As coronavirus stimulus checks continue to be sent out, one woman in Iowa is still awaiting hers, meanwhile, a check for her boyfriend has arrived more than a year after his death. When Sarah Ziegenhorn opened her mailbox on Monday, she says she was "shocked" and "couldn't believe it" when she discovered a stimulus check for her late boyfriend, Andy Beeler, who died of a drug overdose in 2019.
"It suggests a general lack of organization," Ziegenhorn told Forbes of the government sending checks to relatives of the deceased. "If this was an entity that was a for profit corporation people would take this as an indication of a complete lack of confidence."
Ziegenhorn and several members of Beeler's family have yet to receive their checks, and they are not alone. Due to the fact that the stimulus payments, which are part of the $2 trillion CARES Act signed by President Donald Trump in late March, are based on 2018 or 2019 tax filings, some deceased Americans are receiving money even though they aren’t eligible for the payments. Dozens of social media users have reported receiving checks for their deceased relatives, including a Florida teacher whose aunt received one while her own check has been deposited into the wrong bank account twice.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has acknowledged the mistake and is working to correct it. Trump also addressed the issue during his April 17 briefing, during which he suggested the IRS would get the money "back."
"Sometimes you send a check to somebody wrong. Sometimes people are listed, they die and they get a check. We'll get that back," he said at the time, something that was later echoed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who suggested in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that if Americans do not send those payments back, there is a chance they will be collected later on.
"You're not supposed to keep that payment," Mnuchin told the outlet. "We're checking the databases, but there could be a scenario where we missed something, and yes, the heirs should be returning that money. We will be issuing guidance on this shortly."
Doubt has been cast on those remarks, however. According to the Los Angeles Times, some tax law experts believe that the language used in the stimulus package does not allow the IRS to take back payments. Nina Olson, former head of the Taxpayer Advocate Service, said that beneficiaries of the deceased are legally allowed to keep the money.