My wife and I received our stimulus money the week of Memorial Day and then a letter from the Internal Revenue Service two weeks later telling us “your economic impact payment has arrived.”
To be honest, we could have gotten by without it. Unlike a lot of younger folks who were out of work or otherwise had their incomes impacted by the coronavirus lockdown, our monthly income stayed the same during the quarantine.
In fact, we spent less than we expected to, having canceled some trips we had planned and not eating out as much.
But we aren’t complaining about getting the money, and we’re not sending it back, unless you count the quarterly income tax payments we send the government, which over a year’s time is considerably more than we received.
What I am complaining about is the manner in which the money came and the follow up letter from the IRS bearing the signature of President Donald J. Trump.
My wife and I both receive monthly Social Security payments directly deposited to our bank account. Our income tax payments are made electronically from the bank to IRS.
According to what I had read, our economic impact money should have come the same way.
Instead, we received in the mail right after Memorial Day a prepaid debit card which was worth what we were to receive.
Fortunately I didn’t trash it as I do so many of those credit card offers we get.
I did read the instructions, activated the MetaBank Visa debit card and immediately took it to our bank and transferred all the cash to our money market account.
Had I chosen to just use the debit card for purchases and cash withdrawals at ATM machines, I could have incurred some charges.
Doing a little research on the internet, I found an article reporting that “on May 18, the Treasury Department announced that nearly four million Economic Impact Payments (a.k.a. stimulus checks) will be sent out around Memorial Day 2020 via a new prepaid debit card. These new cards are being distributed only to ‘qualified individuals without bank information on file’ whose last tax returns were filed to IRS service centers in Andover, Mass., and Austin, Texas.”
The article also noted that “consumers should be aware that these cards come with some fees to withdraw money, have easy online access, aren’t the same thing as Direct Express cards and will come directly from ‘Money Network Cardholder Services.’”
I am yet to learn why some people got paper checks and others received the debit cards or what the efficiency of one over the other is. But then the government bureaucracy, like the Lord, sometimes moves in mysterious ways.
Surely it would have cost the government less to simply send a direct deposit to our bank account, as it does our Social Security checks, than to mail out a debit card which, in some cases – not mine — probably will get MetaBank some new customers.
Why they didn’t have our bank information in Andover, Mass., or Austin, Texas, I don’t know. The government has it somewhere.
My other complaint is with the follow-up letter. Admittedly, it does serve a purpose in alerting those whose checks or debit cards may have been misplaced or stolen in the mail — or trashed as I almost did ours — that they should have received a payment.
But it’s mostly a campaign piece for President Trump who pressured the IRS, which is supposed to be non-partisan, into putting his signature on the letter as well as paper checks.
The president, in the letter, does give due credit to Congress for its “bipartisan support” of the act appropriating the funds. That’s appropriate. Both he and Congress are together on one thing; running up the national debt.
I don’t know how much the redundant letters cost in postage; I read somewhere more than $64 million.
Trump, who has trouble with what the Postal Service charges Amazon, doesn’t seem to be bothered by the IRS paying to promote him. In fact he insisted on it.
Charlie Dunagin is editor and publisher emeritus of the McComb Enterprise-Journal. He lives in Oxford.