Administration: 70% of relief payments to the dead recovered

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration says that it has recovered nearly 70% of the government relief payments that went to dead people.

The Government Accountability Office said Monday it had been told by the Treasury Department that nearly 70% of the $1.6 billion that had mistakenly gone to dead people had been recovered.

The GAO said it could not immediately verify that amount but said its auditors were working with Treasury to determine the exact number of payments that have been recovered.

Treasury is also considering sending letters to request the return of the remaining outstanding payments, but has not moved forward with that effort yet, GAO said. Treasury said it was delaying that move because Congress is considering legislation that would clarify or make changes to payment eligibility requirements.

The Senate passed a bill in June that would allow the Social Security Administration to share its full death data with the Treasury Department to prevent any future payments to dead people.

The economic stimulus payments included payments of $1,200 for individuals who had income levels low enough to qualify.

In an earlier report, GAO, the nonpartisan investigating arm of Congress, said that officials at the IRS and Treasury Department were aware of the risk that payments could end up going to dead people. But it was decided that speed was essential in an effort to get government support out at a time when millions of people were losing their jobs because of the coronavirus shutdowns.

The economic relief payments were part of a $2.6 trillion bailout package lawmakers passed in March.

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