The Ghosts that Got Checks: Stimulus to the Dead | Citizens Against Government Waste

The Ghosts that Got Checks: Stimulus to the Dead

The WasteWatcher

Someone better call Bruce Willis, because apparently our government sees dead people.

Yes, that’s right.  Dead people.  In another countless example of bureaucratic inefficiency that  has placed an unreasonable burden on taxpayers, the federal government has paid nearly $1.4 billion in direct stimulus payments to almost 1.1 million deceased individuals, according to a June 25, 2020 Government Accountability report on how the government could improve its response to COVID-19.

The payments were made by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Response, and Economic Recovery (CARES) Act, a massive economic relief package that totaled more than $2 trillion.  What makes this wasteful spending worse is that after the GAO recommended that the IRS use the Master Death File to update its records and avoid improper payments, they agency failed to use this seven year-old system to make sure the stimulus checks did not go to deceased individuals. 

While $1.4 billion makes up only a small portion of this spending, it is still a lot of money.  To put this spending into perspective, according to Forbes, the average American pays around $355,366 in taxes in a single lifetime.  Applying the math, this $1. billion is equivalent to flushing down the drain the lifetime tax payments of 3,940 Americans. taxpayers.  

Luckily, fiscally responsible members of Congress are willing to address this issue.   Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) and Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) are planning to introduce the Stopping Payments to the Deceased Act, which would require the Social Security Administration to share its death records with the Department of the Treasury.  To be clear, the IRS already has access to this information, but the Treasury and Bureau of Financial Management, which cuts checks for payments authorized by the IRS, do not have access.  This is just another example of absurd government disfunction.

“Every taxpayer dollar is sacred and should be treated that way, especially during a crisis like COVID-19,” said Rep. Budd.

According to Rep. Curtis, “The American taxpayer should never be on the hook for clumsy federal decision making.  We could have saved the American people more than $1 billion if we had done our homework.”

During a crisis like the current pandemic, the government’s primary inclination is to spend massive amounts of money for all kinds of purposes.  Whether these choices are appropriate is a separate argument, but everyone agrees that accountability is critical when for every dollar being spent, particularly when nearly $1.4 billion is going to dead people who obviously do not need any help.  The country simply cannot afford to continue to give money away to ghosts.

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