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By Katanga Johnson
WASHINGTON, April 29 (Reuters) - MetaBank and Fiserv won U.S. Treasury contracts to issue Visa Inc pre-paid cards loaded with coronavirus stimulus payments, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Industry groups had pushed for Treasury's Internal Revenue Service to allow this pre-paid form of stimulus payments, which is designed to help millions of Americans struggling due to coronavirus lockdowns, Reuters reported last week.
Fiserv and VISA declined to comment.
MetaBank did not respond to a request for comment.
Pre-paid cards would speed up disbursement of stimulus funds to Americans for whom the IRS has no bank account data, including several million who do not have a bank account.
The IRS began this month depositing payments, approved as part of a $2.3 trillion congressional relief package, directly into the bank accounts of taxpayers who received a refund on their 2018 or 2019 taxes and provided the agency with their direct deposit information.
According to the IRS's most recent figures, the administration of President Donald Trump has delivered 89.5 million payments worth nearly $160 billion to date. In total, the IRS expects to issue more than 150 million payments, a process that could extend into the end of summer or early fall.
Hobbled by budget cuts and obsolete technology, the IRS would otherwise struggle with the enormous workload involved in printing and distributing millions of checks and could take months to complete the job, Reuters has reported. Checks are also vulnerable to fraud.
A Treasury spokeswoman told Reuters on Tuesday that the department was actively exploring options for distributing the payments. The agency did not immediately respond to a request for more details on Wednesday. (Reporting by Katanga Johnson, Editing by Franklin Paul and Cynthia Osterman)