Social Security hasn’t handed over payment information that the Internal Revenue Service needs to send the coronavirus relief checks to nearly 30 million people receiving retirement or disability benefits, Democrats said.
“We understand that these beneficiaries are waiting because the Social Security Administration has not sent the necessary payment files to the Internal Revenue Service,” House Ways and Means Committee chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said in a letter to Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul.
Several Democrats, including Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), had previously urged President Joe Biden to fire Saul, a Donald Trump appointee whose term doesn’t expire until 2025. Biden has hesitated to do so even though he’s fired other Trump holdovers in other agencies before their terms have ended.
The IRS has sent more than 127 million payments so far. Neal and other members of his committee earlier this week asked Social Security and the IRS to explain the delayed payments to Social Security beneficiaries.
In Wednesday’s letter, Democrats said they became “aware that the IRS asked SSA to start sending payment files two weeks before the American Rescue Plan became law on March 11, 2021” ― and that Social Security still hasn’t provided the information.
Social Security will send the payment file on Thursday, an agency spokesperson said in an email. He added that the agency was disallowed from working on the payments in advance because lawmakers didn’t give Social Security the same kind of appropriation for that they gave the agency for the first round of payments last year.
“Social Security staff is working day and night with Treasury and IRS representatives to ensure that the electronic file of Social Security and SSI recipients is complete, accurate, and ready to be used to issue payments,” the spokesperson said.
A Democratic aide said that once Social Security sends the file to the IRS, it will still be more than a week before people will receive the checks.
Most Americans receive the payments based on their tax returns, but people who don’t owe federal income taxes aren’t required to file returns. In the previous two rounds of payments, the IRS used payment information on file with Social Security to send checks to retirement or disability beneficiaries who are non-filers.
Last year the IRS also set up an online payment portal where people who don’t file taxes could enter their information. There’s no portal this time, but the IRS said it is sending checks based on information it gleaned last time. IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig testified at a Ways and Means hearing last week that the IRS skipped the portal because it wants more low-income people to file.
“Many of these folks are also entitled to an [earned income tax credit],” Rettig said. “They’re also entitled to a child tax credit. We did not get that information from the non-filer portal.”
The Social Security Administration under Saul has feuded with its workforce, one of the largest across federal agencies, and sought cuts to disability benefits, infuriating Democrats.
A March 12 note on the Social Security Administration’s website about the checks says the “IRS is reviewing the tax provisions” of the new law and that there would be more answers “soon.”
In a Wednesday news release about how many stimulus payments it has distributed so far, the IRS said it would provide more information about payments to people on Social Security “as soon as it becomes available.”