Senate Passes Peters’ Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Payments to Deceased Americans

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, applauded Senate passage of bipartisan legislation he introduced to prevent the federal government from wasting taxpayer dollars on wrongful payments to deceased Americans. The Senate’s action follows a report Peters released earlier this week detailing how the Trump Administration sent more than 1.1 million Coronavirus economic relief payments totaling $1.4 billion to deceased individuals. In March, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help address the severe economic consequences of the pandemic, which included $1,200 stimulus payments for income-eligible taxpayers across the country.

“Hardworking families in Michigan and across the country deserve to know their tax dollars are being put to good use, especially as we work to help people make ends meet during these challenging times,” said Senator Peters. “I have long pushed for commonsense reforms to save taxpayer dollars, and I’m pleased the Senate passed my bipartisan bill to prevent wasteful payments to deceased people. I’ll continue working to get this bill passed by the House and signed into law so we can prevent these kinds of expensive, wrongful payments down the road.”

Peters’ report urged Congress to immediately pass the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act to safeguard taxpayer dollars and prevent further improper payments by ensuring that federal agencies have access to the most-up-date information about individuals who have died. The legislation helps strengthen the accuracy and completeness of the Social Security Administration’s death data, gives federal agencies access to this complete data, and requires agencies to use the death data to curb billions of dollars in improper payments.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains the most thorough federal database of individuals who are reported to have died, but only a small number of federal agencies have access to this list. Most federal agencies rely on a reduced, incomplete and less up-to-date version of reported deaths, and many Inspectors General lack access to the complete death information. As a result, many federal agencies make erroneous payments to people who are actually deceased.

As Ranking Member of the Senate’s primary oversight committee, Peters has long worked to prevent wasteful spending caused by improper payments. Improper payments – including duplicative, excessive, unnecessary and improperly documented payments – cost the federal government as much as $175 billion a year. In March, President Trump signed into law a Peters bill to streamline existing laws to help agencies better identify and reduce the amount of money wasted as a result of improper government payments.