Viewers tell Channel 9 government sent dead relatives stimulus money

Some say government sent dead relatives stimulus money

CHARLOTTE — Melody White’s mother passed away before Christmas.

"I’ve been working on finalizing all the probate stuff, and I needed to check on something and, so I went online into her bank account Tuesday, last Tuesday, and there was $1,200 more in her account. And I left them there and I was, like, ‘Oh, no. Please tell me this isn’t what I think it is.’ And I click on the detail and there it was -- stimulus money for a dead person,” she told Action 9's Jason Stoogenke. "I thought, 'My tax dollars at work.' That’s what I thought."

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Tom Johnson contacted Stoogenke, too. His sister-in-law died on Oct. 31, 2019.

"Her account’s still open, so I went down and checked and it was still there. It did come in, her $1,200 had come in," he said.

Johnson told Stoogenke he had reported her death to Social Security officials, so he wonders why the IRS didn’t know.

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"The fact that social security knows it. They got computers. I don’t see why they don’t talk to each other," he said.

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky, tweeted about dead people getting stimulus money. He said a friend’s father died in 2018 and still got $1,200.

Massie called it “insane.”

The government is basing a lot of its information on federal tax returns from 2018 and 2019, and some people who filed those years died after that.

Plus, the IRS is sending out a lot of money quickly. It has been reported 5 million payments are being sent out weekly, so there will likely be mistakes.

That said, according to published reports, the Government Accountability Office is investigating this issue and both the Treasury Department and IRS said they’re aware of the problem and working on it.

"I immediately called my tax accountant and said, 'What do I do? Who do I contact? Who do I tell this mistake happened?' And she said, 'Just leave it there because they can just suck it out as quick as they put it in,'" White said.

"I don’t think I am going to be able to keep it, but I guess I’ll have to keep it in the bank until we resolve the issue,” Johnson told Stoogenke.

So, do you have to give the money back? Will you be in trouble if you keep it?

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“Well, it’s not clear,” Stoogenke said.

Massie tweeted, "And the craziest thing? No formal guidance yet on whether the dead people get to keep the checks.”

President Trump recently said he wants that money back.

"Anything that was sent out, sometimes you send a check to somebody wrong. Sometimes people are listed. They die and get a check. That can happen," he said. "Sure, we will get that back. Everything we’re going to get back."

Stoogenke wondered what happened in 2009 when the government sent stimulus money then. He found a federal audit. It said the government issued 52 million checks and that 71,000 of the people were dead. A little more than half of the recipients returned the money. It said that legally, they didn't have to, but it's not clear what this current stimulus plan says.

If 71,000 dead people get checks this time and each gets $1,200, that adds up to more than $85 million.