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Treasury watchdog to investigate delay of Harriet Tubman $20 bill

This image provided by the Library of Congress shows Harriet Tubman, between 1860 and 1875. A Treasu
Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist and former slave, was to be featured on a redesigned $20 bill in 2020. But the new bill been postponed for security reasons, the Treasury secretary said.
(H.B. Lindsley / Library of Congress)

The U.S. Treasury Department’s watchdog said it will look into why the redesign of the $20 bill featuring abolitionist Harriet Tubman was delayed.

The Office of the Inspector General said in a letter on Friday to Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) that it will consider the matter as part of an audit that is about to begin. The Senate minority leader asked the watchdog this month to investigate the circumstances surrounding the decision to delay the redesign, “including any involvement by the White House.”

The Tubman redesign was initially scheduled for 2020, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. But Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said last month that it would be delayed eight years so the $10 bill and the $50 bill could be redesigned first. He cited security reasons — making it harder for the bills to be counterfeited. He said those bills will be introduced before a redesigned $20 bill.

The decision to put Tubman on the $20 bill was made by Mnuchin’s predecessor, then-Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, who served in the Obama administration.

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The Office of the Inspector General said it will look into whether security measures are properly being implemented into currency, among other things. As part of that audit it will specifically include a review of the process with the $20 bill. The effort is expected to take 10 months, according to the letter.

Schumer said he is pleased the matter will be reviewed quickly.

“There are no women, there are no people of color on our paper currency today, even though they make up a significant majority of our population. The $20 note was a long overdue way to recognize that disparity, and rectify it,” he said in a statement.

Schumer said the Trump administration’s decision to delay the new $20 bill design “has not been credibly explained.”

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The Treasury Department did not respond to a request for further comment.


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