June 25 (UPI) -- The U.S. Treasury and Internal Revenue Service this spring sent stimulus payments to more than 1 million Americans who'd recently died, a federal watchdog said in a report Thursday.
The Government Accountability Office said about 1.1 million checks totaling $1.4 billion, earmarked for Americans by the CARES Act as a stimulus response to the COVID-19 pandemic, were sent to dead recipients by the end of April.
The dead persons who received money were alive when they filed a tax return for 2019, but not when the payments were sent, the report found.
As part of a comprehensive review, the GAO found the Treasury and IRS faced difficulties in distributing the aid quickly and efficiently, which increased the risk of fraud and paying ineligible recipients.
The GAO report found, for instance, that the IRS hadn't followed the standard procedure of using third-party data, like death records, that would've flagged those recipients as ineligible.
The GAO also blamed the oversight on IRS attorneys who mistakenly believed the agency didn't have authority to keep payments from those who'd filed a 2019 tax return.
As part of the CARES Act, the government sent $1,200 payments to individual Americans making less than $75,000 a year and $2,400 to couples making less than $150,000. Stimulus amounts got progressively smaller for individuals making between $75,000 and $100,000.
Thursday's report said the Treasury and IRS had sent out more than 160 million checks totaling about $270 billion by the end of May, mostly via direct deposit.
The Congressional Budget Office said last week that stimulus packages enacted to stem the coronavirus impact have added $2.4 trillion to the deficit. Analysts also said the IRS is having difficulty getting payments to about 12 million recipients who haven't filed a tax return for the last two years.