Former president Donald Trump's decision to pause payroll taxes for certain employees – including temporary Census workers – has created a $7 million accounting mess for the bureau.
"The bureau was one of many federal agencies directed to stop collecting some employees' share of a payroll tax that helps fund the Social Security system in the final months of 2020," NPR reported Friday night. "Trump touted the push as a way to get 'bigger paychecks for working families' during the coronavirus pandemic. The former administration had said it would try to convince Congress to forgive the payroll taxes. But with no movement from lawmakers, the extra money essentially became a temporary loan that workers had to pay back eventually."
The Census bureau told NPR that $7,078,909 in payroll taxes were deferred for 177,964 temporary employees. The bureau determined that 147,619 employees owed less than it would cost to try to collect the debt from them, while it sent letters and emails to another 28,000.
One of the former employees who received the notices in September called it "kind of a shock ... so long after the fact."
"It was very upsetting in a way, like this is the thanks we get for all our efforts," said Alex Almeida of Phoenix, who finished his clerk job at a Census office in November 2020.