Washington The federal government sent about 3,900 economic stimulus payments of $250 each this spring to people who were in no position to use the money to help stimulate the economy: prison inmates.
The checks were part of the massive economic recovery package approved by Congress and President Barack Obama in February. About 52 million Social Security recipients, railroad retirees and those receiving Supplemental Security Income were eligible for the one-time checks.
Prison inmates are generally ineligible for federal benefits. However, 2,200 of the inmates who received checks got to keep them because, under the law, they were eligible, said Mark Lassiter, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration. They were eligible because they weren’t incarcerated in any of the three months before the recovery package was enacted.
The other 1,700 checks? That was a mistake.
Checks were sent to those inmates because records didn’t accurately show they were in prison, Lassiter said. He said most of those checks were returned by the prisons.