Sen. Tom Cotton asks Treasury Sec. Mnuchin to send direct payments to Americans via debit card

Coronavirus

WASHINGTON- Senator Tom Cotton (R- Arkansas) and Sen. Doug Jones (D- Alabama) sent a letter to United States Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday, asking the Treasury program to send the $1,200 or more direct payment to certain Americans via debit card.

Cards would be limited to eligible Americans who have not signed up for IRS direct deposits, don’t have a bank account, or who require a paper check, according to a statement from the senators.

The direct payments are part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act that President Donald Trump signed into law on March 27.

After press reports indicated that many of the paper check payments would not be mailed until April 24th, the senators wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin requesting that the Treasury Department utilize its already-established Direct Express debit card program to disburse these payments as a faster and safer alternative to paper checks.

In the letter, the senators say sending debit cards would be “a faster and safer alternative to paper checks”.

“It is our understanding that payments made electronically can be distributed quickly, but the Internal Revenue System (IRS) must print paper checks and mail them separately. As a result, we encourage the Treasury Department to offer a targeted group of Americans the option of receiving their direct assistance payment on the Direct Express debit cards, which are used for other federal benefits like Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits,” the senators wrote.

They continued, “While a slight lag between Congressional action and the support arriving to workers is understandable, the Treasury Department must act expeditiously to get these funds to their intended recipients.”

Full text of the letter can be found below and a .pdf can be found here

April 7, 2020

The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin

Secretary of the Treasury

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20220

Dear Secretary Mnuchin,

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act included economic relief to Americans in the form of direct cash payments to provide support during this unprecedented public health and economic crisis. In order to provide this much needed assistance directly and quickly, we request the Treasury Department utilize its Direct Express debit card as one method, at the option of the individual, for disbursing these payments as an alternative to paper checks.

We were alarmed by the Washington Post report on April 2, 2020, that “$30 million in paper checks for millions of other Americans won’t start being sent out until April 24, as the government lacks their banking information. And some of those checks won’t reach people until September.”[1] Americans should not have to wait five months to receive their checks.

While a slight lag between Congressional action and the support arriving to workers is understandable, the Treasury Department must act expeditiously to get these funds to their intended recipients. These direct assistance payments are aimed at assisting American workers in covering the cost of essentials household items, including rent and mortgage payments, outstanding bills, and food to feed their families.

It is our understanding that payments made electronically can be distributed quickly, but the Internal Revenue System (IRS) must print paper checks and mail them separately. As a result, we encourage the Treasury Department to offer a targeted group of Americans the option of receiving their direct assistance payment on the Direct Express debit cards, which are used for other federal benefits like Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits.[2] Using debit cards could be limited to Americans eligible for this program not already signed up for direct deposit, have a bank account, or require a paper check.

As Americans across the country practice social distancing to contain the spread of COVID-19, we support delivering benefits automatically to as many people as possible and request that debit cards be offered as an option to distribute the assistance payment. Debit cards are a safer method of delivery than paper checks. Paper checks will force Americans to leave their homes to deposit the funds and can be a source of fraud. We appreciate your consideration of this request to keep Americans safe during these challenging times.

Sincerely,

Doug Jones                                                                             Tom Cotton    

United States Senator                                                             United States Senator 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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