Stimulus payment problems in region: too much, too little, few answers

ajc.com

The IRS this week sent a stimulus payment to Robert Houston of Springfield - even though he died in late 2018.

Houston was issued a check, evidently in error, at a time when hundreds of local residents are reporting problems and questions about receiving money they expect from the federal government as part of the COVID-19 economic stimulus package.

Some say they have been unable to get a status update on their payments using the IRS' online tool specifically designed to provide that information, according to an online survey by the Dayton Daily News.

Others say they received notice that their money was delivered, but it has not shown up in their accounts or may have been deposited into the wrong account.

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Some parents say they didn’t receive money they believe they are entitled to for having minor children.

Overall, hundreds of people told this newspaper they are worried why they haven’t been paid and are frustrated with their inability to get answers about what to do.

“I went to the IRS site, and there’s no way to contact them,” said Jeremy Perrine, 39, of Dayton, who says he did not receive payments for his two young children. “It’s so frustrating.”

The IRS on its website tells people not to call the agency and that its live phone assistance is not available at this time.

Gone but still paid

Seventy-five year-old Springfield resident Robert “Bob” Houston died Nov. 28, 2018.

But his surviving spouse, Millina Fischer, said the IRS on Wednesday sent her his economic impact payment.

Fischer received $2,400 deposit from the U.S. Treasury.

MORE: Are you having trouble with your stimulus payment? Fill out our Dayton Daily News survey

Fischer individually was eligible for a $1,200 check under the direct payments Congress approved. But married couples who file joint federal tax returns can receive double that amount.

Fischer said the IRS used her 2018 federal tax return to calculate her payment, because she has not filed a return for 2019 yet. The deadline for 2019 filing has been extended because of the pandemic.

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Fischer said her 2018 return clearly indicated Houston was deceased. The Springfield woman said she has no plans to spend the extra money, because she believes she will have to repay it.

National news stories about stimulus payments going to dead Americans have frustrated some of the millions of people who are still waiting for their money, including many Ohioans and Miami Valley residents.

As of mid-day Wednesday, more than 6.2 million U.S. taxpayers received economic impact payments, the IRS said, and citizens who provided the IRS with direct deposit information are receiving their payments first.

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Some researchers estimate that 125 million to 150 million Americans will receive a stimulus payment, and the IRS and Treasury estimated that 80 million Americans should receive payments this week.

By Friday morning, nearly 500 people had responded to a Dayton Daily News online survey asking about experiences people were having with the direct payments.

The most common concern was that residents have not received their money yet.

Many residents said could not get an update on their payments from the IRS using the agency's Get My Payment tool.

They said when they put in their information, they received error messages or were told the tool was unable to determine their eligibility.

Some people said the program rejected the information they were required to submit, even though it was accurate.

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The tool also allows taxpayers to provide their banking information to get their economic impact payments quicker, instead of having to wait for a paper check in the mail.

By mid-day Wednesday, about 1.1 million taxpayers had provided banking information using the app, the IRS said.

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But some local residents said for unknown reasons they were unable to submit their banking details or the tool malfunctioned.

Perrine, of Dayton, is married and has two children who are 5 and 7 years old.

Perrine and his wife received their $2,400 payment, but they did not receive any money for their kids.

ExploreParents of minors are eligible for up to $500 for each child.

Perrine said he was laid off from his fast-food job and is in dire need of cash to help pay the bills, because he’s fallen behind on some, like for electric service.

Perrine said he filed his federal tax returns and they clearly stated he has dependant children, who should qualify for stimulus money.

“You know, $1,000 makes a big difference,” he said. “Missing out on that is heart-wrenching. … That money was going to go to DP&L.”

Perrine said the IRS on its website tells people not to contact the agency. He said there is no obvious way to get answers, but he hopes the federal government will provide a hotline number or another contact method in a letter that is expected to be sent out to stimulus recipients.

Payment mistakes?

Multiple news agencies across the nation are reporting that some Americans believe their payments were mistakenly deposited into the wrong bank accounts.

That may have happened to 66-year-old Centerville resident Gary DeMarco.

DeMarco checked the status of his payment and the IRS Get My Payment app indicated it was deposited on Wednesday into a bank account with unfamiliar digits that he does not recognize or controls.

DeMarco said he has never provided the IRS with direct deposit information on his tax returns.

He fears it was a mishap or he could be a victim of fraud.

DeMarco said he is not in desperate need of cash, but many people who are may not be getting the money they are owed.

“I am not the least bit shocked that this happened, but I am disappointed,” he added. “The government can’t seem to do anything right, and what bothers me more than anything is that there are a lot of people who definitely need this money a lot more than I do and they’re not getting it.”

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DeMarco also said there is no one to call because the IRS has shut down its phones, and the website and online resources are a dead end.

The IRS says the Get My Payment app will tell some users it is unable to provide the status of their payments if they are not eligible to receive money or if they are required to file a tax return and haven’t for 2018 or 2019.

Their information, if recently filed through a non-filers online platform, may not be processed yet. Social Security and VA benefit recipients may not have information available on the app at this time.

The IRS said information on the app is updated once every day, and it’s unnecessary to check payment status more often than that.

It’s not clear how the IRS or the U.S. Treasury will fix payment mistakes.

USA Today reported that an IRS spokesperson said checks sent to bank accounts that don't match the name of the person who is supposed to receive the money should be rejected and returned to the IRS.

The news outlet also reported that Americans who receive payments for deceased loved likely ones won't have to repay the money.

Fischer, 73, said the IRS should be able to find a way to stop payments made in error to the dead before sending out more checks.

She said the IRS should have the ability to flag tax returns that mention deceased taxpayers.

Fischer said she understands that the federal government wanted to get money out to Americans as quickly as possible, since many people are facing financial hardship and desperately need cash.

But she said these problems needs to be corrected to prevent taxpayer dollars from being wasted.

“It’s sad, because we’re probably talking millions of dollars here,” Fischer said.