Some 8.7 million eligible Americans may lose out on coronavirus relief payments

The Government Accounting Office says that incomplete records held by the IRS and Treasury Department may keep payments from those most in need.
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Incomplete government records might cause more than 8.7 million Americans to miss out on coronavirus relief payments, according to the Government Accounting Office, a government watchdog and Congress' auditing arm.

According to the GAO, the payments have not been sent to eligible citizens yet because of inadequate records held by the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department.

"An updated and refined estimate of individuals who have yet to receive their Economic Impact Payment (EIP) from Treasury or IRS could provide greater clarity about which populations may be at risk of missing out on the payment," read the report.

The information was shared in a 317-page report, which was released on Monday. The report examined the way that $2.6 trillion in emergency aid and support was spent by the government across four relief laws, including the coronavirus relief bill.

According to the report, the Treasury Department found in April that there was no data available for about 14 million people who do not normally file tax returns or receive federal benefits. However, they were eligible for stimulus payments. According to the GAO report, the eligible recipients who do not normally file tax returns or receive benefits are likely to be "very low-income" and most in need of federal funds.

For this group, the Treasury Department extended the deadline for the stimulus payments until the end of September, and according to the report, 5.3 million of the people in that group used an IRS tool to apply for payments. That leaves at least 8.7 million who have not yet received a $1,200 relief payment.

According to the GAO, neither the Treasury Department nor the IRS has updated the number of people who are eligible for payments but have not yet received them, which complicates and limits the "ability to appropriately scale and target outreach and communication efforts to individuals who may be eligible for a payment."

"(The) Treasury and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have issued an EIP to all eligible individuals for whom IRS has the necessary information to do so," read the report. "However, Treasury and IRS lack updated information on how many eligible recipients have yet to receive an EIP, which could hinder outreach efforts and place potentially millions of individuals at risk of missing their payment."

Forbes calculated that approximately $10,440,000,000 may be left "on the table in unclaimed stimulus payments by non-tax filers."

The report comes amid debate about a second stimulus package.

In May, the Democrat-held House of Representatives passed a $3.4 trillion package, known as the Heroes Act, but it never made it to the floor of the GOP-majority Senate. In September, a significantly smaller package that did not include more stimulus checks failed to pass the Senate.

President Donald Trump has spoken in favor of a more expensive package that would include stimulus checks, and in August signed four executive orders aimed at improving the economy.