People eager to find out when they would collect their federal stimulus check flocked to theafter it launched Wednesday. But many are expressing confusion and concern after the site told them that the status of their payment wasn't available.
Jason Hale, 25, of Oak Park, Illinois, went on the tax agency's website early Wednesday to check on the status of his payment after hearing from friends that they had received the funds. But instead of getting information on when his money would be deposited, a message on the site read: "Payment status not available."
"I thought, 'Maybe try it a different way. Maybe lower case'," he said of his experience on the website. But after a few attempts at entering information, the site locked him out, suggesting he try again in 24 hours. "It was very frustrating."
Hale tweeted about his experience and received hundreds of responses, with many people saying they'd received the same message. Others contacted CBS MoneyWatch to express frustration about getting locked out of the "Get My Payment" service or being told that the status of their funds wasn't available.
According to a statement from the U.S. Treasury Department, the "Payment status not available" message means the IRS "cannot determine your eligibility for a payment at this time. For example, you didn't file either a 2018 or 2019 tax return, or you recently filed and the return has not been fully processed."
For example, taxpayers who recently filed their 2019 returns might not find information regarding their stimulus payment because the IRS is still processing their returns.
The Treasury Department has said about 80 million taxpayers will receive their stimulus payments by the end of the week. But with almost 140 million taxpayers in the U.S., that means 60 million Americans may still be waiting for the payments and are eager for information on when they'll receive them.
"It's making me ill"
Some taxpayers report that they already filed their 2019 returns and are still getting the "Payment status not available" message. Some, like Hale, have already received their 2019 tax refunds but still can't find out when they'll get their stimulus payments.
That's left some to speculate why the IRS site can't provide tracking information on their stimulus checks. But none are certain of what's causing the hold up — and getting help from the IRS is proving fruitless, given that the agency's phone assistance is shut down because of the pandemic.
"I am not sure I have ever been so frustrated by a situation in my entire life," said Erin Feldman Todd, a single mother in Denver, who received the same messages as Hale on Wednesday and isn't sure when she'll receive a stimulus check of $1200 for herself and $500 for her 10-year old son. "I have tried every IRS phone number I can find. Every single one."
Todd, who tried to access the IRS "Get My Payment" site again on Thursday morning without luck, said she needs the money to pay for utilities, food and her mortgage after her employer slashed her hours to 25 hours a week from 40. She has $109 in her bank account, and says she'll be short on her bills this month without the stimulus payment and a refund for her 2019 taxes, which she filed a month ago.
"I'm one of those people who will advocate for myself and my son to the nth degree and there's nothing I can do," she said, referring to the lack of information and help from the IRS. "It's literally making me physically ill."
As for Hale, although he hasn't lost his job with the Democratic Party of Illinois, he said the check would help pay bills and build up his savings in case he loses income or work.
22 million unemployed workers
The IRS and Treasury created the tracking website and are disbursing the "economic impact payments" less than three weeks after the $2 trillion stimulus bill was signed into law by President Donald Trump. Yet during that time, millions of workers have lost their jobs, with more than 22 million Americans.
One of those is Cody Brooks, 23, of Huntsville, Texas, who recently lost his job at a furniture removal company because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He was able to access the "Get My Payment" site, only to learn that his money had been deposited in an account that he didn't recognize. He checked the numbers on his current and older bank accounts, but they didn't match. His mother, meanwhile, received the "Payment status not available" message.
"I need it for bills. I've got to pay for my house, insurance, food and my mom now because she doesn't have any money," Brooks said.
He hasn't been able to file for unemployment because his state's website asks workers to call its office and the phones have been constantly busy, he said. To make ends meet in the short term, Brooks plans to dip into savings he'd put away for when he starts school at the University of Houston this fall.
For some people, ensuring they'd gotten their stimulus money didn't end with confusing messages from "Get My Payment" site. Customers also reported problems accessing their banks online, including Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and other financial institutions, according to Downdetector.com.
Online banking services at BB&T and SunTrust also went down Wednesday, the Charlotte Observer reported.