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Coronavirus stimulus checks might be delayed because of an unexpected change

Published Apr 15th, 2020 8:00AM EDT
Coronavirus News
Image: Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock
  • Coronavirus stimulus paper checks might be delayed because of a last-minute design change. President Trump’s name will appear on them.
  • Treasury officials dispute delay reports, claiming the checks will be mailed on time.
  • This marks the first time a president’s name is printed on IRS checks, with many people criticizing the move.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

Your coronavirus stimulus money can arrive in two ways, depending on whether the IRS has your banking information on file. You’ll either get a bank transfer or an actual paper check in the coming days and weeks — this IRS tool for non-filers might speed up the process. But some people might experience delays regardless of method. Reports a few days ago revealed that a 60-year-old programming language that few people might know how to use could be responsible for some delays. But some of the printed checks might be delayed as well for an incredible reason. A name has to be printed on the stimulus checks before they’re sent out. Trump’s.

Senior IRS officials told The Washington Post that the Treasury Department has ordered President Trump’s name to be printed on the physical checks. The decision was finalized late Monday: “President Donald J. Trump” is what will appear on the left side of the payment in the memo line, under a line that reads “Economic Impact Payment.”

The decision was in the works for weeks, a Treasury official said, but it was announced early on Tuesday to IRS’s information technology firm that’s working from home to implement the change. Computer code has to be changed to include Trump’s name, and the system must be tested to prevent issues.

The first paper checks, supposed to be sent out on Thursday, might be delayed as a result. Some 70 million Americans will receive paper checks starting with low-income individuals. Some people might only get their checks in September, as the IRS will send out 5 million checks a week.

A different Treasury official said the checks will not be delayed because of the change. “Economic Impact Payment checks are scheduled to go out on time and exactly as planned—there is absolutely no delay whatsoever,” a representative told The Post, comparing the delivery speed to the stimulus checks George W. Bush sent in 2008. “In fact, we expect the first checks to be in the mail early next week, which is well in advance of when the first checks went out in 2008 and well in advance of initial estimates.”

This will be the first time that a president’s name appears on an IRS disbursement, The Post explains. Trump reportedly suggested to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in private to sign the checks, but the president is not authorized to sign US Treasury checks of any kind. Instead, a civil servant has to do it. In this case, it’ll be an official with the Bureau of the Fiscal Service.

The move prompted some criticism, as some see it as a way for Trump to campaign for reelection during the lockdown. The hashtag #KingTrump continues to trend on Twitter.

“You are getting your money late because the President thinks it is more important that his name be on the check than that you are able to pay your bills on time,” Sen. Brian Schatz tweeted.

“Where you see the dying and suffering of your fellow Americans, Donald Trump sees another opportunity to promote himself — and, by extension, his reelection campaign. Corruption, you see, has its visionaries,” former director of the independent Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub Jr. said.

“Taxes are supposed to be nonpolitical, and it’s that simple,” National Taxpayer Advocate veteran Nina Olson told The Post. “It’s absolutely unprecedented.”

It was a Congress that passed the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief packages that include the direct cash payments to taxpayers. While Trump signed the stimulus bill, it wasn’t his idea. But if you think about it, maybe Trump should take credit for the stimulus checks. That printed name should also serve as a reminder for everything that happened since late December that lead to Congress having to devise a bill to account for the massive coronavirus-related economic fallout.

Chris Smith
Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.