On January 15, 2020, a Washington state resident became the first person in the United States with a confirmed case of COVID-19. By the end of the year, the United States had surpassed 20 million infections and more than 346,000 deaths.
The COVID-19 crisis has devastated much of the U.S. economy. In response, the federal government passed 2 COVID-19 relief bills intended to help those impacted by the economic slowdown. What’s more, the federal government is poised to pass a third relief bill.
A big piece of all 3 relief bills is the direct payments (“stimulus checks'') made to qualifying individuals by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Treasury Department. Whether you were eligible to receive the first 2 checks (and whether you’ll receive the third) depends, in part, on your income and tax filing status.
So how are people who receive Social Security benefits or workers’ compensation benefits affected by all of this?
Overview of stimulus checks
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) is a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill that was signed into law on March 27, 2020. Among other things, the CARES Act provided a one-time direct payment (“first stimulus check”) in the amount of $1,200 to most Americans with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $75,000 or less. The CARES Act also provided up to $500 for each child under the age of 17.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act is a $2.3 trillion bill that was signed into law on December 27, 2020. Among other things, the Consolidated Appropriations Act provided a one-time direct payment (“second stimulus check”) in the amount of $600 to most Americans with an AGI of $75,000 or less.
More recently, the U.S. Senate backed a $1.9 trillion stimulus package. The resolution will go to the House, where it is expected to pass and be signed into law. The details of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package are not yet known, but it is expected to provide for a third one-time direct payment (“third stimulus check”) in the amount of $1,400.
How do the stimulus checks affect Social Security benefits?
Millions of people receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits every month in the U.S. Most of these individuals automatically received both the first and second stimulus checks. What’s more, these individuals are expected to qualify and automatically receive the third stimulus check.
Qualifying to receive a stimulus check seems like good news. However, because SSI is a need-based program and eligibility is based partially on your countable resources, many SSI recipients have expressed concern over whether the stimulus check will affect their SSI payments.
The answer is: no.
The first and second stimulus checks (and likely the third) are not taxable income and the payments are excluded from your countable resources for purposes of determining eligibility for SSI benefits.
How do the stimulus checks affect workers’ compensation benefits?
Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that provides financial benefits to individuals who are injured on the job. These benefits are available to injured workers without regard to fault.
Although receipt of certain government benefits can affect the amount of workers’ compensation benefits you receive, the first and second stimulus checks do not affect your workers’ compensation benefits or eligibility in any way (and neither should the third). Similarly, receiving workers’ compensation benefits will not impact your eligibility to receive a stimulus check.
Things can get complicated really quickly when the government is involved.