People who still have stimulus checks and money from other pandemic programs in their bank accounts won’t face a loss of Supplemental Security Income benefits, thanks to a policy reversal from the Social Security Administration.
The agency announced last week, with little fanfare, that stimulus checks, unemployment benefits, emergency rental assistance and other benefits won’t count against eligibility at all ― and that the agency would restore any benefits it had withheld.
“We 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 [on a list of programs],” the agency said.
Eight million Americans receive monthly Supplemental Security Income benefits, which Congress created in 1974 for elderly, blind and disabled people. But lawmakers haven’t updated the program in decades. Monthly benefits average $584, and can be reduced if a recipient has more than $2,000 in their bank account.
And more SSI recipients may have exceeded the asset limit after Congress sent out three rounds of checks worth $1,200, $600 and $1,400 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Since the checks were technically tax credits, by law they were not supposed to count against eligibility for federal benefit programs ― but only for 12 months, meaning any SSI recipients who’d saved the money could have faced penalties this year.
Notably, the policy change occurred after President Joe Biden fired the head of the Social Security Administration, a Donald Trump appointee who had refused to resign until his term ended in 2025.
Groups such as the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives pushed for the change.
“I think SSA’s policy change is going to be very helpful to many senior citizens and people with disabilities,” Stacy Cloyd, director of policy and administrative advocacy with NOSSCR, said.
Joseph Morris, a 67-year-old SSI recipient in Philadelphia, told HuffPost his benefits had gone back to normal this month after the Social Security Administration reduced his payment by 10% because he’d exceeded the $2,000 asset limit. Morris received a letter explaining the change, but he said he would keep a close eye on his account.
“The first day of the month, I will check to make sure the full amount is deposited,” he said.