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You might have unclaimed stimulus checks and not even know it

Published May 10th, 2021 2:26PM EDT
Stimulus check update
Image: pixelrobot/Adobe

Some of you need this new stimulus check update because forget people’s hope for the federal government to issue a fourth round of coronavirus relief payments for a moment — some of you haven’t yet claimed the already-issued stimulus checks that you’re entitled to.

Indeed, an analysis of IRS data by Newsweek turned up the shocking finding: That some 1.25 million of the first 160 million stimulus checks — the $1,200 payments which the Trump administration started distributing more than a year ago now — were never cashed or accepted by the intended recipients. That number can also include checks that ended up being returned to the US Treasury for any number of reasons. Oh, and as for how much all of those checks are worth? More than $2 billion.

On a percentage basis, this isn’t exactly an impressive share of the overall number of stimulus checks that we’re talking about here. Less than 1% of the $270 billion in first-round simulus checks that the IRS sent out, in other words, were either unclaimed, un-cashed or returned to the government.

“Taking the data at face value, it does indicate the IRS did a remarkable job of getting about 160 million checks out the door and doing it in a relatively timely manner, which is not easy when you’re sending them to a lot of people who are not always easy to reach,” Shai Akabas, director of economic policy at the non-partisan Washington DC-based think tank the Bipartisan Policy Center, told Newsweek. “Like any operation on this scale, an error rate of one to two percent would not be surprising. This surpasses that.”

Part of the problem here was simply a reflection of the fact that this was a monumental logistical challenge of a sort that the federal government, and in particular the IRS, rarely undertakes. Last summer, for example, the Government Accountability Office acknowledged that $1.4 billion of the first round of stimulus payments had inadvertently been sent to dead people. Surviving family members and spouses were asked to return that money to the government.

Head here and then scroll to the bottom of the page if you want to see a table listing how many uncashed stimulus checks there are from the first round of payments in each of the 50 US states. A couple of additional important facts to remember: Stimulus payments that are sent out and then lost or never claimed after 12 months are void, though the recipient can ask the IRS to reissue the payment. If you think you might be due one or more stimulus checks, you can use the tool on the IRS’s website to try to find out.

Also, people who didn’t receive all of the stimulus money they were supposed to have gotten so far (there have been three rounds of payments) can plug in the amount of money they haven’t yet received on line 30 of their 1040 or 1040-SR tax form. The tax filing deadline this year is coming up fast, though — on May 17.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.