Social Security gives IRS data to speed delivery of COVID-19 relief checks

The Social Security Administration (SSA) on Thursday sent the IRS data necessary to deliver coronavirus stimulus checks to people receiving government assistance after lawmakers expressed alarm that the payments were delayed.

President BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Did President Biden institute a vaccine mandate for only half the nation's teachers? Democrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms MORE on March 11 signed into law Democrats' $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, which provides relief checks of up to $1,400 per person, similar to previous rounds of direct payments. But nearly 30 million people receiving Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits had yet to automatically receive their checks.

The delay was a result of the SSA being unable to immediately transfer data to the IRS upon the law's enactment on those beneficiaries who don't have to file tax returns because their incomes fall below the minimum threshold.

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A spokesperson for the SSA told The Hill on Wednesday evening that the agency didn't have the authorization to send the beneficiary files before the pandemic relief law was enacted, despite preliminary discussions with the IRS.

The SSA had to first establish a reimbursable agreement with the IRS to fund the work providing the files, and then had to test the new system. But the agency had expected to deliver the final files to the IRS by Thursday.

Senior Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee had demanded Wednesday that the SSA deliver the beneficiary information to the IRS within 24 hours.

The lawmakers said Thursday that they were informed by the SSA that it had transmitted the files to the IRS at 8:48 a.m.

"We are gratified that the SSA leadership finally recognized the urgency of the moment and acted swiftly on our ultimatum," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealWant a clean energy future? Look to the tax code Democrats brace for toughest stretch yet with Biden agenda The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? MORE (D-Mass.) and Democratic Reps. Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellDemocrats brace for toughest stretch yet with Biden agenda LIVE COVERAGE: Tax hikes take center stage in Ways and Means markup Democrats draw red lines in spending fight MORE (N.J.), Danny K. Davis (Ill.) and John Larson John Barry LarsonSenate, House Democrats split over taxes in .5T package Happy 86th birthday, Social Security — it's time to expand benefits Lobbying world MORE (Conn.) said in a joint statement.

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"The delays imposed by [SSA] Commissioner [Andrew] Saul defied congressional intent and imposed needless anxiety and pain on taxpayers. Now the IRS needs to do its job and get these overdue payments out to suffering Americans. Further delays will not be tolerated by this committee," the lawmakers added.

The Ways and Means members had also expressed concern about delayed stimulus checks for people who receive Veterans Affairs and Railroad Retirement Board benefits and similarly don't normally have to file tax returns and should receive checks automatically based on their beneficiary status.

Those agencies also only just transmitted information on beneficiaries to the IRS this week.

Despite the delay, Saul said the SSA ultimately provided the IRS with the necessary files about a week faster than it did during the first round of stimulus checks last year.

"In short, Social Security employees have literally worked day and night with IRS staff to ensure that the electronic files of Social Security and SSI recipients are complete, accurate, and ready to be used to issue payments," Saul said in a statement on Thursday.

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A spokesperson for the Department of Veterans Affairs told The Hill on Thursday that the data on benefit recipients was delivered to the IRS on Tuesday. And the Railroad Retirement Board provided the necessary files to the IRS on Monday, according to a spokesperson.

The IRS issued its second batch of the checks on Wednesday, bringing the total to about 127 million payments distributed so far. Many checks were issued by direct deposit, while others will be sent by paper check or prepaid debit cards in the mail.

—Updated at 4:38 p.m.