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) has created an online Economic Impact Payment Information Center (https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/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 payment. We also encourage you to share this website with beneficiaries so that they can use it to stay informed.

Social Security created a document to help beneficiaries quickly and easily determine whether they need to take any action to receive the economic impact payment, or a payment for their qualifying child. The document also explains when the IRS, not the Social Security Administration, will issue the payment. Read and share the Economic Impact Payments for Social Security and SSI Recipients - Steps to Take and Schedule of Payments.

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 Posted 4/29/20)

Social Security addressed this question on their COVID-19 website. The guidance states, "Social Security will not consider economic impact payments as income for SSI recipients, and the payments are excluded from resources for 12 months."

Social Security COVID-19 website

Response Posted 4/24/20

Title II disability benefits are not financial need-based and this program has no resource limit. As a result, the economic impact payment has no effect on this cash benefit.

Response Posted 4/24/20

In a HUD Q&A the following guidance has been provided, "The pending stimulus payments directly to individuals and families would be excluded from income, as they are temporary, non-recurring payments (per 24 CFR 5.609)."

HUD COVID-19 FAQ

Response Posted 4/24/20

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) addressed this question in a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document that they posted by the on April 13, 2020. The guidance states, "Section 2201 of the CARES Act allows a refundable tax credit for 2020 to eligible individuals. It also directs the Internal Revenue Service to provide payments in 2020 as an advance refund of the credit to eligible individuals, called 'Recovery Rebates.'' The payments are not taxable income, and are therefore not countable in MAGI-based eligibility determinations. Separately, 26 U.S.C. § 6409 prohibits the counting of federal tax rebates or advance payments with respect to refundable tax credits as income, and, for 12 months following receipt, resources, in the eligibility determination of any federal needs-based program (such as Medicaid). Thus, the Recovery Rebates may not be counted as income, and, for 12 months, as resources, in non-MAGI financial eligibility determinations."

CMS Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), Public Law No. 116-127 and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Public Law No. 116-136 Frequently Asked Questions

American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, SEC. 6409

Response Posted 4/24/20

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) addressed this question in a letter dated April 11, 2020. The guidance states, "Pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 6409, these rebates are excluded from consideration as income in the month of receipt and as an asset for 12 months following receipt for SNAP purposes. A household would not be considered to have exceeded the income limit due to these payments because they are excluded, but receipt of these payments could affect a household's eligibility after 12 months if the payments cause the household to exceed the resource limit."

United States Department of Agriculture, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Questions and Answers, COVID-19, Set #1

American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, SEC. 6409

Response Posted 4/24/20

Unemployment Insurance Q&A

POMS SI 00830.230 states UI benefits are unearned income. Additional unemployment authorized by the CARES Act will not be treated differently than regular unemployment benefits as described at POMS SI 00830.230.

POMS SI 00830.230 Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)

Response Posted 4/24/20

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

Regular unemployment benefits are considered income. The temporary $600 per week federal enhancement to unemployment insurance provided by the CARES Act are not included in calculations of income. Since there are numerous subsidized housing programs, you should refer the beneficiary to their Public Housing Agency or property owner to confirm if this HUD guidance applies.

COVID-19 FAQs for Public Housing Agencies

Questions and Answers for Office of Multifamily Housing Stakeholders

Response Posted 4/29/20

Pandemic unemployment assistance payments, pandemic unemployment compensation, and pandemic emergency unemployment compensation authorized under CARES Act are considered unearned income for the purposes of determining a household's SNAP eligibility and benefit amount. These payments are treated consistently with non-pandemic unemployment benefits and not excluded from income for SNAP purposes.

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has received questions regarding if these payments may be treated the same as disaster unemployment assistance payments, which are available to individuals who are unemployed as a result of a major disaster and not receiving any other unemployment compensation. Disaster unemployment assistance is considered Federal major disaster and emergency assistance under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief Act, which is excluded from income and not counted as a resource for SNAP purposes. The pandemic unemployment payments authorized under the CARES Act do not meet the same criteria and are not excluded from income by law, and therefore must be counted as income for SNAP.

SNAP COVID-19 Questions and Answers, Set #1

Response Posted 6/3/20

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

As with all things Medicaid, it depends on the state. Section 6008 of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provides a temporary 6.2 percentage point increase to each qualifying state and territory's Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) under section 1905(b) of the Social Security Act (the Act) effective beginning January 1, 2020 and extending through the last day of the calendar quarter in which the public health emergency declared by the Secretary of Health and Human Services for COVID-19, including any extensions, terminates.

To qualify for the temporary FMAP increase, states must, through the end of the month when the public health emergency ends:

  • Maintain eligibility standards, methodologies, or procedures that are no more restrictive than what the state had in place as of January 1, 2020 (maintenance of effort requirement).
  • Not charge premiums that exceed those that were in place as of January 1, 2020
  • Cover, without impositions of any cost sharing, testing, services and treatments-including vaccines, specialized equipment, and therapies-related to COVID-19.
  • Not terminate individuals from Medicaid if such individuals were enrolled in the program as of the date of the beginning of the emergency period, or becomes enrolled during the emergency period, unless the individual voluntarily terminates eligibility or is no longer a resident of the state (continuous coverage requirement).

If a state opted for the increased FMAP, as noted above, they could not terminate individuals from Medicaid. You will need to conduct research in your state to determine if this rule applies.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services - Families First Coronavirus Response Act - Increased FMAP FAQs

Response Posted 4/24/20

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 during the national emergency. 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 has helpful information that you can share with beneficiaries if they are having trouble paying rent or have questions about the suspension of evictions during the national emergency.

Addressing Tenant Concerns During the COVID-19 National Emergency

Response Posted 4/29/20

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