Debit cards may be used for stimulus payments

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The Internal Revenue Service building. | Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images
The IRS wants to issue as many stimulus payments electronically as it can, and a top congressional aide says that should begin in a matter of weeks.
The agency will also issue paper checks to some people, though that will take longer because the Bureau of the Fiscal Service — the government office that actually makes the payments — can only process so many so quickly.
Because policymakers want to issue the payments as fast as possible, the IRS is exploring whether it would be quicker to issue some payments on debit cards, instead of sending checks, the aide said.
The rise in the number of people in recent years who file their tax returns electronically, complete with their banking information, means the IRS can turn around their payments quickly.
“Within a matter of a few weeks,” a Republican Finance Committee aide said in a briefing today with reporters.
“Paper checks take a bit longer because the Bureau of [the] Fiscal Service can only process and push out so many paper checks a week,” the aide said. “It’s a pretty significant number but it would probably take, I think they were estimating four or five weeks to get the balance out.”
That’s why the IRS is looking into whether it might issue some payments instead “through debit cards or other medium.”
“Theoretically it could be faster than having Fiscal Service have to cut checks,” the aide said.
A coronavirus relief package now pending in the Senate would send tens of millions of Americans payments of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.
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March 25, 2020
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