Americans wondering: Why haven't we seen our COVID-19 relief stimulus payments yet?

Because it’s a massive government operation conceived in haste and crafted by a Congress more interested in leaving town than overseeing it? Given all of that, we should note that the Treasury Department pulled off a minor miracle by just getting the process started on Wednesday. That’s no joke, either; some had guesstimated that it might take several months to get the payments out in the fashion determined by Congress. Steve Mnuchin deserves some kudos for getting it teed up as quickly as we see.

However, with tens of millions of American workers now sidelined, that $1200 would come in mighty handy right now, plus the additional stimulus cash for dependent children. The cash hasn’t shown up yet for a lot of Americans in either checks or direct deposit form, and some are beginning to wonder why. The short answer, from the Washington Post, is … “glitches”:

Many Americans woke up Wednesday expecting to find a payment of $1,200 or more from the U.S. government in their bank account, but instead they realized nothing had arrived yet — or the wrong amount was deposited. Parents of young children complained they did not receive the promised $500 check for their dependent children.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has instructed the Internal Revenue Service to get payments out as fast as possible to help offset the pain of losing jobs and shutting down businesses, but numerous glitches — affecting filers who used tax preparers, parents of dependent children and people with 2019 tax returns still to be processed — are delaying payments and causing confusion.

Several million people who filed their taxes via H&R Block, TurboTax and other services were unable to get their payments because the IRS did not have their direct deposit information on file, according to the Treasury, companies and experts.

The tax-preparer glitch supposedly is limited to those filers who enrolled in early-payment loan programs, not all such filers. It’s tough to say just how limited that may be, however. Based on my own experience (and with the caveat that I qualify for stimulus but am fortunate enough not to be in desperate need of it), the problem appears a little more broad than that. I filed my 2018 taxes through H&R Block and used direct-deposit to pay taxes and receive refunds, which is what I have done for several years, and my accounts haven’t changed at all. Thus far, however, I have not seen any cash yet.

Checking the IRS’ “Get My Payment” portal hasn’t done much to clarify things, either. The system gets updated overnight every day, and for the third day in a row, I get the same message that many others are seeing:

The IRS launched a “Get My Payment” tool Wednesday for people to track the status of their payment and enter direct deposit information, but many who used it said they received a message saying “Payment Status Not Available,” a frustration that left them without answers.

CNN lists a few reasons why some Americans may not see a quick direct deposit beyond “glitches,” one of which answers my situation:

Even if you filed your 2018 or 2019 taxes electronically, that doesn’t mean the IRS can direct-deposit the money into your bank account. You must have also received a refund in those years via direct deposit to get the money delivered automatically.

The IRS is not using bank account information it may have used to withdraw from your account if you owed money.

Aha! I owed money in 2018, and haven’t yet filed for 2019. That might be a point of confusion for other Americans too, who might assume (as I did) that the IRS would use the direct deposit information regardless of which direction the money flowed with it previously. It could also explain why the portal doesn’t provide a status, too.

The IRS does allow for non-filers or those who had to pay last year to enroll their direct-deposit information into the system. It’s unclear from the site whether this is a good process to use for those who will eventually file a tax return — the CARES Act extended the deadline to July 15 — but it’s not possible to do it any other way from the Get My Payment portal thus far. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for the check to come in the mail.

If you didn’t use electronic submission for your taxes this year or last, though, you may be waiting a very long time:

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the IRS has many employees working remotely and has stopped processing paper returns until its centers are able to reopen. If you didn’t get a refund directly deposited in 2018 and filed a paper return for 2019, you may be waiting for a paper check with your stimulus money.

Will that disadvantage tend more toward lower-income earners, who might not have the resources to file electronically? Maybe, and that would be unfortunate, but it also seems unavoidable.

The money will get there eventually. Hopefully it will be in time to make a difference to those who need it most. One thing we do know is that putting Trump’s signature on massively printed material isn’t going to be part of that delayCome on, folks …