Here's What You Need to Remember: Moreover, the successful effort to push checks out quickly in March laid a useful precedent for the second and third repetitions of the practice, in December 2020 and March 2021 under the Trump and Biden administrations. By the time the CARES Act was passed in March 2021, the IRS was able to send out 90 million payments in a single week.
The first stimulus check, sent out in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, ultimately distributed 160 million payments amounting to roughly $270 billion to American families. It was one of the most popular measures of President Trump’s pandemic response, and data suggests that it played a key role in keeping many families from financial emergency in the early days of the pandemic.
Interestingly, however, of the 160 million payments sent out, 1.25 million – totaling $2.1 billion – were either never claimed or were returned. According to data supplied to Newsweek, the five states which had the highest rate of stimulus check abstinence were, in order, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Montana, Michigan, and Indiana.
Conversely, citizens of Arizona, Texas, Utah, California, and Virginia were all the most likely to claim their payments. There does not appear to be a political pattern to a state’s tendency to claim or not claim its checks; each of these groups is a mixture of red, blue, and purple states.
Fortunately, the numbers in question are fairly small. Only around three-fourths of one percent of the $270 billion went unclaimed or was returned, making the March 2020 stimulus round one of the most successful instances of the practice.
In the aftermath of the stimulus, the IRS was widely praised for doing as much as possible to send out as many checks as possible – arranging schemes for depositing them with people without fixed addresses, such as the homeless. These efforts were such that, by October 2020, the number of payments that had not yet reached their recipients was down to 9 million. The IRS also intentionally made the process for reporting lost checks or requesting a re-issue as easy and transparent as possible and made it easier to claim the lost check as a deduction on the following year’s taxes.
Ironically, the push to send out as many checks as quickly as possible meant that mistakes were made in the process. One of the more glaring errors came when many checks were erroneously sent to the recently deceased – and in many cases were cashed by relatives before the discrepancy was detected. However, by February 2021, the IRS claimed that all of its payments – 160 million in total – had been sent out.
Moreover, the successful effort to push checks out quickly in March laid a useful precedent for the second and third repetitions of the practice, in December 2020 and March 2021 under the Trump and Biden administrations. By the time the CARES Act was passed in March 2021, the IRS was able to send out 90 million payments in a single week.
Trevor Filseth is a news reporter and writer for the National Interest. This article first appeared earlier this year.