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Larson, Davis, Blumenauer, Schneider, and Higgins Lead Letter Urging IRS to Provide Automatic COVID-19 Relief Payments to Supplemental Security Income Beneficiaries

April 6, 2020
Press Release

On Friday, April 3, 2020, House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman John B. Larson (CT-01), Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Chairman Danny K. Davis (IL-07), Trade Subcommittee Chairman Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), and Ways and Means Members Reps. Bradley S. Schneider (IL-10) and Brian Higgins (NY-26) led a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Internal Revenue Services (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rettig urging the IRS to provide automatic COVID-19 Relief Payments to vulnerable elderly and disabled individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 

 

“Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries are some of our most vulnerable neighbors. They shouldn’t have to wait to receive their economic impact payments, just because they don’t file tax returns. The IRS has promised to pay Social Security beneficiaries automatically, they should do the same for SSI beneficiaries,” said Larson.

 

“There are approximately 8 million SSI recipients,” said Davis. “They all have extremely limited financial means. Given that they experience substantial physical health, mental health, and access barriers, requiring these individuals to file even a simplified tax return in effect acts as a denial of economic impact relief. I applaud the Secretary’s and Commissioner’s decision to send CARES Act economic impact payments automatically to Social Security beneficiaries, and I hope they will do the same for the very vulnerable and poor elderly and disabled SSI recipients.”

 

Blumenauer said, “People in our communities are hurting now. Our committee ensured that Social Security beneficiaries receive their checks without the obstacle of filing a tax return, but we can’t stop there. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries, including older Americans and people with disabilities, should have that same access. We are in this together.” 

 

“The CARES Act was intended to get assistance to Americans who need our help as quickly as possible,” said Schneider. “Requiring vulnerable elderly and disabled Americans dependent on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to file a new tax return is an unnecessary barrier to needed economic relief. I join my colleagues urging Secretary Mnuchin to issue new guidance, as he did for Social Security recipients, to ensure these Americans automatically receive this aid.”

 

Higgins said, “Life is complicated enough during this public health emergency with limited access to the people and technology that would be needed to complete additional, burdensome steps. The Administration should immediately remove these hurdles and allow for low income seniors and disabled individuals to receive relief automatically.”

 

Additional Signers: John Lewis; Lloyd Doggett; Mike Thompson; Ron Kind; Bill Pascrell, Jr.; Linda T. Sánchez; Terri A. Sewell; Suzan K. DelBene; Judy Chu; Gwen S. Moore; Daniel T. Kildee; Brendan F. Boyle; Donald S. Beyer, Jr.; Dwight Evans; Thomas R. Suozzi; Jimmy Panetta; Stephanie Murphy; Jimmy Gomez; and Steven Horsford.

 

Full letter can be viewed below or here.

 

April 3, 2020

The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin                              The Honorable Charles P. Rettig

Secretary of the Treasury                                             Commissioner

U.S. Department of Treasury                                       Internal Revenue Service

1500 Pennsylvania Ave. NW                                       1111 Constitution Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20220                                                Washington, DC 20224

 

Dear Secretary Mnuchin and Commissioner Rettig:

 

As Members on the Committee with jurisdiction over Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security, we thank you for your decision to send Social Security beneficiaries their CARES Act economic impact payments automatically without the burden of filing a simplified tax return, and we strongly urge you also to adopt automatic payments for vulnerable elderly and disabled individuals receiving SSI so that they can receive this critical financial support during the coronavirus public health crisis.

 

There are approximately 8 million SSI recipients. They all have extremely limited financial means. About 29 percent are 65 and older1, and 86 percent are blind or have severe disabilities.2 In December 2018, more than half of all SSI recipients had no other income.3 Further, given their extremely low incomes, many SSI beneficiaries do not need to file income taxes. A recent study by the Congressional Budget Office found that individuals with SSI income were only 1 percent of filers in 2006, whereas they were 11% of nonfilers.4 As a result, if the Administration fails to act, millions of Americans might not receive their emergency economic impact payments.

 

Requiring these individuals to file any tax return, even a simplified one, would present disproportionate undue burden and harm to these very vulnerable and poor elderly and disabled individuals. These individuals experience physical health, mental health, and access issues that make filing even a simple tax return a challenging – if not insurmountable – barrier. They have severe disabilities; they have dementia and cognitive impairments; they are extremely low-income and lack the requisite technology and skills; and many of their informal care networks have been shut off due to the pandemic.

 

Given these barriers, requiring these individuals to file even a simplified tax return in effect acts as a denial of economic impact relief. Given that the Social Security Administration currently pays these vulnerable elderly and disabled individuals via electronic funds transfer, the Federal government already has all the information necessary for automatic payments.

 

We strongly urge you to provide guidance allowing economic impact payments to be sent to SSI recipients automatically. Thank you, in advance, for your prompt attention to the matter.

 

1 https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/quickfacts/stat_snapshot/

2 https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/ssi_monthly/2020-02/table02.pdf

3 https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/ssi_asr/2018/sect02.html#table8

4 https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/115th-congress-2017-2018/workingpaper/53125-nonfilers.pdf