Treasury to deliver millions of coronavirus relief payments by prepaid debit card

The Treasury Department said Monday that it is starting to deliver nearly 4 million coronavirus relief payments to taxpayers via prepaid debit card, rather than paper check.

The announcement comes after Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Biden rallies Senate Dems behind mammoth spending plan Mnuchin dodges CNBC questions on whether Trump lying over election Democrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer MORE had indicated that the department planned to get some people their payments by sending them debit cards, in an effort to help get people their payments faster.

"Prepaid debit cards are secure, easy to use, and allow us to deliver Americans their money quickly,” Mnuchin said in a news release Monday. “Recipients can immediately activate and use the cards safely.”

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Legislation President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic On The Money: Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban | Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns Lack of transatlantic cooperation on trade threatens global climate change goals MORE signed in March directs Treasury and the IRS to send most Americans one-time payments of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.

Treasury said Monday that it has already delivered more than 140 million payments. The first tranche of payments was sent via direct deposit, and subsequently the department started issuing paper checks to people who haven't provided the IRS with their bank account information.

Debit cards are being sent to people who have not given the IRS their direct deposit information and whose tax returns were processed by the IRS's service centers in Andover, Mass., and Austin, Texas. MetaBank, Treasury's financial agent, will start mailing the cards this week, and the mailings will include instructions about how to active and use the cards, Treasury said.

People who receive the debit cards will be able to use them online, at ATMs, and at retail locations that accept Visa cards. People will be able to use them to make purchases and get cash from in-network ATMs without incurring fees, and they will also be able to check the balance of the cards online or on their phones without incurring fees, Treasury said.

Separately Monday, the IRS announced that it is starting to add 3,500 telephone representatives to answer questions from people calling the agency about the direct payments.