News Updates

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Over the past several weeks, many federal agencies have issued guidance about the effect of COVID-19 support (e.g., the economic impact payment and unemployment insurance) on public benefits. We have compiled much of this guidance in a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document. We will add to this FAQ and update answers as federal agencies issue new guidance.

Click Here to download the COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions Word Document

Economic Impact Payment Q&A

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), on behalf of the Department of Treasury, has issued three economic impact payments. Social Security determined that these payments are pandemic-related disaster assistance. When making SSI eligibility and benefit amount determinations, Social Security excludes these payments as income and as a resource. For Title II purposes, the payments are not relevant because they are not earnings.

The IRS based the actual amount of an economic impact payment on income. The three payments are:

  • Beginning in March 2020, the first round of payments totaled up to $1,200 per individual, $2,400 for couples filing jointly, and $500 per qualifying child.
  • Beginning in December 2020, the second round of payments totaled up to $600 per individual, $1,200 for couples filing jointly, and $600 per qualifying child.
  • Beginning March 2021, the third round of payments totaled up to $1,400 for individuals, $2,800 for couples filing jointly, and $1,400 per qualifying child.

The IRS has created an online Economic Impact Payment Information Center. On that page, you will find detailed information about who is eligible and the steps, if any, people need to take to get the payment. We encourage you to review this information so that you are able to provide general information to beneficiaries about the payments. We also encourage you to share this website with beneficiaries so that they can use it to stay informed.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Economic Impact Payment Information Center

IRS Economic Impact Payments

Economic Impact Payments for Social Security and SSI Recipients - Steps to Take and Schedule of Payments

Response Updated 8/9/21
Unemployment Insurance Q&A

Social Security normally treats UI benefits as unearned income under POMS SI 00830.230. However, there is an exception to this general rule because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under an emergency message, EM-20014 REV 3, during the pandemic period, Social Security will exclude all regular and pandemic-related unemployment benefits from countable income and resource determinations. The pandemic period began in each state in March 2020. It ends whenever the state's pandemic UI benefits end. This date differs by state. A list of state ending dates is provided by another emergency message, EM-21050.

POMS SI 00830.230 Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Effect of COVID-19-Related Financial Assistance on SSI Income and Resources

Special Processing Instructions for Applying Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Income and Resource Exclusions to Pandemic-related Disaster Assistance

Response Updated 1020/21

Title II disability beneficiaries will experience no effect on their cash benefit eligibility or payment amount because of receiving regular UI or the additional unemployment authorized under the CARES Act since Title II disability benefits are not means-tested.

POMS DI 10501.001 Meaning of SGA and Scope of Chapter

Response Posted 4/24/20

Special Pay during the Pandemic

In the context of SSI earned income policy and SSI wage reporting, COVID-related increases in wages are earned income. Social Security will evaluate the wages following normal policy. POMS SI 00820.100 provides examples of pay that Social Security would consider wages, including special payments received because of employment.

POMS SI 00820.100 Wages - General

Response Posted 4/24/20

When evaluating earnings and work activity for Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) decisions Social Security determines whether the income represents the individual's own productivity. For example, if an individual is not working but his or her salary continues, Social Security does not consider that income when determining countable earnings for SGA determinations.

When a beneficiary is working and is receiving bonuses, hazard pay, temporary raises, incentive payments, etc., to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, Social Security will consider this income directly related to the individual's own productivity unless the individual presents evidence to the contrary. Social Security will evaluate any such evidence according to existing policy. See, POMS DI 10505.010.

POMS DI 10505.010 Determining Countable Earnings

Response Posted 4/24/20

Other Benefit and Work Incentive Related COVID-19 Information

On January 6, 2021, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) released one, comprehensive FAQ document inclusive of all of the COVID-19 FAQs issued by CMS. These COVID 19 FAQs are now available at medicaid.gov. This provided further clarification about the enrollment protections for most Medicaid beneficiaries established in 2020.

States receive an increase in Medicaid funding (referred to as "the temporary FMAP increase") if they agree to keep most Medicaid beneficiaries enrolled in Medicaid and halt most terminations during the Department of Health and Human Services' declared COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). These requirements are often referred to as "maintenance of effort" requirements. The PHE is still in effect as of the date of this update.

This state requirement can be met by maintaining enrollment in the current coverage category or, in specific circumstances listed below, moving the recipient to another coverage category:

  1. For beneficiaries whose Medicaid coverage meets the definition of MEC (minimum essential coverage) as of or after March 18, 2020, the state must continue to provide Medicaid coverage that meets the definition of MEC (minimum essential coverage), except as provided in #2 below.
  2. 2For beneficiaries described in paragraph #1 above, whom the state subsequently determines are eligible for coverage under a Medicare Savings Program eligibility group, the state satisfies the requirement if it furnishes the medical assistance available through the Medicare Savings Program.
  3. 3For beneficiaries whose Medicaid coverage as of or after March 18, 2020 does not meet the definition of MEC (minimum essential coverage) but does include coverage for testing services and treatments for COVID-19, including vaccines, specialized equipment, and therapies, the state must continue to provide Medicaid coverage that includes such testing services and treatments.
  4. For beneficiaries not described above, the state must continue to provide at least the same level of medical assistance as was provided as of or after March 18, 2020.

For more information on the CMS FAQs most relevant to Title II and SSI beneficiaries who are interested in employment or employed, please review VCU's Medicaid Maintenance of Effort-Summary of CMS FAQ Document.

Yes. States may still charge premiums during the emergency period without violating section 6008(b)(2) of the FFCRA. However, a state may not terminate beneficiaries' eligibility or coverage due to unpaid premiums during the public health emergency period (PHE) or terminate individuals' eligibility or coverage due to non-payment of premiums incurred during the PHE after the expiration of the emergency period.

Effective the month in which the emergency ends, a state may resume implementation of its premium policy under 42 C.F.R. § 447.55(b)(2), which allows for termination after 60 days of non-payment. While states cannot terminate beneficiaries' eligibility or coverage following the end of the PHE for unpaid premiums accumulated during the PHE, states can terminate beneficiaries for unpaid premiums incurred prior to the PHE. To implement this termination, states would not be able to count the PHE time period as part of the 60 days of non-payment and states would have to provide beneficiaries with advance written notice of the termination (see 42 C.F.R. §§ 435.917 and 431.206–.214) and provide fair hearing rights (see 42 CFR § 431.220(a)).

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services-COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for State Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Agencies

Response Updated 8/9/21

Yes, the HUD publication Addressing Tenant Concerns During the COVID-19 National Emergency (https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/Housing/documents/MF_Tenant_Concerns_COVID-19_Brochure.pdf) explains that rent payments are still due on the usual date. If a beneficiary had a decrease in income or change in circumstances that will make it difficult for him or her to pay rent on time, he or she should contact their landlord right away. This HUD publication and the HUD website link below contain helpful information that you can share with beneficiaries if they are having trouble paying rent.

Addressing Tenant Concerns During the COVID-19 National Emergency

HUD Resources for Renters

Response Updated 9/4/20

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Social Security took unprecedented measures to protect both the public and its employees. These measures included closing more than 1,200 field offices to in-person service, allowing Social Security employees to work remotely, and pausing certain actions that could have resulted in a reduction, suspension, or termination of benefits or payments under titles II, VIII, or XVI of the Social Security Act (Act).

The decision to defer certain workloads and resulting overpayment debt collections protected benefits during a critical time in the COVID-19 pandemic. Examples of deferred workloads include Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Redeterminations; Limited Issues involving SSI entitlement; SSI and Title II Post-eligibility changes; Medical CDR Decisions (Cessations); Work CDR Decisions (Cessations); Age 18 Redeterminations; Disability Hearing Unit Determinations; certain Insufficient Evidence Determinations; Expedited Reinstatement; Non-disability hearings; and late filing and failure to appear dismissals.

Beginning on August 31, 2020, Social Security resumed these workloads, including certain overpayment debt collections that were not manually processed since mid-March. As Social Security resumes these workloads, the agency anticipates identifying a number of overpayments that they would have stopped earlier had they not deferred certain workloads due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Social Security issued a new rule to streamline the overpayment waiver process for qualifying overpayments. Under this rule, the agency may waive recovery of certain overpayment debts accrued between March 1 and September 30, 2020, using a more efficient waiver process for qualifying debts identified by December 31, 2020. Social Security will not apply the streamlined waiver process to overpayment debts resulting from fraud or similar fault, or involving misuse of benefits by a representative payee, nor will the process apply to debts that were processed timely.

It is important to note that under our rules individuals still need to request a waiver. Individuals may make a verbal request over the phone, and local field offices will assist them. If the qualifying overpayment accrued between March 1 and September 30, 2020, Social Security will presume the individual was without fault in causing the overpayment and will determine recovery would be against equity and good conscience, without requiring the individual to provide additional information. Overpayment notices we mail beginning August 31, 2020, will include language advising recipients they may call their local Social Security office (https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp) to request a waiver. The telephone number for the local office also will be in the overpayment notice and is available at the Social Security office locator (https://www.ssa.gov/locator/) on Social Security's website.

Individuals may also request a waiver for overpayment debts that do not qualify under our new rule, although the normal waiver process would apply.

COVID-19 Webpage

Response Posted 9/18/20

State and local programs are currently taking applications from renters and landlords to distribute funds from the U.S. Department of Treasury's Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program. The ERA program allows local programs to cover rent, utilities, and home energy costs. This includes electricity, gas, fuel oil, water and sewer, and trash removal. If the landlord normally pays for utilities or home energy costs, these are counted as part of the rent.

Rental assistance may also cover:

  • Reasonable late fees (if not included in rental or utility debt);
  • Home internet service; and
  • Moving expenses and other rental-related fees (such as security deposits, application fees, or screening fees) for families who have to move

Some programs may also provide housing counseling, case management, legal representation, and other housing stability services.

Federal Help with Paying Rent

Response Posted 8/9/21

A Special Enrollment Period to enroll into an Affordable Care Act Marketplace health insurance plan is in effect from February 15, 2021 to August 15, 2021. In addition, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 increases the premium tax credits for all income brackets for coverage years beginning in 2021 and 2022. Of note, most people across all household income levels will see lower premiums as a result of receiving more tax credits to reduce plan prices. Those with household incomes from 100% to 150% FPL have $0 premium plans (after tax credits) available to choose from when considering options and selecting a plan. Finally, taxpayers who receive Unemployment Insurance benefits (UI) during any week beginning in 2021 may be eligible to receive premium tax credits to help pay for a 2021 plan.

American Rescue Plan and the Marketplace

Marketplace Special Enrollment Period State-by-State Premium Savings

Response Posted 8/9/21

The American Recovery Plan Act of 2021 provides temporary premium assistance for COBRA continuation coverage for Assistance Eligible Individuals (explained below). COBRA allows certain people to extend employment-based group health plan coverage, if they would otherwise lose the coverage due to certain life events such as loss of a job. Individuals may be eligible for premium assistance if they are eligible for and elect COBRA continuation coverage because of their own or a family member's reduction in hours or an involuntary termination from employment. This premium assistance is available for periods of coverage from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021.

The COBRA premium assistance provisions apply to all group health plans sponsored by private-sector employers or employee organizations (unions) subject to the COBRA rules under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). They also apply to plans sponsored by State or local governments subject to the continuation provisions under the Public Health Service Act. The premium assistance is also available for group health insurance required under state mini-COBRA laws.

An Assistance Eligible Individual is a COBRA qualified beneficiary who meets the following requirements during the period from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021:

  • Is eligible for COBRA continuation coverage by reason of a qualifying event that is a reduction in hours or an involuntary termination of employment (not including a voluntary termination);
  • Elects COBRA continuation coverage; and
  • Not eligible for Medicare or most group health coverage.

If an individual is eligible for premium assistance, but paid in full for periods of COBRA continuation coverage beginning on or after April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021, they should contact the plan administrator or employer sponsoring the plan to discuss a credit against future payments (or a refund in certain circumstances). In addition, a qualified beneficiary whose qualifying event was a reduction in hours or an involuntary termination of employment prior to April 1, 2021 and who did not elect COBRA continuation coverage when it was first offered prior to that date or who elected COBRA continuation coverage but is no longer enrolled may have an additional election opportunity at this time.

FAQs about COBRA Premium Assistance Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

Response Posted 8/9/21

These monthly payments are advanced payments of the Child Tax Credit. Social Security excludes any Child Tax Credit payments from countable income. Social Security also excludes these payments as a countable resource for 12 months. The IRS will pay half the total credit amount in advance monthly payments beginning July 15. The tax filer will claim the other half when filing the 2021 income tax return. These changes apply to tax year 2021 only.

To qualify for advance Child Tax Credit payments, an individual — and spouse, if filing a joint return — must have:

  • Given the IRS their information in 2020 to receive the Economic Impact Payment using the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool; and
  • A main home in the United States for more than half the year (the 50 states and the District of Columbia) or file a joint return with a spouse who has a main home in the United States for more than half the year; and
  • A main home in the United States for more than half the year (the 50 states and the District of Columbia) or file a joint return with a spouse who has a main home in the United States for more than half the year; and
  • Made less than certain income limits.

The IRS will use information provided by the individual earlier to determine eligibility and automatically enroll the individual for advance payments. No additional action needs to be taken to get the advance payments.

SI 00830.060 Federal Tax Refunds and Advanced Tax Credits for SSI Income Purposes

SI 01130.676 Federal Tax Refunds and Advanced Tax Credits for SSI Resources

Advance Child Tax Credit Payments in 2021

Response Posted 8/9/21

Changes in How Certain COVID-19 Financial Assistance Affects SSI Q&A

Social Security no longer counts the financial assistance listed below against SSI eligibility and payment amount. They are reviewing SSI claims and other SSI records going back to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to restore SSI payments for people whose SSI was affected by receiving any of the assistance listed below.

  • State Stimulus Payments (Some exclusions may apply.)
  • Unemployment Assistance (also includes regular unemployment)
  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): Loan Forgiveness to Employers and Self Employed Individuals
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program: Loans/Grants to Employers and Self-Employed Individuals/Grants
  • Coronavirus Food Assistance Program – Direct Payments to Farmers and Ranchers
  • COVID-19 Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program
  • COVID-19 Funeral Assistance
  • Emergency Rental Assistance Fund
  • Emergency Assistance for Rural Housing/Rural Rental Assistance
  • Homeowner Assistance Fund
  • Housing Assistance and Supportive Services Programs for Native Americans
  • Tribal Payments from the Coronavirus Relief Fund and the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds
  • Supporting Foster Youth and Families
  • Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund
  • Emergency Assistance to Children and Families through the Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund
  • Farm Loan Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Rancher
  • USDA Assistance and Support for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers, Ranchers, Forest Land Owners and Operators, and Groups

COVID-19 Webpage

Response Posted 8/9/21

In most cases, the SSI beneficiary does not need to do anything. If Social Security does not need any information from the beneficiary to restore the SSI payment, they will restore the SSI payment and will mail a letter explaining the change. Social Security will send the letter to the most recent address available. If the beneficiary has an appointed representative, or a representative payee, they will also send this information to the representative.

If Social Security needs information from the beneficiary first or needs to take a new SSI claim, they will mail the beneficiary a letter. The letter will explain that Social Security needs to talk with the beneficiary at a scheduled appointment. If the SSI stopped because the beneficiary received or still receives the assistance above and moved since the SSI stopped, the beneficiary should call the local Social Security office to report the move and talk with them.

COVID-19 Webpage

Response Posted 8/9/21

Social Security will contact the individual by mail and tell them what they need to do. The individual does not need to call before hearing from Social Security unless they have moved since the claim was denied.

COVID-19 Webpage

Response Posted 8/9/21

COVID-19 Websites to Watch

As the coronavirus pandemic evolves, Federal, State, and local governments are taking steps to support citizens with the financial toll of the pandemic. Changes are happening daily, in some cases hourly. To help you stay up-to-date, we have curated a list of COVID-19 Federal government websites that you can refer to for information. Remember that many public benefits are administered through the States and territories (e.g. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, Medicare Savings Programs, Unemployment Insurance, etc.), as a result we encourage you to monitor State and local public benefit websites as well.

Federal Benefit Agencies

Social Security COVID-19 website Housing and Urban Development (HUD) COVID-19 website United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) COVID-19 website USDA SNAP State by State COVID-19 Waivers Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) - Medicare COVID-19 website Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) - Medicaid COVID-19 website

Other Federal Websites

Internal Revenue Service COVID-19 website Department of Labor, CareerOneStop COVID-19 website Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act and COVID-19 USA.gov COVID-19 website

COVID-19 Federal Legislation

Families First Coronavirus Response ActCoronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, CARES Act