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Snafus getting stimulus checks common with second round in the works

Rob Fogg, a retiree who lives in Grantham, said that when his long-awaited stimulus check arrived in his mailbox “it blew my socks off.”

It was simply addressed to “Robert” at “P.O. Box 216.”

“How could that be official from the government? If I hadn’t already been paying attention to this for months, I probably would have tossed it in the trash,” Fogg said during an interview.

Three months ago, President Trump signed the federal CARES Act, which provided for stimulus checks of $1,200 for each adult and $500 for each dependent.

Last week, congressional analysts confirmed that while 160 million checks totaling $269 billion have gone out, 35 million eligible people still haven’t received theirs.

Fogg said he would probably still be waiting for his check if he had not, in frustration, reached out to the office of U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan.

“You shouldn’t need your U.S. senator to get a check you are entitled to receive, but I did,” Fogg said.

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee concluded most of those who haven’t gotten their money made too little income to file income taxes in either 2018 or 2019.

The Internal Revenue Service used the tax returns to process the payments, removing anyone who made more than $99,000 in adjusted gross income last year.

The topic became more timely last week when President Trump said he would support a second round of stimulus checks.

Trump backs second check

Asked about the second check, Trump said, “We will be doing another stimulus package. It’ll be very good, it’ll be very generous.”

Last month, the Democratic-led House of Representatives approved a COVID-19 relief bill that included a second round of checks. Senate Republican leaders have yet to endorse the idea.

Meanwhile, a report from the independent Government Accounting Office last week concluded that more than one million Americans who died were sent COVID-19 checks totaling $1.4 billion.

The report found the IRS failed to install a filter in its database to delete checks being sent to those who had died since they had filed 2019 tax returns.

“In the spirit of bipartisanship, we should be able to agree to NOT send money to dead people!” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Tenn., tweeted. “My legislation will require Treasury to use Social Security death data and reclaim money sent to dead people.”

Fogg said before contacting Hassan, he spent several hours on his computer trying without success to check on the status of his check at the IRS’ website.

Fogg, a retired plant engineer and Air Force veteran, spent a few more hours waiting to speak to an IRS official on the telephone.

“Once I finally got through, all they told me was I was eligible to get a check and sit tight, it should get there,” Fogg said.

Hassan weighs in

Hassan is a member of the Senate Finance Committee that considers all tax legislation.

“The stimulus payments that Congress passed in the CARES Act have provided critical assistance to Granite Staters as they work to put food on the table and pay the bills amid a pandemic that has upended so many families’ economic stability,” Hassan said.

“While nearly 700,000 Granite Staters have received their payments, my office is continuing to work with those who have not yet received theirs, as well as individuals who received their payments in the form of a debit card but are having trouble accessing their funds.”

The prepaid debit card was created by the Treasury Department as a way of getting payments to the millions of households for whom the IRS didn’t have banking information. The vast majority of taxpayers received their payments via direct deposit into their bank accounts, a free service.

Strings on debit cards

The debit cards include a $2 fee for withdrawing money from an out-of-network ATM and a $5 fee for getting cash at a bank counter.

Those who want to transfer the money on the card to their bank accounts have to complete a complex registration process that includes giving personal information.

“I am very concerned by issues that Granite Staters and Americans across the country have raised, including that they missed the debit card because they thought it was a scam, or that they are struggling to use their card without having to pay extra fees or giving out personal information,” Hassan said.

She wrote a letter with the support of 14 other Democratic senators urging Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin to address these concerns.

“We are seriously concerned about imposing these fees on individuals who urgently need the direct cash assistance to which they are entitled under the CARES Act,” the senators wrote.

Not-so-special delivery

Jeanne Donohoe and her husband, who live in the Keene area, thought their stimulus checks would automatically be deposited into their checking accounts because that’s how they receive Social Security payments every month.

She too asked Hassan for help. Within a few weeks, she received one of the debit cards.

“It sure didn’t look like a debit card on the outside. My husband got it out of the mailbox, and I was away until a day later, so I’m sure glad he didn’t throw it away,” Donohue said.

A retired registered nurse, she works as a consultant for an assisted-living facility.

“I’m sure glad Senator Hassan’s office was so responsive. It made all the difference,” she said.