Personal Finance

'Payment status not available': For many, IRS stimulus payment website raises more questions than answers

Key Points
  • While millions of Americans have received their stimulus relief payments, millions more are still waiting.
  • The IRS has set up a web tool, Get My Payment, to help assess the status of those payments.
  • Many say glitches with that tool are preventing them from getting clarity on how much money they will receive and when.
(Credit: Getty | PeopleImages)

When the government launched a web tool on April 15 so that eligible Americans could find out the status of their coronavirus stimulus payments, Jake Koepke was eager to log on.

But the central Wisconsin resident, 34, was disappointed to find himself shut out after three failed attempts to get onto the site.

Koepke has returned to the website daily, only to discover the same results.

It wasn't until this week that his attempts to enter his personal information – including Social Security number, address and date of birth – finally worked.

More from Personal Finance:
Beware of scammers as paper stimulus checks hit the mail
Timeline shows when all coronavirus stimulus payments should arrive
How experts say this millennial should spend her stimulus check

But what he now saw was a message stating, "Payment status not available."

The U.S. government has sent out millions of stimulus payments of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples, as well as $500 for children under age 17. That included direct deposits made last week and continues with the beginning of mailed paper checks this week.

If you are eligible but haven't yet received a payment, the money could still be coming.

Many are eager to get the funds, or at the very least find out when exactly the money will arrive. Others want to put in their bank account information to expedite the process.

So who's getting the stimulus checks?
So who's getting the stimulus checks?

That was the goal of the Get My Payment web app: letting Americans check on the status of their stimulus money and get their direct deposit information to the government, if it didn't have that data already.

However, many are having difficulty getting information from the web tool, and terms like "Payment status not available" are now trending on web search engines and on social media.

"They are trying to anticipate people's problems with Get My Payment, but it's still very hard to figure out what you can do and what you can get from that tool," said Janet Holtzblatt, senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

Up in record time

Given how quickly the federal web tool was put together and released, it's no surprise that there are glitches, Holtzblatt said.

"The IRS got this up and running in record time," Holtzblatt said. "They didn't have much time to develop and test all of these tools before they were up and running."

For people like Koepke, every day that goes by without a payment and without an indication as to when it will come adds to the uncertainty his family faces.

Altogether, Koepke said he is expecting a $2,900 stimulus payment, including money for his wife and 2-year-old daughter.

Meanwhile, his wife has been laid off from her job and has yet to receive an unemployment check. Every day, she calls to find out her status, but cannot get anyone on the phone. The family has waited five weeks so far for those checks to come in, Koepke said.

Koepke said he feels fortunate he is still working, at his own pest-control business and on a job with the local highway department.

Still, this is a slow time of year for pest control. Meanwhile, his wife has no income coming in.

"This check was supposed to offset that stuff," Koepke said.

Questions abound

Others who are counting on the money are also left wondering what is happening with their stimulus payments.

That includes Nancy Shapiro, 73, a Connecticut resident who was recently laid off from her job in development fundraising for a non-profit organization.

Shapiro said she keeps getting the same message from the Get My Payment site – "Unable to determine eligibility."

"It was a very vague answer that I received," Shapiro said.

Her big question is whether she is eligible for payment based on her 2018 or 2019 tax returns.

How to spend a stimulus check if you're employed
How to spend a stimulus check if you're employed

The IRS does provide guidance on the coronavirus stimulus payments, and specifically the Get My Payment tool, on its website.

"Payment status not available" could show up for you if the application doesn't have your data yet or you aren't eligible for payments, according to the website.

Other notifications could pop up, such as one showing your payment has been processed or another showing you are eligible, but your payment hasn't yet been processed.

Or it could say "Need more information" if you are eligible for relief money but your direct deposit information is not on file.

"I still haven't received anything and there's nobody to call, nobody to help," Koepke said.

Here's how scammers are targeting your stimulus checks
How scammers are targeting your stimulus checks