to find someone to prepare your taxes by the April 15 deadline.

  18. For a while I thought I had stumbled on an Onion article by mistake. Ah, well…fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, bureaucrats gotta bungle. Let me get this straight: According to the agency’s finest legal minds,
    1. The IRS has no authority to *withhold* payments to dead people. However,
    2. It *does* have the authority to demand that they return the money.
    3. They have no plans to exercise that authority, even though it means that all those USPS employees won’t have mail to sort.

  19. Well, since April 15, 2018 (dead people are required to file income tax returns for the year of their death), a million or so Americans have indeed died, most of these from causes other than COVID-19 (although many of their deaths may have been recorded as being from that cause). So, “they” get money.
    Such is government largess – and taxation.
    Such is (government) “community.”
    I think I’d prefer (a great deal less) government myself, thank you.

  20. What do you expect with this administration and Steve Monkey supervising the IRS. They could not even produce Donald Trump’s tax returns,

    1. I know what you mean – up until 2016 the federal government was an efficient, smooth-running machine and an excellent steward of our tax dollars.

      Of course, Trump is an imbecile, but the government has been a wasteful clusterfuck for as long as anyone can remember.

      1. Well, in some fairness Obama’s IRS was pretty great at targeting conservatives for extra review and systematically revoking their exemptions.

        So, yeah, I’ll take the inefficiency.

  21. What about people who died this year and had to have a tax return filed for 2019, and will have a 2020 return to file for next year since they were alive in 2020?

  22. $2.3T divided by 160M working USA population = $14,375 the federal government JUST-STOLE from you wealth by means of deflating the dollar or running up you children’s federal bill.

    So unless you got a $14,375 stimulus check; you or your children have just been sold as SLAVE labor for that amount.

    Communism is the perfect cover to re-enact slavery.

    1. Finally, somebody not falling for “OMG, 1.4billion! So much money!”

      This program probably the most effectively targeted social welfare spending of all time.

      Meanwhile, investors get bailed out to the tune of trillions, but the Corporate Shill Media moans about 1.4billion lost when giving some money to the peasants.

  23. Well you can’t have it both ways. People who want everyone to vote by mail can’t ignore the fact that the government is going to make mistakes when doing anything in bulk for people in the country. More proof that bigger government means bigger problems.
    The only way that mail in ballots would work is to completely zero out the voter roles. Make everyone register again producing photo id and proof of citizenship. Fingerprint on registration and ballot. Pick a finger and make it standard. If you are right handed, make it whatever finger or thumb on that hand, same for left handed people. People who have no hands get medically verified waiver. Ballots scanned in and counted. Ballots then hand verified to ensure scanned count is correct. If you are against these measures, you are against fair and verifiable elections.

  24. Reason # 23,223,813,000,000 why the government shouldn’t be tasked with protecting citizens from nature.

  25. This also happened when the stimulus checks were issued in 2009. Try to find more than one or two articles about that online.

  26. My father-in-law got one of those checks. In passed in March of 2019.

    It took our bank some digging to get the check back to the feds.

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  28. It’s not grave robbing if the IRS does it.

  29. Honestly, good. It was probably money those people shouldn’t have been taxed when they were still alive and Trump should highlight how their first priority was getting money to Americans quickly. $1b out of $2.4 trillion is pretty accurate and it exposed all the morons who think automated mailings for voting purposes won’t be rife with fraud.

  30. “[O]ther reports indicate that the stimulus package accomplished its goal. Stuffing billions of dollars into the economy caused the poverty rate to fall…” Sorry, I didn’t realize I was reading a Paul Krugman article. Does Congress know about this miracle breakthrough that can “raise personal income by 10%” for people who don’t work, merely by transferring wealth to them from people who do work? Where the fuck did you get your economics education, Boehm? If a burglar breaks into your house and steals your shit, his personal income got raised, all right, but it’s not because he created a value and wealth. He just stole your shit. Or if he’s a retard sitting at home because the retarded politicians he keeps voting for told him that germs are fatal, he had someone else steal your shit for him.

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