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Biden to Boost Data Sharing After Dead Got Millions in Covid Aid

Nov. 18, 2021, 11:00 AM

President Joe Biden directed agencies to share real-time information about who is eligible for federal benefits, after $1.4 billion worth of stimulus checks sent to dead people last year put a spotlight on government data silos.

The directive, published on Thursday, is part of the president’s broader strategy to improve how the federal government spends its money and serves Americans. It calls on agencies to share how they decide which Americans to pay, while still protecting individuals’ privacy.

“We must strengthen our government’s capacity to deliver for the American people,” said deputy budget director Jason Miller, who is spearheading the plan.

Federal officials use personal records, such as age and income level, to determine whether to send someone a check. The Social Security Administration, for example, needs to know when a person reaches retirement age, while Medicaid must record a family’s income. Agencies don’t always share that information with each other—creating payment errors and hurdles for families that receive government benefits.

The issue came to a head last year when the Treasury Department sent $1.4 billion in stimulus checks to the dead. Officials sent stimulus money to deceased people because they thought they had to quickly send checks to all Americans who filed a tax return in certain years, not because they couldn’t check who is dead or alive. But the situation lit a fire under members of Congress to make it easier for officials to check death records before sending checks out the door.

To contact the reporter on this story: Courtney Rozen in Washington at crozen@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bernie Kohn at bkohn@bloomberglaw.com; Meghashyam Mali at mmali@bloombergindustry.com

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