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Stimulus Checks and Other Relief Hindered by Dated Technology

Three weeks after the $2 trillion stimulus package was passed, millions of households and small businesses are still standing by for financial assistance. 

Several technical glitches have delayed the distribution of direct relief payments to Americans, the $349 billion in Paycheck Protection Act loans, and the $260 billion in unemployment benefits, according to The Washington Post

Distributing the funds, including the checks and the unemployment insurance system, requires updating a software programming language not widely used in decades.

“The IRS systems are still hard-coded,” John Koskinen, IRS commissioner from 2013 to 2017, told the Post. “It’s not just a keystroke to go into the code and make the change and hope you’ve made it correctly.”

The stimulus program has necessitated multiple coding changes and the IRS has at least 16 other databases with taxpayer information that have difficulty communicating with the other, per the report.

In addition, unemployment insurance, run by the Labor Department and the states, has been technologically inhibited as 22 million Americans have been laid off or furloughed. While unemployment insurance is a federal program, each state administers it for citizens. States’ unemployment websites have crashed repeatedly and few people could get through to call centers.

Per the Post, many states have such outdated technology the systems have yet to make unemployment aid available for gig and self-employed workers who typically do not qualify for money but were recently made eligible. Florida recently started handing out paper applications as it now has a backlog of 850,000 applications. Currently, the state has sent money to just 34,000 people.