20 dollar bills lined up

COVID-19 Stimulus Payments and Public Benefits

Updated 9/9/2021

I have been receiving a lot of inquiries from individuals with disabilities regarding the 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.

On August 10, 2020 the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), an independent organization within the IRS, will 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”

On July 23, 2021 Social Security clarified how they will count income received due to the pandemic.  The most significant change is that during the pandemic they will not count  Unemployment, including the additional amount received through PUA or the state, as income or resources until the end of the pandemic.  In fact they are in the process of reviewing SSI claims and refunding benefits that were reduced due to Unemployment.  This means that if you receive SSI and Unemployment you will be receiving money from Social Security.  Once the pandemic has ended they will go back to the normal income counting rules regarding Unemployment.

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, however Social Security will not count your unemployment during the pandemic.  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

Francois Facon headshot and caption

‘BEING MAPFRE: Celebrating and Empowering Each Other through Diversity and Inclusion’

Work Without Limits is always proud to highlight the wonderful work being done by the inclusive employers in our Disability:IN Massachusetts network. This month, we are featuring the great effort initiated by MAPFRE USA’sBeing MAPFRE” committee. To raise disability awareness and foster a culture of inclusion within the company, the “Being MAPFRE” committee began as a dedicated way to increase disability inclusion and is now the Diversity & Inclusion Council.  In 2018, the company launched “Bring Your Whole Self to Work”, an interactive online forum for employees to be able to express their individuality. As part of “Bring Your Whole Self to Work”, the “Being MAPFRE” Executive Sponsors, Francois Facon, Executive Vice President and CFO and Steven Shiner, Senior Vice President, Claims, wrote articles focused on Disability Awareness. Below you will read the interview with Francois Facon and the important emphasis MAPFRE USA puts on being a diverse and inclusive employer.

 

In the spirit of MAPFRE’s Disability & Inclusion 2018 theme of “Bring Your Whole Self to Work”, can you share a little about yourself? What are some fun facts or interesting information about you that you’d like to share with employees?

First of all, let me introduce myself. I am the CFO of MAPFRE USA, went to Syracuse University and MIT for mechanical engineering studies, then went to business school and became a banker. I came to MAPFRE after spending 10 years at Zurich Insurance (in Zurich, Madrid and NYC). I love riding motorcycles (but my wife gave me the choice between her and my “V-max”), golfing, fishing and gardening.

An important part of who I am is that I am a diabetic. I would love to leave my diabetes at home when I show up at work in the morning, but I have not yet found a way to do so. I got my diabetes when I turned 17, which I took as being the end of the world…  Many years after, I consider my diabetes as an integral part of who I am and a big reason of my resiliency to problems life keeps throwing at me. Life is beautiful and having to “earn-it” makes it even more valuable and appreciated.

Fun facts? Hum, what about…When I had to inject insulin myself for the first time, I passed out (thankfully I was at the hospital at the time!). Now, I am a pro. I often inject myself in public (meetings, lunches, airplanes, etc.) without anyone noticing. I learned early on it’s not a good idea to drive a dirt bike while having low blood sugar levels… Don’t worry, I am much more careful now!

Why did you choose to be an Executive Sponsor of the “Being MAPFRE” committee? Why is being a part of this work important to you?

A large portion of the population has some sort of disability or are exposed to disability through family, friends or colleagues. I personally see disability as a strength and not a weakness, but too often people are shy or uncertain about the community reactions. Participating in the “Being MAPFRE” committee is my way to recognize this large population of employees and extend my offer to help.

What does workplace inclusion mean to you, whether it’s about disability inclusion or other types of diversity?

People with disabilities bring new perspectives and attitudes from which the entire community benefits. Our clients, vendors and agents are themselves a very diverse group of people. Being as diverse as they are makes not only business sense but also should facilitate strengthening our existing relationships and help us develop new ones.

Workplace inclusion is a journey that we undertook to make everybody feel comfortable and supported to come to work and perform at his/her best.

To our employees who identify as having a disability, what would you like them to know?

I must admit that when I was younger, I would tend to hide my diabetes, but I found myself in situations that put me at risk. People that were with me did not appreciate or understand that at times I had low blood sugar level (Hypoglycemia) which caused me on a few occasions to act a bit erratic (many of you would say that I am always that way…).

Hypoglycemia is a serious medical condition that can lead to a person passing out, or worse. I had a couple of events where I acted drunk (and was not!) and my friends just weren’t picking up on the signs. My wife was thankfully there to bail me out of these situations. My story of the dirt bike ended up with me crashing against some bushes (and sent to the hospital for cuts and bruises). I learned the hard way that before using motor vehicles, it is always good to check my blood sugar level (which I now always do).

I learned that when with others, it is both unfair to them and “dangerous” to me to not disclose my illness. Now, I always disclose my diabetes, especially when working and when traveling with new people. I also disclosed this to HR when interviewing for my current position here at MAPFRE. Everybody on the 4th floor of Main Street knows about my diabetes. When my sensor (blood monitor) starts beeping, no more than 5 seconds lapse before I am presented with some sort of food or drink. Everyone is incredibly supportive.

I also believe that having disclosed my diabetes allows me to take better care of myself, which is important for the long run. Health is important and we all need to take it seriously. Delaying getting medication or eating the wrong foods (because you do not want to impose or be noticed) is the wrong way to go.

Why do you think groups like the new Caregiver’s Network are important to have? What value do you see in affinity groups?

This is a great initiative as we can all benefit from each other’s experiences. When my son was diagnosed with Leukemia (we are a big family of people with disabilities…), the doctors and nurses did a fantastic job explaining the future challenges but none of this advice was as powerful as the stories we exchanged with families confronted with similar challenges.

Both the practical advice and the emotional support from others really got my wife and me through this challenging time.

It is interesting that now my son is facing the same dilemma as to whether to be open about his condition or not. I always encourage him to do so as the reaction of the people informed has always been good and supportive in my experience.

We’ve accomplished a lot of work in the last few years with respect to disability inclusion. What do you see as important to focus on now and in the future?

Indeed, we have made progress on this front as we are trying to demystify the taboos of disabilities. I would like to go much further and encompass all groups of people who may feel “different”, including ethnicity, sexual preference, religious beliefs, etc.