House Democrats press Treasury on debit cards used for coronavirus relief payments

House Democrats press Treasury on debit cards used for coronavirus relief payments
© Greg Nash

Democratic lawmakers on a key House subcommittee are pressing the Treasury Department about the prepaid debit cards being used to deliver coronavirus relief payments to millions of Americans, saying that some taxpayers are concerned the cards are a scam.

"Recent reports indicate the cards are creating confusion and actually may delay when Americans receive this emergency assistance," the Democratic members of the House Ways and Means Committee's oversight subcommittee wrote Thursday in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinFormer Treasury secretaries tried to resolve debt limit impasse in talks with McConnell, Yellen: report Menendez, Rubio ask Yellen to probe meatpacker JBS The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Biden rallies Senate Dems behind mammoth spending plan MORE.

The $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief law that President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE signed in late March provides most households with one-time direct payments. Individuals making up to $75,000 and married couples making up to $150,000 are eligible for the full amount of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.

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Treasury said earlier this month that about 4 million households will receive their relief payments by prepaid debit cards, rather than by paper check, in an effort to get people their money quickly.

The Democratic lawmakers said that recent news reports have indicated that some people think the cards are a scam. The cards are coming in a plain white envelope from Money Network Cardholder Services, and the envelopes and cards do not mention Treasury. Additionally, the activation telephone lines for the cards require the recipient to enter a portion of his or her Social Security number, the lawmakers said.

"When added together, these facts are leading many individuals to believe that the debit cards are junk mail or a scam," the lawmakers wrote. They added that this is concerning because taxpayers may be destroying their cards, "and it is unclear what recourse they will have subsequently to access their payments with or without additional fees."

The lawmakers asked Mnuchin for information about the number of debit cards that have been mailed and activated, the number of cards for which taxpayers have requested replacements and a schedule of fees associated with the cards.

The lawmakers who signed the letter were Rep. John LewisJohn LewisDebt ceiling fight pits corporate America against Republicans House Democrats unveil legislation to curtail presidential power Michelle Obama looks to mobilize voters for midterms MORE (D-Ga.), the chairman of the Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, and Democratic subcommittee members Reps. Suzan DelBeneSuzan Kay DelBeneHouse Democrats call for spending bill to include expansion of housing credit Biden's keeping the Canada-US border closed makes no sense Biden administration stokes frustration over Canada MORE (Wash.), Linda Sánchez (Calif.), Tom Suozzi (N.Y.), Judy ChuJudy May ChuOvernight Health Care — Presented by Indivior —Pfizer: COVID-19 vaccine safe for young kids White House endorses bill guaranteeing abortion access This week: Democrats face mounting headaches MORE (Calif.), Gwen MooreGwen Sophia MoorePentagon 'aware' of reports Wisconsin military base's struggle to feed, heat Afghan refugees Wisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans Pelosi picks Democrats for special panel tackling inequality MORE (Wis.), and Brendan Boyle (Pa.).

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Treasury spokeswoman Monica Crowley on Friday tweeted that people who lost or threw away their economic impact payment (EIP) debit cards can call 1-800-240-8100 to get a free replacement. 

Separately, Lewis and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealDemocrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' Biden pushes back at Democrats on taxes Want a clean energy future? Look to the tax code MORE (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig asking for weekly reports about the coronavirus relief payments until all of the payments have been issued.

Updated Friday at 12:21 p.m.