Nearly $173 million of stimulus money went unclaimed in California

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(KDVR) – California’s economy is missing out on a hefty chunk of spending or saving from federal stimulus money.

Residents in the Golden State refused, paid back or failed to cash 130,243 of the first-round $1,200 stimulus checks issued under President Trump’s administration at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Internal Revenue Service records obtained by the KDVR Data Desk.

That means $172,764,899 went unclaimed in California — more than any other state in the nation.

Nationally, Americans failed to claim 1,315,717 checks of the first-round stimulus, amounting to $1.77 billion from that first round. For comparison, construction of the new Las Vegas Raiders NFL stadium cost $1.8 billion.

States with the largest populations naturally had larger amounts of unclaimed checks and unclaimed money: Florida followed California with 96,342 unclaimed checks and Texas with 93,918. New York and Pennsylvania came next.


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However, when you look at the rate of unclaimed checks compared to population, things shake out a little differently. California and Texas both had low refusal rates, while Pennsylvania had the highest.

Low-population states had the smallest total numbers of uncashed checks. Wyoming had 2,668 uncashed, followed by the District of Columbia, Alaska, Vermont and North Dakota.

Pennsylvania’s refusal rate — 1.17% of stimulus checks uncashed — was nearly double Mississippi’s rate of 0.67%, which was the lowest in the nation.


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Despite Pennsylvania being a Democratic-voting state and Mississippi a Republican-voting state, rates of check refusal were fairly evenly spread among the political spectrum. The average percentage of refused checks in states that voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election was on par with those that voted for Joe Biden, with Trump states refusing 0.83% of first-round stimulus checks on average, while Biden states refused 0.85%.

The ten states with both the highest and lowest percentages of refused checks were similarly matched in terms of political leanings, too.

Number of unclaimed stimulus checks by state

State
Number of unclaimed first round stimulus checks
Total dollar amount
Unclaimed percentage of checks
Unclaimed percentage of stimulus dollars

Alabama
17,857
$24,007,697
0.71%
0.57%

Alaska
6,028
$4,010,422
0.85%
0.66%

Arizona
32,201
$43,636,208
0.92%
0.74%

Arkansas
11,239
$15,350,947
0.73%
0.58%

California
130,243
$172,764,899
0.72%
0.58%

Colorado
23,555
$30,747,252
0.86%
0.67%

Connecticut
3,921
$17,933,332
0.82%
0.66%

Delaware
3,921
$5,180,014
0.79%
0.63%

District of Columbia
2,793
$3,520,885
0.85%
0.78%

Florida
96,342
$130,193,139
0.85%
0.7%

Georgia
37,135
$49,856,649
0.72%
0.58%

Hawaii
6,802
$9,042,446
0.93%
0.73%

Idaho
7,138
$9,644,194
0.83%
0.61%

Illinois
49,953
$65,430,205
0.83%
0.65%

Indiana
32,478
$44,625,521
0.98%
0.77%

Iowa
14,567
$19,877,027
0.95%
0.72%

Kansas
12,921
$17,084,652
0.94%
0.7%

Kentucky
18,048
$25,321,946
0.77%
0.63%

Louisiana
16,693
$22,395,159
0.71%
0.57%

Maine
5,629
$7,413,500
0.74%
0.58%

Maryland
22,992
$30,748,685
0.8%
0.67%

Massachusetts
28,680
$37,076,315
0.87%
0.71%

Michigan
49,085
$64,755,244
0.97%
0.75%

Minnesota
23,666
$30,813,811
0.87%
0.65%

Mississippi
10,395
$14,042,905
0.67%
0.55%

Missouri
28,168
$38,351,235
0.91%
0.72%

Montana
5,339
$7,130,382
0.95%
0.73%

Nebraska
7,808
$10,209,999
0.85%
0.62%

Nevada
13,107
$17,496,066
0.82%
0.67%

New Hampshire
6,078
$7,858,413
0.86%
0.66%

New Jersey
33,599
$43,694,522
0.81%
0.64%

New Mexico
9,249
$12,332,402
0.86%
0.69%

New York
78,256
$103,055,209
0.79%
0.66%

North Carolina
38,763
$51,446,186
0.75%
0.59%

North Dakota
3,507
$4,640,904
0.95%
0.71%

Ohio
49,370
$67,776,584
0.8%
0.66%

Oklahoma
16,366
$22,055,552
0.84%
0.65%

Oregon
18,346
$24,055,226
0.8%
0.66%

Pennsylvania
76,523
$117,391,909
1.17%
1.07%

Rhode Island
4,384
$5,659,296
0.77%
0.62%

South Carolina
18,818
$25,209,769
0.72%
0.57%

South Dakota
4,032
$5,405,651
0.91%
0.68%

Tennessee
26,129
$35,278,962
0.74%
0.59%

Texas
93,918
$128,813,130
0.71%
0.56%

Utah
10,476
$14,248,983
0.77%
0.55%

Vermont
3,298
$4,285,142
0.96%
0.74%

Virginia
29,995
$39,469,830
0.75%
0.59%

Washington
31,400
$41,352,631
0.86%
0.67%

West Virginia
7,786
$10,383,796
0.8%
0.62%

Wisconsin
27,033
$36,270,705
0.92%
0.71%

Wyoming
2,668
$3,568,926
0.95%
0.71%

United States
1,315,717
$1,772,914,464
0.81%
0.65%

So what happens to this money? The Data Desk learned that unclaimed stimulus funds are returned to the federal government.

The funding from the CARES Act voids if physical checks remain uncashed after 12 months. The IRS said it had completed first-round checks in May 2020, meaning most of this money will sink back into IRS coffers.

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