Polus Center Employment Now Initiative

Polus Center logoWork Without Limits partnered with the Polus Center on the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) Employment Now Initiative (ENI)

Employers attended a robust, 1-hour networking and practice webinar and met 4 Employment Now Initiative (ENI) candidates.

Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) Commissioner, David D’Arcangelo spoke about the benefits associated with employing individuals with visual impairments.

Candidates “practiced their pitch” and employers asked follow up and interview-like questions.

22 employers attended, representing 13 organizations!

Employers: If you are interested in forming a relationship with the Polus Center and the ENI for future cycles of candidates, connect directly with Jen Whitmore at jen_whitmore@meei.harvard.edu.

Participating Organizations and Employers:

 

AllWays Health Partners, Bay Cove, Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston University, Citizens Bank, CVS Health, Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston,  Harvard University, Public Consulting Group

Learn more about the Polus Center and ENI.

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COVID-19 Stimulus Payments and Public Benefits

Updated 8/5/2020

I have been receiving a lot of inquiries from individuals with disabilities regarding the upcoming stimulus payments and how they will affect their public benefits.

So here is what I know.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): If you receive SSDI or retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) or benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA), the receipt of the stimulus check will have no impact on your benefits at all.  It is not considered income or an asset for these programs and it will not be counted against you.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI): If you receive SSI from SSA, the stimulus payment will not be considered income and will not lower your SSI check for the month that you receive it.  It will also not be considered an asset for up to 12 months from receipt.  In other words, if you have more than $2,000 in assets one year or more after you received the stimulus check it will be counted and will stop your SSI cash benefits.  However, in the year that you receive the stimulus payment it will not.

On April 1, 2020, Congress instructed the Treasury department to coordinate with the VA and SSA to determine who is eligible to receive the stimulus payment.  Therefore, if you receive SSDI or retirement benefits from SSA, you will not have to file taxes to get the stimulus payment.  And, your stimulus payment will not be subject to income taxes.  For more on the Economic Impact Payments you can visit the IRS COVID-19 page.

On April 15, 2020, the Treasury announced that individuals who receive SSI will receive their Stimulus Payment automatically and it will be direct deposited into their bank account or to their Direct Express debit card.  However, if someone receiving SSI has minor dependents, they will still have to use the ‘Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here’ web portal to get the additional $500 payment for each of their dependents.  The deadline to use the Non-Filers portal has been extended to October 15th.

On May 18, 2020 the Treasury announced that holders of Direct Express cards will receive stimulus payments via a special Electronics Benefits Transfer (EBT) care.  This card is called the Economic Impact Payment (EIP) card.  The EIP card can be used to make purchases, access cash via in-network ATM’s, or transfer funds to a private bank account.  In order for the EIP card to have the correct amount of stimulus money, the Direct Express card holder must have met the May 5th deadline for using the non-filer link.

Starting August 10, 2020 the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), an independent organization within the IRS, will start to assist people in resolving certain issues related to their stimulus payments.  TAS can be reached at (877) 777-4778.  TAS will be providing assistance to individuals with five types of issues related to the Economic Impact Payment, they are:

  1. Payments for Dependents under age 17 as long as you used the Non-Filers Portal within the prescribed time limits.
  2. Injured Spouses
  3. Those with math errors on 2018 or 2019 returns
  4. Identify theft victims
  5. Surviving spouses or spouses of incarcerated individuals

Read more about this in The Washington Post article: “These are the five stimulus payment problems the Taxpayer Advocate Service will help the IRS resolve”

How should a representative payee use a beneficiary’s economic impact payment (EIP)? The EIP belongs to the Social Security or SSI beneficiary.  It is not a Social Security or SSI benefit.  A representative payee should discuss the EIP with the beneficiary.  If the beneficiary wants to use the EIP independently, the representative payee should provide the EIP to the beneficiary.  If the beneficiary asks the representative payee for assistance in using the EIP in a specific manner or saving it, the representative payee can provide that assistance outside the role of a representative payee.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Receipt of a stimulus payment will have no impact on SNAP benefits received or eligibility for SNAP.  Also, anyone eligible for SNAP benefits will automatically be raised to the maximum amount for the category they are in.  For example, if you receive SSI and your SNAP benefit was reduced to $16 due to work or other income, it will be raised to $194 maximum amount.

Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA): Stimulus payments will have no impact on the amount received or eligibility for Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) or Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children (EAEDC).

Housing and Urban Development (HUD): There will be no impact on HUD rent subsidies.  Your rent will not go up because of the stimulus payment.

Medicare: The stimulus payment will have no impact on premiums or eligibility for Medicare and will not affect Medicare Savings Plans (MSP) that pay Medicare premiums for those who are eligible.

Medicaid/MassHealth: Stimulus payments will have no impact on eligibility for Medicaid/MassHealth nor will Medicaid/MassHealth remove anyone who was eligible or became eligible for Medicaid/MassHealth during the pandemic and for one month after the emergency period ends.

Unemployment: Unemployment has been extended an additional 13 weeks beyond what the state normally allows.  In Massachusetts this means that unemployment went from a maximum of 26 weeks to a maximum of 39 weeks.  Benefits will also be raised by $600 per week for all individuals receiving unemployment.  If you receive SSI and have lost your job, you must apply for unemployment even if it causes your SSI to be stopped while receiving it.  However, with the additional $600 per week in unemployment you may be better off financially while receiving unemployment.  When your unemployment runs out, your SSI can be reinstated.  Remember in order to be eligible for unemployment in Massachusetts you must have earned at least $5,100 in the last 4 quarters that you worked.

Keep in mind that Unemployment Benefits are considered income for SNAP, TAFDC and EAEDC so the increase will result in lowered amounts of these benefits.

The increase in Unemployment will not be counted in the rent calculation for individuals in HUD funded housing, including Section 8.

It is important to remember that there are a few circumstances where you will not be eligible for the Stimulus Payment.

  1. If your income is higher than $75,000 per year. In this circumstance you will receive a lower amount based on your income.
  2. You are a college student who is claimed as a dependent on your parents income tax returns
  3. You owe Child Support. If you owe child support your Stimulus Payment will most likely be seized to pay against this debt.  If you receive SSI you should still apply for the Stimulus Payment using the IRS non-filers portal, but your check will not go to you.

Please Note:

Recently we were informed by our national contacts that they have been made aware that some banks are intercepting stimulus payments for those individuals who have defaulted on or have late private student loans, or who have overdue credit card payments or overdrawn bank accounts. Most recently, they report that nursing homes have intercepted stimulus payments for Medicaid residents, claiming that these payments should be kept as cost of care.  If either event occurs, please contact your State Consumer Affairs Office, Elder Affairs Office, or your local legal services agencies for assistance. Some states, including Massachusetts, but not all will prevent banks from intercepting stimulus payments and Elder Affairs may intercede with nursing home intercepts. The CARES Act does not support any of these intercepts.*

Helpful Links

Here are some links that will make it easier to access the stimulus payment and UI benefits discussed in this article.

Contact Us: If you receive SSI or SSDI and have any questions or concerns about your benefits during the pandemic or any time, please do not hesitate to contact the benefits counseling team at Work Without Limits. We are here to support you. Please find our contact information and other COVID-19 related resources on our website.

Stay safe and be well!

* Source: Ray Cebula, Cornell University, K.Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability

Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) Employer Challenge

MCB Employer Challenge logo

There is an enormous untapped talent pool of job seekers in Massachusetts. They happen to have disabilities. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities in MA is 2x higher than it is for those without disabilities.* The unemployment rate specifically for people with visual impairments is even higher.

For that reason...

Launching this summer, the MCB Employer Challenge will ask employers to Do One More Thing to reduce stigma and increase employment for people with visual impairments.

More information coming soon! 
Special thanks to the Employer Advisory Group (EAG) that continues to provide invaluable campaign feedback and direction:

 

*U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy