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President Donald Trump first floated the idea of plastering his name on the stimulus checks to his treasury secretary, then denied it during a press briefing, and, predictably, now it’s happening. The Treasury Department finalized the decision Monday night and, the Washington Post reports, ordered the Internal Revenue Service to add Trump’s signature to the some 70 million paper checks scheduled to be sent to Americans over the next weeks and months. The move is contrary to established protocol and procedure at the IRS, which aims to avoid at all costs the politicization of the tax system. Not anymore.
Many Americans will receive their individual $1,200 payment as a direct deposit, forgoing the need for a paper check, but tens of millions of others, particularly those with low incomes, will now get an old-fashioned paper check emblazoned with “President Donald J. Trump.” Making the whole thing that much more absurd is that Trump’s name will be purely ornamental because he’s not authorized to sign Treasury disbursements. Under normal circumstances, a no-name civil servant signs the checks to avoid the appearance of political partisanship, and that practice will continue with this latest round of government checks. Since Trump can’t technically sign the check himself, the administration is accommodating Trump’s desire for branding six months before an election by wedging his signature into the memo line of the checks along with the actual memo line “Economic Impact Payment.”
“The decision to have the paper checks bear Trump’s name, in the works for weeks, according to a Treasury official, was announced early Tuesday to the IRS’s information technology team,” the Washington Post reports. “The team, working from home, is now racing to implement a programming change that two senior IRS officials said will probably lead to a delay in issuing the first batch of paper checks. They are scheduled to be sent Thursday to the Bureau of the Fiscal Service for printing and issuing.” It also could slow down the process, delaying the disbursement of much-needed emergency funds that have already taken longer than advertised to get into the bloodstream of the economy.
The Treasury is expected to issue roughly 5 million paper checks each week—for up to 20 weeks— beginning the first week of May.