As with the first and second rounds of payments, beneficiaries of Social Security and other federal programs will generally receive this third payment the same way as their regular benefits.
One day after the American Rescue Plan (ARP) was signed into law on March 11, the Treasury Department and the IRS started sending stimulus payments. In total, about 127 million payments worth $325 billion are being disbursed in the latest round of stimulus. The plan provides for payments of up to $1,400 for eligible individuals and $2,800 for couples filing a joint return. Dependents, regardless of age, also receive $1,400 each.
After hearing how fast payments are going out, federal beneficiaries are right to think, “Great, I should get my money soon, too.”
But many federal benefit recipients have heard nothing. No notice of a direct deposit. No information on when to expect a stimulus check or prepaid debit card.
The IRS and Treasury Department issued a statement saying they were working to “obtain updated 2021 information to ensure that as many people as possible are sent fast, automatic payments.”
In times like this, people need less bureaucratic speak. Just tell folks what’s happening.
We are three months into 2021. The federal agencies already have payment data for beneficiaries who are currently receiving benefits. Why has there always been a delay in getting stimulus money to this population of people?
Why wasn’t the information delivered to the IRS immediately after the stimulus legislation was signed by President Biden?
The distribution of stimulus payments has been plagued by glitches from the start of the pandemic — including missing or incorrect payments to the dependent children of the most economically fragile Americans. Millions of low-income parents receiving federal benefits didn’t get the extra $500 payments for their children. Some had to go to court and sue the Trump administration so that they could claim the dependent payments on the IRS non-filers tool.
The distribution of payments to federal beneficiaries who filed 2019 or 2020 returns or used the non-filers tool was better this time. Their stimulus payments were included in the payments that have gone out so far, the IRS and Treasury Department said.
But the Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee sent a letter on Wednesday to Social Security Commissioner Andrew M. Saul complaining that nearly 30 million Social Security and SSI beneficiaries were still waiting to hear when they would get their stimulus payments. The lawmakers demanded that the Social Security Administration (SSA) turn over payment information to the IRS.
“I am a quadriplegic wheelchair user on SSDI and unfortunately the third stimulus check has not deposited into my bank account,” Meaghan Gallagher, who lives in South Florida and is eligible for the full $1,400, told me. “The IRS hasn’t released a date for when we will get a payment. Those of us on benefits desperately need the third stimulus check. Waiting for this third stimulus check makes those of us who rely on benefits feel like second-class citizens. We feel ignored.”
It’s not about you — it’s the system, Saul finally explained in a statement released Thursday.
“The Social Security Act does not allow the agency to use our administrative appropriation to conduct work on any non-mission provision or program,” Saul said. “Accordingly, we were not authorized to substantively engage Treasury or IRS prior to the ARP’s passage.”
Okay, so now that an interagency agreement has been reached to reimburse the SSA, payments for Social Security retirement, survivors, disability, SSI and veteran beneficiaries are coming soon, right?
Production files with the information to make payments were delivered to the IRS on Thursday, Saul said.
Back to the Treasury Department and the IRS, which has said folks will have to keep checking irs.gov to find out about the timing of their payments.
Federal officials have repeatedly said it’s their mission to deliver stimulus payments swiftly. I don’t doubt that federal employees are working hard to do so. But it’s vital that recipients be told when things aren’t working smoothly, and specifically why. If it’s the fault of bureaucracy, say so, and for goodness’ sake fix it. This recent delay should not be happening.
It’s the not knowing that causes undue anxiety. And for people already living on the edge financially, that’s another stress they don’t need.
“I check the IRS website to find out when my payments are coming and it just says that there’s not enough information,” Gallagher said. “That could mean that it’s on the way, or it could mean that it’s not on the way.”