- Many Americans have reported problems with the IRS portal that tracks stimulus payments and lets people sign up for direct deposit.
- Numerous people took to Twitter to say they had received a message that said “Payment Status Not Available,” after entering their information, prompting the topic to trend on Twitter.
- While an IRS spokesperson said the message was due to the site being overloaded, the IRS posted a contradictory statement, providing no information but insisting the site was working fine.
- Others have reported that their money was sent to the wrong bank account and that deceased people received checks.
Stimulus Check Portal Problems
Millions of Americans have begun receiving their stimulus checks, but the first week of distributing the money has not gone as smoothly as many hoped.
Several people have taken to Twitter or spoken to reporters about a wide range of issues they have faced with the much-needed checks.
One of the most common problems stems from the “Get My Payment” portal the IRS rolled out Wednesday. The portal is supposed to let people track the status of their payments and allow others who had not signed up for direct deposit to give the IRS their banking information.
But people started having problems with the site early on. Many reported that after entering their personal information in the portal, they were met with the message: “Payment Status Not Available.”
“According to information that we have on file, we cannot determine your eligibility for a payment at this time,” the message continued.
Numerous Twitter users shared their experiences, causing the topic to trend on the platform.
Some people said the IRS had their direct deposit information from their taxes, and that they had filed taxes this year or last year.
Others said they could not get through to the IRS and that they did not know what to do next because the FAQ page provided very little information.
IRS Gives Contradictory Information
Currently, the IRS FAQ page does have a section on “Payment Status Not Available,” but all it does is provide four reasons why people might be getting that message.
One of the reasons they provide is simply that the user is not eligible for the money. Other reasons include failing to file taxes when required, filing taxes or providing information through the non-filer portal too recently to process, and being a recipient of Social Security or Veterans Affairs benefits.
However, on Wednesday afternoon, a spokesman for the IRS gave CNBC another explanation.
“What happened is instead of having an error message or a message saying the system is very busy, it just says your information isn’t in here, that was the default,” he said, adding that the problem should be fixed now.
“Just be patient, check back later. If you filed last year’s or this year’s taxes we have your information,” the spokesman continued. “Go to the IRS website, literally 99% of all the questions are answered right there.”
But the FAQ page says nothing about the seemingly important fact that a lot of people may be getting the message because the system is overwhelmed.
Around the same time, the IRS posted an official statement on their website about the message.
“The Get My Payment site is operating smoothly and effectively,” the statement asserted.
“As of mid-day today, more than 6.2 million taxpayers have successfully received their payment status and almost 1.1 million taxpayers have successfully provided banking information, ensuring a direct deposit will be quickly sent.”
The statement also said users will be sent to an online “waiting room” if too many people are on the site, and added that, “Media reports saying the tool ‘crashed’ are inaccurate.”
Despite the fact that a spokesperson said the problem was fixed and the IRS claimed the site was ‘operating smoothly,’ Twitter users continued to report that they were getting the message Thursday morning.
However, for the direct deposit checks that have been delivered, there is still a whole other set of problems.
Some people who were able to get through to the portal found that their payments were sent to the wrong bank accounts. In some cases, people said their stimulus checks are being sent to their old bank accounts, including those who claimed they got their most recent tax refund in their new accounts.
This is a problem some banks have reported as well. JP Morgan Chase told ABC News that they received money for closed accounts, and when they could not locate a new account, they just sent the money back.
Others have said that their money is being sent to entirely different bank accounts altogether.
Some parents who have young dependent children eligible for the additional $500 per child also told reporters that they either received an incorrect amount of money or no money at all.
Unfortunately, for people who’s checks were sent to the wrong account or for those who received the wrong amount, there is no quick fix.
According to the IRS website, 15 days after someone receives their payment the IRS will mail a letter to their most recent address on file, and that letter will, “provide information on how the payment was made and how to report any failure to receive the payment.”
Beyond that, however, it is unclear how and when they will get their money.
On top of all that, it has also been reported that some checks have been sent to dead people. The good news here is that multiple financial advisors and former IRS employees have said that relatives will be able to keep that money.
But, of course, the IRS has not said anything official on the matter.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (ABC News) (NBC News)
Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan
The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”
Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify
A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast.
Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts.
Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”
“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”
Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation
Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.
“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote.
“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”
“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”
Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)
Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.
In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.
New Cases Flattening
After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.
Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days.
New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.
Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.
Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.
According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.
In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.
Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit.
While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country.
Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)
COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open
While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.
Schools Respond to Omicron Surge
U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.
According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.
That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.
Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.
In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.
Teachers Protest In-Person Learning
Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.
One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).
Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.
On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.
Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”
Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.
On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.