SSI Recipients Will Now Get Coronavirus Payments Automatically

People who receive Supplemental Security Income benefits will automatically receive coronavirus stimulus payments, the Trump administration announced Wednesday. 

Instead of having to file a tax return or give the government their bank account number, the government will use the information it already has to deliver the $1,200 payments to SSI recipients. 

The new policy should make life easier for the 5 million Americans who get by solely on SSI, which provides a meager monthly benefit to people with disabilities and limited work histories. 

Congress created the coronavirus payments to help people survive the social distancing measures taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 24,000 Americans as of Wednesday afternoon. Everyone earning less than $75,000 is eligible for $1,200, plus $500 per child under 17. 

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act said that Treasury should use Social Security information to pay people who hadn’t filed a tax return for 2019 or 2018, but the Trump administration initially said everyone had to file one anyway. 

Wednesday announcement is the second time the administration has relaxed the tax return requirement for Social Security beneficiaries, which Democrats have fiercely criticized. 

The Treasury Department previously said that people receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Social Security Disability Insurance would get their coronavirus payments automatically. But that announcement left out SSI recipients, even though their benefits are also paid by the Social Security Administration. 

“SSI recipients with no qualifying children do not need to take any action in order to receive their $1,200 economic impact payment. The payments will be automatic,” Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said. 

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said he was glad the IRS listened to Democratic demands that SSI beneficiaries receive automatic payments. “People should not have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to get their stimulus checks,” Brown tweeted. “This is a huge win for SSI beneficiaries.”

If SSI recipients have children under 17, however, they still need to enter basic information on a new IRS web page in order to get an extra $500 per child. And that could prove difficult for some. 

Tira Williams, a 43-year-old SSI beneficiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, said she couldn’t figure out how to create an account to get the new IRS site to work. The agency created the site with the help of tax preparation companies like Intuit, the maker of TurboTax.

“After I realized I couldn’t make an account, I just left it alone,” Williams said. “It’s kind of complicated.”

Since she has a 12-year-old son at home, Williams’ inability to figure out the site could stop her from receiving an extra $500 ― and volunteer tax clinics are all closed due to the pandemic.

She had a double lung transplant in 2014, can’t work, and doesn’t want to leave her apartment with a dangerous respiratory illness lurking outside. 

“It’s really scary because I already have a weakened immune system, so with the coronavirus attacking the lungs, I don’t come outside at all.” 

 

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