Stimulus checks through regular mail ‘have not gone out yet,’ Mnuchin says

While millions have started receiving their $1,200 economic stimulus through direct deposit, millions more desperate Americans are still awaiting paper checks that haven’t been mailed yet, according to Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin.

“The checks have not gone out yet,” Mnuchin said yesterday in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, saying the reason for the delay was not due to adding President Donald Trump’s signature to them.

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“That was my idea,” Mnuchin said after Tapper asked if Trump had personally ordered his signature to be placed on the memo line. "He is the president, and I think it's a terrific symbol to the American public."

Mnuchin suggested the president did have the authority to sign the checks, but given the urgency of the economic crisis, Trump's signature was put in the memo line to save time.

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It “would have slowed things down” to put Trump’s name in the signature line, Mnuchin said. “We didn't want to do that.”

The administration says 80 million people will receive stimulus payments through direct deposits

Last week, the Treasury Department announced the move to add Trump’s signature to the lower left corner of the checks.

The Washington Post reports that the commander in chief’s signature was affixed on the memo line because Trump was not legally authorized to sign such disbursements. The Post also reported that Trump suggested the idea to Mnuchin, according to a Treasury Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

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The Treasury official also denied that adding the president’s signature would delay the disbursement of the checks, and said they would be mailed out beginning this week.

The unprecedented move caused some ripples on Capitol Hill.

“Delaying direct payments to vulnerable families just to print his name on the check is another shameful example of President Trump’s catastrophic failure to treat this crisis with the urgency it demands,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement responding to news reports.

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Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, who chairs the House committee that oversees the IRS, said he wanted to know who was involved in the decision and that he would seek an deeper explanations from the Treasury Department.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington says federal bureaucrats known as "disbursing officers" normally would sign checks like these, not the president of the United States.

During the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009, the IRS dispersed two rounds of stimulus checks after economic relief packages passed Congress. Neither Presidents George W. Bush nor Barack Obama put their names on those checks.

Mnuchin encouraged those who are still waiting on a check to “go to IRS.gov” and set up direct deposit.

The Treasury Department and IRS have also announced the launch of the "Get My Payment" web application at IRS.gov to help guide people through the process.

Treasury and IRS officials briefed House Democrats about the economic stimulus payments earlier this month and said that paper checks would be issued at a rate of about 5 million per week, beginning the week of May 4, for up to 20 weeks.

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The $2.2 trillion stimulus measure, called the CARES Act, provided for the payments as the coronavirus crisis continues to keep business shuttered and working Americans at home. The Labor Department reported 5.2 million Americans filed for jobless benefits last week alone, as nearly 22 million people have sought unemployment help in just the last month.