Answers to Your Questions about Coronavirus, CARES Act and Stimulus Payments
If someone is living at Assisted Living or a nursing home and receiving Medicaid, must they surrender that payment to the facility?
No, and here’s why: those economic impact payments are, according to the CARES Act, a tax credit. And tax law says that tax credits don’t count as “resources” for federal benefits programs, like Medicaid. So: when Congress calls these payments “tax credits” in the CARES Act, that means the government can’t seize them. Which means nursing homes and assisted living facilities can’t take that money from their residents just because they’re on Medicaid. And, if they took it already, get in touch with your state attorney general and ask them to help you get it back.
Who qualifies to receive a stimulus payment and how much will I receive?
Anyone who filed a tax return 2018 or 2019. Individuals with Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $75.000 or less will receive $1,200; married couples with an AGI of $150,000 or less will receive $2,400; and dependents under 17 receive $500. Single filers with income exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers with no children are not eligible.
What are qualified income levels based on?
There is no qualified minimum income threshold or requirement to receive the rebate. However, the rebate phases out at a 5 percent rate above adjusted gross incomes of $75,000 for single filers, $112,500 for heads of household, and $150,000 for joint filers.
Will I receive a payment if I’m a Social Security or disability beneficiary?
Yes, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries will automatically receive rebate payments even if they do not file federal income tax returns.
We are waiting for confirmation from the Treasury Department and Social Security Administration that they will allow Veterans Disability Compensation and Veterans Benefits pensions recipients who do not file income taxes also to automatically receive payments
If I get Social Security and SSI will I get two stimulus payments?
No, you will only receive one check.
Will stimulus payments be subject to federal income tax?
What about state income taxes?
Varies from state to state. Individuals should check with their state government.
If I owe money to IRS, will my rebate payment be garnished?
No, unless you owe back child support.
How do I claim my check?
You do not need to claim your check (unless you have not filed a tax return this year or last year) – IRS will send rebates automatically via direct deposit or to the address provided on your most recent tax return.
How long will it take for this check to be delivered?
Rebates sent via direct deposit will take a few weeks. Rebates sent via checks may take a few months.
Will I be taxed on this check?
No, rebates are not taxable.
Will I be eligible if I haven’t finished filing my 2018 taxes?
You need to have filed either a 2018 tax return or a 2019 tax return. If you have not filed either, you will not be eligible. You can file a 2019 tax return now to claim the rebate.
Will I be eligible if I have a lien against me, but I am in non-collect status?
Yes. Rebates will not be subject to garnishment, except if you owe back child support.
I withdrew my retirement in 2018 – so my income that year was inflated. Is there any waiver for one-time sources of income?
In this case, the taxpayer should file a 2019 tax return.
So, when can I expect my money?
Most individuals are expected to get their stimulus payments within “a few weeks,” according to public statements by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin.
Will my stimulus payment go right onto my government debit card, like my Social Security benefits are already delivered?
The Treasury Department hasn’t given details on whether these debit cards will be utilized for stimulus payments. It has advised that “recipients will receive these payments as a direct deposit or by paper check, just as they would normally receive their benefits.
Is it safe to go back to the dentist?
As of June 19, every state had allowed dentists’ offices to reopen for all procedures, according to the American Dental Association, which surveyed thousands of dentists earlier in June and found that patient volume is at nearly 60 percent of what it was before March 15, when dentists were told to shut down except for emergencies.
When calling to schedule an appointment, ask your dental office if they being clear about people not coming in if they have symptoms; Are they being strict about patients wearing masks? Are they making sure that the person who works on you is wearing a face shield and a mask; and what other measures are being taken to protect patients and staff from the spread of the virus?”
Many dentists are advising patients to wait outside or in their car until the dentist is ready to see them. They may take a patient’s temperature before allowing them to enter the office, they have removed magazines and toys from the waiting area, and have placed hand sanitizer throughout the office. They are also allowing more time between patients to sanitize rooms and surfaces.
What are the potential long-term effects of having COVID-19?
Because the coronavirus is still so new, scientists don’t know much about long-term effects. The best evidence comes from patients themselves, and some experience a variety of symptoms long after their infections have cleared.
Most people recover within a few weeks. For people who experience longer-term effects, the most common issues are bouts of exhaustion, headaches, anxiety and muscle aches that can last for at least several more weeks.
Patients who required intensive care, including those put on ventilators or kidney dialysis, can experience more serious issues.
Lung scarring can occur in people who developed pneumonia. Heart inflammation, irregular heartbeats, and worsening kidney and liver function have been reported as well. However, it’s too soon to know if those could be permanent problems.
Survivors who had long intensive-care stays sometimes need oxygen therapy or dialysis at home. Some also develop a condition called post-intensive care syndrome, which can include persistent muscle weakness and memory problems. That can happen after any critical illness and may be related to sedation and prolonged bed confinement during hospitalization.
Blood clots can also develop during and after COVID-19 infections, occasionally causing strokes. Even in less serious cases, blood thinners are prescribed and can require lifestyle changes to reduce risks of bleeding.
Most symptoms appear to eventually go away, said Dr. Thomas McGinn of the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research in New York, who was involved in one of the largest U.S. studies of COVID-19 patients.
“It’s just a matter of when. For some patients it may take longer than others,” McGinn said.
Can I get COVID-19 through my eyes or ears?
It’s possible through the eyes, but not likely through the ears.
As with the nose and mouth, doctors say the eyes may be a route of infection if someone with the virus coughs or sneezes nearby. Infection is also possible when rubbing your eyes with hands that have been exposed to the virus.
Tears from an infected person could also spread the virus.
Frequent hand washing, social distancing and the use of facial coverings in public are ways to keep the virus from spreading, including through the eyes.
Glasses may also offer added protection, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Health care workers are advised to use safety goggles when treating potentially infected patients.
Ears, on the other hand, are not believed to be a route of COVID-19 infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since I am sheltering in place, will phone calls to my doctor be covered under Medicare?
The CARES Act makes telehealth appointments more accessible to Medicare beneficiaries. This will allow seniors — who are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus — to avoid going to hospitals or doctors’ offices for routine care that can be provided virtually. The telehealth option will not replace in-person health care when more extensive work ups are needed for diagnosis, or for monitoring conditions, or when patients need in-office procedures, or surgery.
When a vaccine is developed, will Medicare cover the cost?
I am afraid of running out of my prescriptions before being able to get out to my pharmacy again.
The CARES Act enables the Medicare Part D prescription drug program to provide Medicare beneficiaries with a three-month supply of their medications.
What can a COVID-19 antibody test tell me?
An antibody test might show if you had COVID-19 in the recent past, which most experts think gives people some protection from the virus. The tests are different from the nasal swab tests that determine if you’re currently sick.
But studies are still underway to determine what antibody level would be needed for immunity. It’s also not yet known how long any immunity might last. For now, the tests are most helpful for researchers trying to track how the virus spreads in communities.
Dozens of companies are making rapid antibody tests to help identify people who had the virus and may have developed some immunity to it.
How should I clean and store my face mask?
Cloth face masks worn during the coronavirus pandemic should be washed regularly, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Public health experts recommend wearing a mask made from cotton fabric, such as T-shirts, or scarves and bandannas, when you are outside and unable to maintain social distancing from others.
The covering should be washed daily after use. It is best to clean your mask in a washing machine or with soap and hot water. The mask should be dried completely. Dry it in a hot dryer, if possible.
I may need to withdraw money from my 401k to pay my bills. Will I pay a penalty?
It allows individuals to take a loan up to $100,000 from their 401(k). IRAs don’t permit loans.
(Individuals can take a coronavirus hardship distribution up to $100,000 from a 401(k) or IRA without a 10% early withdrawal penalty and will have up to 3 years to pay the taxes or replace the funds in the account.
Food Insecurity and Seniors
How can homebound seniors get food assistance?
The CARES Act provided an additional $480 million in flexible congregate and home-delivered nutrition services for seniors; $20 million for Native American aging program nutrition services; and the bill relaxes dietary guidelines to ensure that local meal providers are able to accommodate the increasing demand while facing limitations in the food supply chain during the pandemic.
Additionally, the new expands the definition of “homebound” to clarify that older adults who are self-isolating are eligible to receive services.
Seniors or their caregivers should contact their local depts of Aging for help.
Is there any other help for seniors in the CARES Act?
Yes – $50 million to maintain housing stability and services for low-income seniors; and
Unemployment and Stimulus
Will additional unemployment benefits be subject to taxes?
Yes, all unemployment benefits are treated as taxable income for federal and state income tax purposes except for five states which exempt UE from their taxes (CA, PA, VA, NJ, OR)
Can you receive Social Security and Unemployment benefits at the same time?
Yes. Unemployment benefits are not counted as wages under the Social Security annual earnings test, so they won’t affect your Social Security benefits.
Is it safe to stay in hotels as re-openings get underway?
Take precautions. Call ahead to the hotel to see how they are working to minimize the risk of COVID-19. For example, are the staff wearing face coverings? How have the hotel’s cleaning practices been increased?
Check on-lone before making reservations since many hotels post their prevention steps on their websites. These include hand sanitizer stations in lobbies, disinfecting surfaces like elevator buttons more frequently and removing extra items in rooms, such as pens and paper. Breakfast buffets may also be replaced with meals. Social distancing, avoiding crowded elevators, taking stairs when possible, avoid common areas and dining out are some measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.
Is it safe to open mail and packages during the pandemic?
There is no evidence that COVID-19 is spreading through mail or parcels, according to the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of it is spread from droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, which are inhaled by people nearby. Health experts say the risks are very low that COVID-19 will remain on envelopes or packages and infect anyone who handles them. It’s still a good idea to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly — and avoid touching your face — after handling deliveries.