Pandemic-Related Financial Assistance Won’t Count Against Your SSI Payment
In a normal year, countable income can count against your SSI payments, or even disqualify you from receiving disability assistance.
In the past year, all of that has changed. During the pandemic, almost everyone received financial assistance to some degree. The financial assistance those individuals received would normally be considered countable income. Thankfully, due to a recent update by the SSA, this is not the case.
What is Countable Income?
Countable income is any income an individual receives that is not considered an appropriate exclusion.
Appropriate exclusions include income that cannot be used as, or for, food or shelter. Examples of appropriate exclusions include an individual receiving help to pay medical bills, receiving free medical care, or receiving money from social services as a repayment of money the individual previously spent.
Some items that are normally considered income might not be counted when the SSA is determining an individual’s SSI. These exclusions include:
- The first $20 of unearned income an individual receives in a month
- The first $60 of irregular, unearned income in a quarter
- The first $30 of irregular, earned income in a quarter
- The first $65 per month of earned income
- Income used or planned to be used to help a blind or disabled individual be able to support himself or herself, earned or unearned
- Need-based assistance from state or local government
- HUD program rent subsidies or supplemental nutrition assistance (formerly food stamps)
- Earned income from work expenses to assist the disabled and blind
The SSA determines your countable income on a monthly basis, and then subtracts that from the maximum Federal benefit you would be allowed to arrive at what your monthly payment will be.
As of now, the maximum Federal benefit in 2021 is $794 for an individual, $1,191 for an individual with an eligible spouse, and $397 for an essential person (who is 62+ years, disabled, blind, or has enough work credits).
For example, if your countable income each month was $200, and you were applying for individual social security benefits, your monthly fee would be calculated as follows:
$794 (maximum Federal benefit/ month) – $200 (your countable income/ month) = $594/ month.
The Maximum Federal benefit increases by a small percentage each year to account for inflation and the rise of living expenses.
The Rules Have Changed
The good news is, the rules have changed about what is considered countable income, due to the pandemic and the amount of relief funds individuals received.
This will increase the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) that many individuals receive, and may make some persons eligible to receive this income if they did not previously due to their countable income being too high.
In the past, the SSA considered any cash an individual received for food or shelter to be countable income. Yet, during the COVID-19 pandemic, most individuals received substantial help for their food and shelter needs.
To prevent this from counting against individuals who need the SSI as well, the SSA has now made it so that the following types of payments received will NOT count towards an individual’s countable income, which would decrease the amount received in SSI.
- Economic Impact Payments (EIP)
- 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 Ranchers
- USDA Assistance and Support for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers, Ranchers, Forest Land Owners and Operators, and Groups
**The above list is from https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/categories/monthly-benefits-and-other-financial-help/
How This Affects You
If you were denied SSI when you applied, or if your payment was reduced because of the assistance you received, check the categories listed above to see if you may qualify for more assistance.
If some of your income is no longer considered countable income, then you can appeal to us at Lowery Law Group to help you get the SSI you are now owed.
Though the SSA is currently reviewing claims that date back to the beginning of the pandemic, and should give you the money you are owed, this can take several months or more.
Additionally, when the SSA does contact you, they might request more information before you are able to receive the rest of your SSI payment.
We are here to help you expedite this process and get the assistance you need during these trying times. We can help you take the necessary next steps to ensure you receive the full amount you are entitled to, as soon as possible.
If you have questions about your disability or whether your Long COVID diagnosis might qualify you for disability benefits, contact Lowery Law Group at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (843) 991-0733. There is no fee for a free consultation regarding your claim. Lowery Law Group is experienced in handling cases in South Carolina as well as Georgia.