Stimulus Checks: Family Members of Deceased Attempting to Return $1,200, But It's Not Easy

As talk of a second stimulus check on the horizon builds up, there are still thousands of Americans attempting to return the first payment wrongly sent to their dead loved ones. Unfortunately, many are reportedly having difficulty doing so. With a recent report claiming that the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had issued almost 1.1 million payments totaling $1.4 billion to the dead, a growing number of people are reporting that the U.S. Postal Service is sending such checks right back to them rather than returning them to the IRS.

Speaking with The Dallas Morning News, Katie Woodward says she and her siblings "immediately notified Social Security" after their late mother had received a payment. While physical checks sent in later rounds of disbursement had a box on the front for if the receiver was deceased, this envelope was "just the regular plain standard Treasury envelope." Woodward said that she and her siblings decided to wait to do anything "until the government told us how to give it back to them."

On May 6, Woodward finally received those instructions when the IRS issued new guidelines, stating that payments "made to someone who died before receipt of the Payment should be returned to the IRS." The agency had also released instructions on how people could return the payments, stating that physical checks should be returned with "voided" written in the endorsement section on the back of the check. The IRS also said the payments that had been delivered via direct deposit should be returned by check. However, a number of people in the Dallas-area have experienced a number of hurdles attempting to return their checks by checking the "if recipient deceased" box on the front of envelopes.

After receiving a check for her mother, Eleanor Dunavant, who died on Valentine's Day 2018, Martha Fishwick said that she checked the box on the front of the envelope stating that her mother was deceased and placed the envelope back in her mailbox. However, not long after, that very same envelope was right back where she had left it, "same envelope, same check." Fishwick said, "it's just typical government incompetence." Fishwick had attempted to return the check a second time, blacking out the address window in the hopes that USPS would properly return it to the IRS, though that didn’t happen.

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Fishwick was not alone, however, and a woman going only by the name of Barbara told the outlet that two weeks after placing a check intended for her deceased parents back into the mailbox, it was redelivered to her. She said that after doing research, she discovered the IRS' new guidelines, which are not being included in the envelopes with checks, and returned the check-in the manner recommended online.

As Congress looks towards the possibility of passing the second round of stimulus checks, USPS said in a statement that it "is fully committed to continuing to fulfill our role as a provider of essential government services, and to assisting the Administration and Congress in whatever way we can during the coronavirus pandemic."