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Even if Congress meets its goal of finishing a stimulus bill before March, it is likely to take until June for the government to start sending out the millions of rebate checks that would be the plan’s centerpiece. It would take a couple more months before all the checks could be mailed.

The IRS — and its computer system — is focused on processing tax returns for 2007, and will be busy until May.

“It is remarkable that the world’s leading economic power can’t get checks out the door faster than that,” Peter Orszag, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, told senators at a hearing Tuesday. “But it’s a reflection of the fact that IRS’s [technology] infrastructure is in a state that’s under pressure and consumed, again, with the normal tax-filing season.”

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