IRS Failed to Get Stimulus Checks Quickly to 'Vulnerable Population,' Top Dem Says

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal said Thursday that the IRS waited too long to inform 9 million individuals who do not normally file income taxes that they were eligible to receive an economic impact payment (EIP).

EIPs were authorized in March as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Most eligible individuals received either a check or a direct deposit of up to $1,200 amid the pandemic. Some Americans who don't regularly file taxes, such as the elderly, homeless individuals or people who do not earn enough income to file, did not get the direct payments.

On Tuesday, the IRS announced they would be sending letters reminding non-filers to apply for their EIPs. Those reminder letters are expected to be sent out toward the end of September.

In a Thursday letter, Chairman Neal said the IRS could have reached out to those individuals, which he described as "the most economically vulnerable Americans," in a more timely fashion.

"Given that the IRS is using information it has had in its possession for months, and years in some cases, to identify and contact these individuals, it is inexplicable that the agency waited so long to reach out to this vulnerable population," Neal wrote. "Now, as the door is shutting, the IRS is sending a perfunctory letter by snail mail through the weakened U.S. Postal Service to educate individuals about emergency financial assistance to which they have been entitled since March.

"I fail to understand why the information used for this mailing was not used earlier to prepare EIP payments for these individuals."

Neal asked IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to send the letters to eligible non-filers immediately. "Further delay is inexcusable," Neal wrote.

Neal also requested that the October 15 deadline set by the IRS for non-filers to respond be extended. Currently, if responses are not received by the IRS by the October limit, non-filers would have to wait until 2021 to get their direct payments.

Newsweek reached out to the U.S. Department of the Treasury for comment.

stimulus checks
The IRS is preparing to notify Americans who don't normally file income taxes that they might be able to claim a payment due them as part of the CARES Act. iStock/Getty

According to the IRS' letter, the quickest way for non-filers to claim their payments is by using the non-filers tool on the IRS website. Claimants can enter their bank account information in the tool to receive a direct deposit. Individuals without banking information will be sent a paper check.

After the October deadline, "the only way to claim your EIP will be to file a federal income tax return," the letter says. Individuals who file tax returns in 2021 may be able to claim a recovery rebate credit.

EIPs began rolling out in April but some of the recipients were not alive to use the funds. According to a June report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), checks were sent to over 1 million dead people at a cost of nearly $1.4 billion dollars.

"IRS has access to the Social Security Administration's full set of death records, but Treasury and its Bureau of the Fiscal Service, which distribute payments, do not," the GAO said.

In July, the U.S. Treasury Department canceled checks made out to deceased individuals and asked those who had received direct deposits on behalf of non-living people to return them.