BRINDISI REVEALS: LOCAL RESIDENTS WHO HAVE NOT YET RECEIVED THEIR FED STIMULUS CASH MAY HAVE THROWN IT IN THE GARBAGE BECAUSE IT ARRIVED AS A DEBIT CARD & LOOKED LIKE JUNK MAIL; TO BOOT, IF YOU WANT TO USE YOUR CARD IT WILL COST YOU; CONGRESSMAN DEMANDS F

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June 15, 2020
Press Release

Congressman’s Office Announces Complaints About ‘Debit Cards’ Are Way Too High & He Wants Feds To Act; Asks Public To Phone His Office If Still Awaiting Relief Funds & Says They Should NOT Have To Pay For Replacement Cards

 

Brindisi: Debit Cards Arrive In Mail With Misspellings, Wrong Names & Non-Governmental Address; Struggling Families Left To Wonder If These Cards Are Another Scam Or Relief They Desperately Need

 

Brindisi: Some People In Our Area Have Literally Thrown Away $1,200—The Feds Need To Fix This NOW

 

Following reports and complaints about poorly marked, prepaid debit cards being mailed to constituents for their stimulus payments, Congressman Anthony Brindisi took action to hold the Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department accountable. During the pandemic, Brindisi is fighting to make sure Upstate gets the resources they deserve.

 

As part of the bipartisan CARES Act, most Americans are entitled to a $1,200 economic relief payment. The I.R.S. and Treasury Department, the agencies tasked with executing the payments, have been sending some payments on inconspicuous prepaid debit cards in poorly marked envelopes through the mail. This has resulted in confusion for many constituents and, in some cases, people have unwittingly thrown away their payment. When Brindisi learned of this he took action.

 

“I’ve heard from countless constituents who have received prepaid debit cards that look like they were made at a scam department, not the Treasury Department,” said Brindisi. “With things like misspellings, wrong names, and a non-governmental return address, struggling families are left to wonder if these cards are just another scam or the relief they desperately need. The Treasury Department and I.R.S. need to do better and I am demanding they fix this.”

 

Brindisi called on the Treasury Department and I.R.S. to improve their processes and answer questions about how this happened and what they will do to fix it. Brindisi outlined his plan of action marking seven key instructions for the agencies moving forward:

 

  1. Waive any and all replacement fees for individuals who may have lost their debit cards, including Americans who may have discarded their debit card after mistaking it for junk mail. 
  2. Review IRS data in the coming weeks and identify individuals who were sent a debit card but never activated it, and appropriately follow up with those households to ensure they receive the economic impact payment they are due. 
  3. Clearly identify on the outside of the envelope any subsequent mailed economic impact payments as being sent by or on behalf of the federal government. 
  4. Review your process that resulted in incorrect names being printed on envelopes and cards and correct this problem for any future mailings. 
  5. Abide by Congressional intent and ensure that users receive their full economic impact payment by waiving all fees for withdrawals at all ATMs. 
  6. Oversee the creation of a free and easy method for individuals to transfer the full balance of their debit card to their checking account without the use of the internet. 
  7. Work with the CFPB and any other relevant agency to conduct a public awareness campaign regarding potential scams related to these debit cards. 

 

Brindisi harped on the need for the I.R.S. and Treasury Department to do better and remove hurdles to replacement cards if necessary for constituents. 

 

“Removing replacement and transaction fees, better identification of the envelopes and an overall review of the process that created this mess are a good place to start,” Brindisi added. “During the pandemic, so many families need help and these payments were designed to provide much-needed relief. Instead, due to bureaucratic incompetence, families are not getting the help they need.”

 

Brindisi’s entire letter is below:

 

Dear Secretary Mnuchin and Commissioner Rettig,

 

As part of the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the Treasury Department was authorized to make payments of $1,200 to qualifying individuals and $500 to each dependent child under the age of 17. In the two months since the CARES Act was signed into law by President Trump, Treasury has reported making more than 158,000,000 payments. 

 

These payments were intended to provide immediate economic relief to Americans at a time when public health measures required many workers to stay home and businesses to close, resulting in millions being furloughed or laid off. I appreciate Treasury heeding the calls from myself and other Members of Congress from both parties to make accommodations for Social Security recipients and Veterans who otherwise may have been required to fill out additional forms to receive their payments. I commend the speed at which Treasury was able to disburse the vast majority of these payments.

 

However, it has come to my attention that more than three million Americans in recent weeks have received their payments via debit card. Many of my constituents have reached out to my office to voice their concerns about the debit cards they have received, which include:

 

  • The envelope in which the debit card is delivered does not claim to be from the Department of the Treasury or any other federal agency, and instead has the return address of “Money Network Cardholder Services.” Any person who has ever received an unsolicited credit card or loan offer would be immediately suspicious and could easily mistake the envelope for unsolicited mail.
  • Many of the envelopes and debit cards are addressed with an incorrect name. Spouses with different last names have received debit cards with one spouse’s first name and the other’s last name, leading to confusion and concern. If the debit card has the wrong name on it, the family is left to wonder if they can legally use it. 
  • The fees attached to the cards siphon money intended for Americans and give it to the companies Treasury has partnered with to dispense the cards. Users are charged fees for using the wrong ATM to withdraw cash or simply check the card’s balance. ATM withdrawals are often capped at a dollar amount well below the $2,400 or more a family receives, requiring multiple uses of the ATM to retrieve the full amount. This runs counter to the intent of Congress, which was to give every person to full amount they are due with very few exceptions.
  • Furthermore, instructions for this debit card issued by the IRS and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) state that users who wish to transfer money from the card to their checking account for free are required to log into a website to do so. This could be an impossible task for some senior citizens and individuals in rural areas without adequate internet access. 

 

In response to these concerns, I ask that you:

 

  1. Waive any and all replacement fees for individuals who may have lost their debit cards, including Americans who may have discarded their debit card after mistaking it for junk mail. 
  2. Review IRS data in the coming weeks and identify individuals who were sent a debit card but never activated it, and appropriately follow up with those households to ensure they receive the economic impact payment they are due. 
  3. Clearly identify on the outside of the envelope any subsequent mailed economic impact payments as being sent by or on behalf of the federal government. 
  4. Review your process that resulted in incorrect names being printed on envelopes and cards and correct this problem for any future mailings. 
  5. Abide by Congressional intent and ensure that users receive their full economic impact payment by waiving all fees for withdrawals at all ATMs. 
  6. Oversee the creation of a free and easy method for individuals to transfer the full balance of their debit card to their checking account without the use of the internet. 
  7. Work with the CFPB and any other relevant agency to conduct a public awareness campaign regarding potential scams related to these debit cards. 

 

Thank you for your work implementing the CARES Act and your attention to this matter. I ask that you please provide responses to my requests as soon as you are able.