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Still Waiting for Your Stimulus Check? Dead People are Getting Theirs.

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Still waiting for your stimulus check? Dead people are getting theirs.

Andrew Dapkins sounds like the kind of guy who would have made good use of his coronavirus stimulus check, maybe by sprinkling it among his family or helping the organizations he volunteered with.

Unfortunately, Dapkins passed away in early March, the victim of cancer, at age 79. The government still paid him a few weeks later, adding to the anguish for his widow, Mary Wyant.

It was very upsetting, she told me Friday after calling for advice on how to return the money. “I loved my husband very much.”

With his death being recent, Wyant can understand the government making a mistake and sending him a stimulus payment. But she finds it concerning that deceased people are being paid while the living who really could use a boost haven’t received theirs.

“I do know people that really need them,” said Wyant, who lives in Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County.

Approximately 130 million people have received payments over the past month, the IRS said Friday, and others will receive them soon.

Individuals will get up to $1,200, married couples will get up to $2,400, and families will be paid $500 for each child who is under 17. If you earn more than $99,000, or $198,000 as a couple, you don’t qualify

There were bound to be problems when the government rushed to send the money to help people get through the coronavirus pandemic. So it’s not a surprise that deceased people got paid. The government doesn’t have a good track record of differentiating between the dead and the living.

I’ve written previously about rental subsidies, veterans benefits and Social Security benefits being paid to deceased people.

And the dead were paid during the previous federal stimulus, too, after the Great Recession. Many Social Security recipients were eligible for a one-time payment of $250 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

An audit the following year found that $18 million had been paid to more than 71,000 dead people. The vast majority of those payments could not have been avoided, according to the audit, because their deaths hadn’t been reported to the Social Security Administration.

But the deaths of an estimated 14% of the recipients had been recorded, and the government failed to check records noting that.

It’s likely that some of the coronavirus stimulus payments to deceased people occurred because their deaths hadn’t been reported yet to Social Security, too. But there’s no excuse for all of them.

An Upper Macungie woman got checks for two family members who died in 2018. They already should have been off the government’s books by now. The government even noted they were dead on the checks, which had the notation “DECD” after the recipients’ names.

Now that’s embarrassing. Those in charge don’t seem to be all that concerned, though.

“Sometimes you send a check to somebody wrong. Sometimes people are listed, they die, and they get a check. That can happen,” President Donald  told reporters on April 17, according to USA Today. “We’ll get that back. Everything we’re going to get back.”

It’s unclear how many payments were made to deceased people. I’ve heard from three people who got them. Media elsewhere in Pennsylvania and in other states have written about them, too.

Pennsylvania’s senators have heard from some. Bob Casey’s office told me it’s heard from “over two dozen.” Pat Toomey’s office told me it’s heard from “a number of people.”

Wyant received a $1,200 direct deposit payment for her late husband, a Pike County native who volunteered for Meals on Wheels and New Hope Ministries in Mechanicsburg. He would pick up food from local stores for a food bank.

“He was a wonderful man. He was so loved by so many people,” she told me. “He was always doing stuff.”

Wyant immediately moved the payment in his name to another account so it couldn’t be spent, while she sought information about how to return it.

That information didn’t come from the Treasury until this week.

It says that those who received checks should write “void” in the endorsement section on the back, and mail it back with a note explaining the reason for the return. Don’t staple, bend or paper clip the check.

Those who cashed a check or received payment by direct deposit should mail a personal check or money order, payable to “U.S. Treasury.” On the check or money order, write “2020EIP” and the taxpayer identification number or Social Security number of the recipient of the improper payment, and explain why it’s being returned.

Pennsylvania residents should send the payments to: Philadelphia Refund Inquiry Unit, 2970 Market St., DP 3-L08-151, Philadelphia, PA 19104. Further details about who is eligible for stimulus payments and how to return improper ones are on the IRS website, irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center.

Wyant told me she will be returning Dapkins’ payment with delivery confirmation, to verify it was received. That’s good advice. You may need proof if the IRS questions you later.

Morning Call columnist Paul Muschick can be reached at 610-820-6582 or [email protected]

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