TaxWatch: 8 million people could have missed their $1,200 stimulus checks — here’s how Biden wants to fix that

United States

While President Joe Biden presses Congress for a third round of direct financial aid for Americans, he signed an executive order Friday directing the U.S. Treasury Department to do its best to make sure people aren’t missing out on the checks that have already been approved.

Now, the Treasury Department says it’s going to reach out and reissue unclaimed payments or encourage the people sitting on the sidelines to claim the money on their 2020 income taxes.

The efforts are meant to reach up to 8 million people who might be missing out on the $ 1,200 direct payment from the CARES Act that then-President Donald Trump signed in March, according to the Treasury Department.

“They’re entitled to those payments but there’s not an easy way for those folks to access them, so we’re making it a priority today to fix that problem and get the relief they’re entitled to,” Biden said Friday afternoon, just before signing the order and others geared towards financially struggling families.

The Treasury Department said it will work with the Internal Revenue Service to create “simple options” helping people claim the money. Approximately 8 million people who hadn’t filed taxes have already used the IRS non-filer portal to register for stimulus checks, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said at an unrelated talk Thursday.

“Hundreds of thousands” of checks and debit cards from the first round of checks haven’t been cashed or activated, the Treasury Department said Friday. Back in the summer, the IRS sent out some payments on debit cards and some people tossed them out, thinking they were junk mail.

In reaction to the order, the Treasury Department said Friday it would also crunch the data on unused payments to see if it can find geographic patterns on where people aren’t using the money and then focus their outreach in these spots.  

The IRS sent out 160 million payments totaling $ 270 billion under the CARES Act. Two days after Trump signed the second package of aid in late December authorizing $ 600 direct payments, the IRS pushed out 147 million payments, worth $ 142 billion, Rettig said Thursday.

The IRS “stands ready” to cut a third round of checks if authorized, Rettig said Thursday, even if it’s in the midst of the upcoming income tax filing season. The IRS will start accepting those returns on Feb 12.