The second round of stimulus checks were sent out at the start of 2021. Many people received the $600 payments as a debit card, which led to some confusion.
NBC 7 Responds was able to help find one man's missing money.
"When it came in the mail, I wasn't sure what it was," Phillip Franklin said. "I almost tossed it, but I looked to see what it was."
Franklin wasn't alone. Many people threw the envelopes away because they did not appear to come from the IRS. Franklin saw the card was issued by a company called Money Network, which gave him the option to transfer it to his bank account.
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"You put in the routing number, the account number and everything," Franklin said. "It brings the card down to a zero balance and supposedly sends it to the bank."
That's where Franklin ran into trouble. He said that after several days, the money still hadn't shown up in his bank account, so he placed the first of many calls to Money Network. He said that the people were nice, but their answers were not helpful.
"He said, 'Oh, your bank's got it probably, but they're not telling you,'" Franklin said. "Or, 'Oh, check back in a few days. These things take time.'"
Franklin worked as a paralegal for many years, but now relies on Social Security payments. The stimulus check was something he was counting on to help make ends meet.
"I was counting on that $600, definitely," Franklin said. "Each month, it's a race to pay the rent."
Franklin said he transferred the money in mid-January but by the end of the month, he still had no answers. His bank even tried to trace the transfer but said they could find no evidence the money was ever sent. So he filed a claim with Money Network.
"Within the next few days, I got a letter from them saying my claim was denied," Franklin said. "They're not supposed to mess with this money. It's not theirs."
Franklin said the company didn't explain why the claim was denied but did say he could fill out more forms to request an explanation. Franklin said he felt like he was getting nowhere. That's when he reached out to NBC 7 Responds and the office of Rep. Scott Peters.
"I thought: By the time I get that money, the virus will be over for sure and the world will be different," Franklin said.
Petters' staffers told NBC 7 that they tried to talk with the IRS but had gotten no answers:
“I know how frustrating it has been for some of the people I represent to receive badly needed relief only to discover they can’t access it," read a statement attributed to Peters. "In response to dozens of complaints, I sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig on Jan. 26, asking how many Americans received their stimulus by debit card, how many of those cards have been activated, and how many cards are yet to be used. In addition, I asked the Treasury and IRS if it could put in place a way for people to return their debit cards and receive a paper check instead. We are also working with the Ways and Means Committee to ensure the IRS addresses these urgent and specific concerns."
"Mr. Franklin contacted my office at the end of January, and after continued exchanges with the IRS‘ Office of Legislative Affairs, the liaison at the office did not provide any updates on the transfer of funds to Mr. Franklin’s bank account. After an additional inquiry was sent to the Bureau of Fiscal Service, they responded today by saying that one of their analysts was reviewing this case. These lapses could make a difference when paying rent or putting food on the table. My office will continue pushing to get answers.”
NBC 7 Responds contacted MetaBank, the issuer of the Money Network cards and the financial agent for the Treasury Department's U.S. Debit Program, which told us in a statement:
“Cardholders are typically able to find answers to their questions on EIPCard.com’s extensive FAQ page or by contacting customer service at 1-800-240-8100. Due to cardholder privacy requirements, we have reached out directly to Mr. Franklin in order to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.”
Less than a day after we reached out to MetaBank, Franklin got a call from the company. He told us they apologized and the next morning, his $600 was back in his debit card account.
"I appreciate all the people at NBC 7," Franklin said. "Consumer Bob -- his team -- helped me get my stimulus back."
Editor's Note: The article originally said MetaBank owned Money Network which was incorrect. It has been updated to more accurately reflect their relationship.