4 Million Americans to Get Prepaid Stimulus Debit Cards Instead of Checks, Treasury Says

May 19, 2020 Updated: May 19, 2020

Instead of receiving stimulus checks or deposits, more than 4 million people will receive a prepaid debit card this week, according to the Treasury Department.

In a statement on May 18, the Treasury and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) said the cards, instead of a paper check, can be used to “make purchases, get cash from in-network ATMs, and transfer funds to their personal bank account without incurring any fees.”

Those who receive them can check their card balance online, via a mobile app, or by phone without any fees. The card can be used at ATMs, online, or at a retail location where Visa is accepted, according to the news release, which added that the cards will provide consumer protections afforded to bank account owners, such as fraud, loss, and error safeguards.

“Treasury and the IRS have been working with unprecedented speed to issue Economic Impact Payments to American families. Prepaid debit cards are secure, easy to use, and allow us to deliver Americans their money quickly,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in the release. “Recipients can immediately activate and use the cards safely.”

To date, the Treasury has sent out more than 140 million stimulus payments worth some $239 billion. The payments were distributed to offset any economic losses suffered during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic after a number of businesses have been forced to close, leading to pay cuts, mass layoffs, and other hardships across the United States.

The cards are being sent out “to qualified individuals without bank information on file with the IRS, and whose tax return was processed by either the Andover or Austin IRS Service Center,” the Treasury said, which added that the cards will be mailed out starting this week.

Steven Mnuchin
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin answers questions during the daily CCP virus task force briefing at the White House on April 21, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The payments were included under March’s CARES Act, worth about $2 trillion. The House last week passed a similar measure, the HEROES Act, which would also include payments of up to $1,200 to individuals, $2,400 for married couples, and $1,200 to dependents.

Despite a push from top Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Republican senators have expressed an unwillingness to support the stimulus measure in its current form. President Donald Trump also said he would veto the HEROES Act but stressed that he would be willing to sign a measure that provides relief amid the pandemic.

White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett also told news outlets on May 18 that a fourth stimulus package might not be necessary, adding that the Trump administration is currently waiting to see if the economy can show improvement after states begin to reopen.

“I think it’s possible that we will see a strong enough economy that we don’t need a phase four,” Hassett told reporters at the White House.

“There are a lot of indicators that appear to be really turning around quickly, like retail visits, percentages of business open,” he said. “If the economy continues the momentum that we’re beginning to see over the last couple of weeks of data, then I think that one might conclude that the stimulus we’ve already passed is enough.

“But if that doesn’t happen, we’re really learning every day a little bit more about how the economy responds to this.”