The Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue has sent out an initial 10,000 COVID relief checks, but BIR Director Joel Lee told lawmakers on Tuesday it will be more than a month before the process is complete.
“In a nutshell, we sent out $10 million to the population last week, and we are sending down another $10 million this week,” Lee told the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. “The following week we anticipate doing the Social Security recipients, and we are basically cranking them out as fast as we can get returns on.”
Unlike the first COVID relief payments, which were sent out earlier during the pandemic, the second round of payments are being sent based on 2019 income tax returns. Lee said around 34,000 tax returns have been filed and of those 23,000 have been entered into the bureau’s system.
“So, if you entered 23,000 tax returns from June to now, that would be nine months,” Sen. Kurt Vialet said. “Which is 4.5 months for 11,500 [tax returns] and you have 11,000 [tax returns] more to go. Is it going to take four months?”
Lee said the bureau had been focusing on the 2018 returns and did not anticipate needing to input the 2019 income tax returns in so quickly.
“Initially when the second round was implemented, I wanted to use the 2018 listing that we used for the first round because that was already in place and ready to go out,” Lee said. But federal regulations mandate that 2019 income tax returns be used.
Residents anticipating a payment may have to wait until their income tax return has been processed by the bureau.
“We just need to enter the returns,” Lee said. “People have been filing, so we are simply putting them in.”
The bureau can process around 3,000 income tax returns a week, and Lee said it would take three to four weeks until all returns are entered. He said tentatively it would be six weeks or longer before all payments had been sent to every eligible individual.
Lee said work on sending the relief payment to Social Security benefit recipients is expected to start in a week and the recipients were not among the first 10,000 checks sent out this month. He added, those receiving benefits who did not file a 2019 income tax return would still be sent their COVID relief payment.
Sens. Vialet, Donna Frett-Gregory, Marvin Blyden, Samuel Carrion, Javan James Sr., Dwayne DeGraff and Janelle Sarauw were present for the hearing. Additional non-committee members were also present.