IRS officials have touted the agency’s delivery of the latest round of stimulus checks as reaching eligible Americans in “record time.” Yet some Social Security recipients in urgent need of financial assistance say they’re still waiting for the emergency relief payment.
The problem may sit with the Social Security Administration (SSA), according to a Wednesday letter from the House Ways and Means Committee to the benefits agency. The letter states that 30 million Social Security recipients are still waiting for their checks, and that the IRS had asked the SSA to send it payment files two weeks before the checks were signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11.
“As of today, SSA still has not provided the IRS with the payment files that are needed to issue [stimulus checks] to these struggling Americans,” the letter says. It is signed by Representatives Richard Neal, John Larson, Bill Pascrell and Danny Davis.
Some Social Security recipients told CBS MoneyWatch that the delay is causing financial stress and problems.
“I’m having to put off everything — utility bills, cable. I had to be late on rent,” Mark Stevens, 65, of Pensacola, said.
Stevens took notice when the IRS on March 12 said that a payment date for Social Security recipients would be announced “shortly,” and he expected his stimulus money to arrive quickly given that the second relief payment approved by lawmakers in late December had arrived within two days of the law authorizing it. No such luck.
“To me, ‘shortly’ is two to three days, not two weeks,” Stevens said, noting that he has only $600 in his bank account. “People in my situation are feeling lied to.”
The IRS hasn’t specified when Social Security recipients and other federal aid beneficiaries might get their stimulus checks, which amount to $1,400 for each eligible adult and dependent. But given that many get their federal payments through direct deposit to their bank account, they are perplexed over why it’s taking the tax agency more time to deliver the checks to them than to others. So far, the IRS has deposited more than 90 million payments in people’s accounts or mailed checks and pre-paid debit cards.
The Social Security Administration didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Lawmakers ‘alarmed’ by delay
The delay in delivering stimulus payments to Social Security recipients and others on government assistance drew attention from lawmakers earlier this week. On Monday, members of the House Ways & Means Committee wrote to IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig and Social Security Administration Commissioner Andrew M. Saul to express concern and demand an update on the delivery of checks to these groups by Friday.
They followed with the letter on Wednesday, demanding “that you immediately provide the IRS with this information by tomorrow, March 25, 2021.”
In the Monday letter, they noted, “Some of our most vulnerable seniors and persons with disabilities, including veterans who served our country with honor, are unable to pay for basic necessities while they wait for their overdue payments.”
The IRS and Treasury said Wednesday that they issued 37 million checks in a second round of payments, bringing the total number of payments to 127 million, with a value of $325 billion. Many of those checks are paper checks or pre-paid debit cards that will be mailed to recipients. It’s possible that some Social Security recipients will be part of that round or subsequent rounds of payment.
The IRS has prioritized delivering the checks to people who have either filed their 2020 or 2019 tax returns, as well as those who used the “Non-Filers” website that the agency operated last year.
Trouble getting answers
Part of the frustration felt by Stevens and others is the difficulty they report getting information from the IRS’ “Get My Payment” website. Stevens, who said he didn’t use the “Non-Filers” website last year, said he has received a “Payment status not available” message,
That can mean a couple of things. It may indicate the tax agency either hasn’t processed a person’s payment or that people aren’t eligible for a stimulus payment, the IRS has noted.
Among those experiencing problems is Sydney Chandler of Los Angeles, who has been helping her disabled cousin track his stimulus check. So far, she said he hasn’t received it and is getting the same “Payment status not available” response from the IRS website.
“What was infuriating to me and lots of people out there was the fact that the IRS already had their direct deposit information,” Chandler said. “You can’t get an answer out of the IRS or out of the Social Security Administration.”