How Do the Economic Impact Payments Impact Recipients of Government Benefits?*

In the Berks County / Reading area, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused as many problems as almost anywhere else. Even the government’s attempts at relief have caused a bit of confusion. One of the benefits of the CARES Act has been the Economic Impact Payments, lump sums of money that have been distributed to U.S. citizens of all economic levels. People receiving social benefits, such as Medicaid, Social Security, VA benefits, and others, are concerned about how the payments affect their benefits.

These payments (also known as “stimulus payments”) are considered tax refunds (even if you don’t pay federal taxes), and are, therefore, counted as lump-sum payments. They are generally not considered income as such. However, in some cases, these payments can be intercepted to pay debts.

For Pennsylvanians, the PA Department of Aging has this reminder:

“We have received complaints that involved residents of long-term care facilities being told that their federal stimulus checks count as income that must be surrendered, in part or in whole, to pay for services. What we said then, we repeat now: Residents should know that this is not true,” said Pennsylvania State Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman Margaret Barajas of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging. “These stimulus payments are issued with the general expectation that long-term care residents – like all citizens receiving checks – will make their own choices about how to spend their money.”

DHS has issued guidance for how economic impact payments affect the eligibility of those receiving long-term care for Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program, Medical Assistance (MA). This guidance directs that the economic payment is not considered income for the purposes of MA eligibility. Also, there should be no change to a personal care home or assisted living resident’s monthly charges in their contract due to this payment.

“Economic Impact Payments will not impact one’s federal benefits. The payments are not counted as income during the month they are received and the following month and are not counted as a resource for 12 months.”

With the wide variety of economic and personal situations and the ever-changing tax laws, you are wise to consult tax professionals for advice. For legal help, Attorney Scott C. Painter is always available.

The law office of elder law attorney Scott C. Painter, P.C., is located in Wyomissing (outside of Reading, PA, in Berks County,) and offers trusted legal services in the areas of elder law, including nursing home planning, trust and estate services, and veterans benefits. Scott C. Painter is a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA®), and he is also a member of the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).

*NOTE: This article is not intended as legal or financial advice — it is for informational purposes only. Always contact a qualified, trusted professional for advice.

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