MARTIN CRUTSINGER AP Economics Writer WASHINGTON
The government started depositing thousands of rebate checks in taxpayers' bank accounts today, earlier than originally scheduled, with the Bush administration hoping the payments will give a jump-start to a weak economy. The Internal Revenue Service started making the deposits at 8:30 a.m. EDT today with the goal of completing 800,000 direct deposits each day over the first three days of this week. No deposits will be made Thursday while the IRS prepares a big batch of 5 million direct deposits scheduled on Friday. The government's paper checks will start going out on May 9, a week earlier than previously announced. The rebates, which are expected to reach 130 million households, range up to $600 for an individual and $1,200 for a couple. Families with children will get $300 per child. The rebates were the centerpiece of the government's $168 billion economic stimulus package enacted in February and are designed to bolster consumer spending and lift the economy out of the doldrums. While many economists believe the country has fallen into a recession, President Bush last week disputed that contention, saying he believed it was a period of slower growth not an full-blown recession. "It's obvious our economy is in a slowdown. But fortunately we recognized the signs and took action," Bush said Friday in announcing that the rebates were going out a few days earlier than expected. The rebate checks are coming as the IRS wraps up sending out the normal refund checks to taxpayers based on their 2007 tax returns which taxpayers had to file by April 15. Thirty-five percent of those responding to an Associated Press-AOL Money & Finance Poll earlier this month said that they planned to ruse their refund checks this year to pay utility, credit card and other bills. That was up from 27 percent who said they planned to use their tax refunds to pay bills a year ago. The IRS said all checks for those who filed tax returns on time are scheduled to be deposited or mailed by July 11. The direct deposits and the paper checks are being processed by the last two digits of a taxpayers' Social Security number. For people receiving direct deposits, those with a Social Security number ending in 00 to 20 will have their economic stimulus payment deposited to their bank account by May 2. Those with Social Security numbers ending in 21 to 75 will get their direct deposits by May 9 and those with Social Security numbers ending in 76 to 99 getting their deposits by May 16.