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Channel 2 Investigates: How deceased people received over $1 billion in stimulus checks

Twelve-hundred dollars may be a house payment, a few months of groceries or utility bills, or maybe even money for needed car repairs. When the Federal stimulus was sent out to millions of Americans earlier this year, it was supposed to be a lifeline for those Americans financially drowning.

Tara Meyer’s elderly mother was relieved when she discovered the payment in her bank account in mid-April.

“She was actually surprised, and she wasn’t expecting to receive one because she’s actually retired and on social security. So she just didn’t think that she would get one,” Meyer said.

Not only did she get one, Meyer’s bank account had two stimulus payments, totaling $2,400. They suspect it was intended for her husband who had died 14 months earlier.

“She was a little bit hopeful, like, ‘Can I keep it?’ And I was like, ‘No. I think they’re gonna want this back,” she said.

She has yet to hear from the IRS on the matter, despite repeated calls to the agency to get answers.

Now, the Government Accountability Office, an independent congressional watchdog group has revealed Meyer’s mom is not alone.

The report shows an estimated 1.1 million dead people received nearly $1.4 billion dollars in stimulus money.

(Click to read report)

Aside from announcing on its website on May 26 that the payments sent to dead people should be returned, the IRS had no plans to take additional steps towards recouping the payments.

Texas State Sen. John Cornyn said the Government’s goal was to get the stimulus money to people who needed it as quickly as possible.

“The Treasury did not intend to send money to people who were not entitled to it. My hope is folks will recognize that, respect that, tear up the check or return it to treasury.”

In its haste, the U.S. Treasury Department did not use a filter to pluck out those names of people with death records on file.

“This was intended for a specific purpose to throw a lifeline to people who had no income during an international pandemic, and unfortunately they were over-inclusive and made mistakes, the treasury did, but this is not a time for people to take advantage of taxpayers’ dollars by claiming it when they don’t have any legal right to it,” Cornyn said.

To put it into perspective, the $1.4 billion sent to dead people is half a percent of the total amount of the $269-billion in stimulus payments.

Still, some say it may discourage Republicans from supporting another round of stimulus payments.

While Tara's mom waits for details on how to return the check, she's keeping it in a savings account.

“She still has it and she’s planning on sending it back,” she said.

If you received stimulus funds for a deceased loved one or relative, the IRS is asking that those payments be returned.

According to the IRS:

If the payment was a paper check:

1. Write "Void" in the endorsement section on the back of the check.

2. Mail the voided Treasury check immediately to the appropriate IRS location listed below.

3. Don't staple, bend, or paper clip the check.

4. Include a brief explanation stating the reason for returning the check.

If the payment was a paper check and you have cashed it, or if the payment was a direct deposit:

1. Submit a personal check, money order, etc., immediately to the appropriate IRS location listed below.

2. Write on the check/money order made payable to “U.S. Treasury” and write 2020EIP, and the taxpayer identification number (social security number, or individual taxpayer identification number) of the recipient of the check.

3. Include a brief explanation of the reason for returning the EIP.

The mailing address for checks coming from Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, should be mailed to:

Austin Internal Revenue Service

3651 S Interregional Hwy 35

Austin, TX 78741