But the Treasury Department’s ability to meet that congressional mandate hinges on systems it is still bringing online. In a matter of days, federal officials must craft a website for some people to enter their banking information, beef up their security so that malicious actors can’t steal sensitive financial data, and brace to be bombarded by questions from Americans who aren’t sure what they’re owed and how to obtain the money.
Meanwhile, some in Silicon Valley have sought to pitch their products as a potential solution: Companies including Square and PayPal, which owns the popular app Venmo, have encouraged federal officials to use their cash-swapping services to distribute aid promptly to Americans. Two people familiar with the conversations, who requested anonymity to describe private talks, acknowledged it was unlikely the government could quickly broker such an unprecedented arrangement, which would be a boon for those businesses.
On Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sounded an optimistic note, pledging at one point that coronavirus support would reach many Americans “within three weeks.” But tight timelines — and the potential for tech troubles — suggest the payments could come out in a staggered fashion. Many Americans who already have bank account data on file with the government could receive payments quickly, but millions of others might have to wait months for the money, which can range up to $1,200 for an individual, depending on their income.