A historically unprecedented change has been made to the stimulus checks that the Internal Revenue Service is rushing to mail to 70 million Americans. According to the IRS’ information technology team on Tuesday, the Treasury Department has ordered that President Donald Trump’s name be printed on every stimulus check, a decision that risks delaying when checks will be received.
Recipients of the $1,200 paper checks, which were issued as part of the $2 trillion economic relief package to help the masses of unemployed people, will now see the name “President Donald J. Trump” on the left side of the check. According to a report by the Washington Post, a memo just below Trump's name, it will read, “Economic Impact Payment.”
Not only is the new addition causing a delay in check distribution, but this is the first time in history that a president’s name will appear on an IRS disbursement. This includes everything from routine refunds to various checks issued in recent decades by the government, to taxpayers in times of economic surplus, to payments attempted to stimulate a down economy.
Despite denying wanting to sign these checks earlier this month, the plan has reportedly been in the works for weeks. “No. Me sign? No. There’s millions of checks. I’m going to sign them? No. It’s a Trump administration initiative,” Trump said during a news conference on April 3. “But do I want to sign them? No.” However, it was Trump who suggested to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that he should sign them.
According to reports, the process is seeing a halt in check distribution as a result. The paper checks were already scheduled to be issued in batches of 5 million per week through September with the first batches going to the lowest-income taxpayers. Prior to this announcement, they were scheduled to be sent to the Bureau of the Fiscal Service for printing and issuing on Thursday. Senior IRS officials now said that this last minute edit could slow their delivery process by at least a few days. “Any last minute request like this will create a downstream snarl that will result in a delay,” IRS quality-control manager Chad Hooper told the Washington Post. In order to add the president’s name, computer code must be changed and the system must be tested before the IRS can move forward with issuing checks.
It is standard practice in the IRS for a civil servant to sign checks issued by the Treasury Department in order to remain nonpartisan, but certainly not the president or his administration. Past requests from administrations to take credit for checks given to the American people have been refused. In 2001, the Bush administration asked the IRS if when sending out economic rebate checks of $300 to $600 – a shared benefit of a strong economy – they could include a letter taking credit for “giving you your money back.” The IRS refused citing that the move was too political.
Trump has repeatedly positioned himself at the center of government relief efforts to help Americans during the coronavirus calling the emergency legislation “a Trump administration initiative.” He faces re-election in six months, and with few ways to campaign and no way of holding rallies that are popular among his voter base, insisting that his name appear on checks associated with economic relief during a global disaster provides Trump with a new avenue to curry favor.