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Stimulus Package Becomes Law – Here’s What It Means for People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., March 27 – President Trump signed into law today the $2 trillion-dollar emergency stimulus aimed at propping up the economy during the current crisis. This law is unprecedented in its scope and is meant to help our nation respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even now, government agencies are going to work to implement the new law.

Millions of Americans living with disabilities are wondering what this new law means for them and whether they will see any benefit. The short answer is yes, but how far the law will go to help people with disabilities who are uniquely at-risk to the impact of the virus remains an open question.

Checks for Individuals With and Without Disabilities

Individuals with and without disabilities who are struggling right now will be receiving a Recovery Rebate. This rebate will be a one-time cash payment sent from the government to all U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 ($150,000 if you are married), with a phaseout for incomes between $75,000 and $99,000 ($150,000-$198,000 if you are married), who are not a dependent of another taxpayer and have a Social Security Number.

The amount of that check will be $1,200 for eligible individuals and $2,400 for people who are married, plus $500 per dependent child. This is being characterized as a rebate, which means it will NOT be counted against the asset limits faced by people with disabilities if spent within 12 months of receipt.

However, people with disabilities who are on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will have to file their taxes. This could create a major burden for many of the poorest people with disabilities and other low-income communities, many of whom may find access to filling out the forms a challenge.

Unemployment Support for More Workers

This bill includes major changes and supports for the unemployment insurance (UI) system under the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Unemployed workers with and without disabilities will receive $600 increase in their weekly checks. The bill also creates a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) that expands UI coverage. Critically that coverage has been expanded to include self-employed workers, gig workers, and independent contractors.

This is great news for many people with disabilities who engage in the gig economy, drive for ride-share services or run their own small businesses.

Support for Teachers and Students With Disabilities

Teachers and special educators are facing significant challenges around how to provide a free, appropriate public education to students with disabilities when you can only connect through a computer screen. The bill will give states more than $30 billion dollars to provide Emergency Education Relief grants to help teachers and students with and without disabilities to make the switch to online learning and virtual classrooms.

These grants will specifically help teachers meet the needs of students with disabilities in these trying times. Likewise, some of those funds can be used to provide summer learning, supplemental after-school programs and online learning for students with disabilities.

Disability advocates had been very concerned that the original bill included several provisions waivers from the explicit requirements of laws such as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The new version of the bill requires the Secretary of Education to report to Congress within 30 days about where, how and why waivers are being used and students with disabilities are accessing online learning.

The Stimulus Package Helps Organizations Serving the Disabilities Community

The bill will distribute $955 million for Aging and Disability Services Programs under the mandate of the Administrative on Community Living (ACL). That money will support nutrition programs providing people with disabilities and older Americans with food deliveries as well as direct support for family caregivers.

That amount also includes $50 million dollars for aging and disability resource centers across the country as well as $85 million dollars for Centers for Independent Living (CILs). Further, the bill invests $15 million dollars to support housing specifically for people with disabilities.

Addressing the critical issue of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who help people with disabilities, the CARES Act will now allow state Medicaid programs to pay for DSPs to help people with disabilities who end up in the hospital. This should provide some reassurance for people with disabilities who need support for activities of daily living, but many other needs regarding DSPs and maintenance of the DSP workforce through this crisis remain undressed.

What Is Missing From The Bill?

The CARES Act does not address the life or death issue of medical rationing facing the disability community in this moment of crisis. As the crisis intensified in Italy, the government rationed healthcare away from people with disabilities. This approach already is illegal under American law, but it still happens, nonetheless. In this time of crisis, the state and local leaders making on the ground decisions need to hear a clear message about treating people with disabilities equally.

The Stimulus Package Leaves Out Paid Sick Leave

Unfortunately, this bill does not include any additional provisions to help workers who do not already receive paid sick leave or who are now receiving sick leave through the earlier Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

People with disabilities must know they are secure in this time of crisis. Thus, further advocacy is needed to cover these gaps in coverage and ensure that family members who need to take leave in order to meet the critical needs of their loved ones are covered.

The Stimulus Package Does Nothing for Immigrants and People in the Justice System

Lastly, the bill does nothing to support some of the most vulnerable people with disabilities in America today. The bill contains no mention whatsoever about immigrants (with or without disabilities) or people who are incarcerated. Census Bureau data shows that there are more than 44 million immigrants living in the United States and out of that number, up to 6 million are probably living with a disability. How are they going to be helped or harmed by this bill? There are no clear answers yet. Likewise, there is no relief or support for the estimated 750,000 people with disabilities who are currently imprisoned.

If you would like to know more about how COVID-19 is impacting the disability community, we encourage you to review and make use of the following resources and materials:

Meet the Author

Philip Pauli

Philip Kahn-Pauli is the Policy and Practices Director of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. He works with state leaders to develop solutions for youth with disabilities, support job seekers with disabilities and open pathways into the workforce. To reach him, email [email protected]

53 comments… add one
  • Janis Clark Mar 28, 2020, 12:46 pm

    Oh well, guess my stimulus check is a big day $0. 🙄 Although an avid worker all my life, the last 4 years I’ve been out of the loop…..on DISABILITY…..due to a 2-hr long epileptic seizure that fried my short term memory. Would much rather be working than sitting in public housing 😜 on ~$730/month. 🤦 No booze, no cigarettes. No TV. Not my style. Will keep praying to get out of here. 🙏🙌👑✝️🇺🇸

  • Melissa johnson Mar 28, 2020, 7:32 pm

    So then the massive Unemployment expansion that gives an extra 600 a week to unemployment WILL count against SSI income correct? Because that amount alone puts you over.

    • Joanne Lewis May 18, 2020, 10:07 pm

      So will the extra 600 count

  • Michael M Rose Mar 29, 2020, 12:00 am

    My wife has multiple chronic illnesses and receives SSI disability and MediCal.
    I was Laid off in December 2019 and am collect unemployment benefits and also now have MediCal and SNAP.
    The unemployment pays around $1100 per month, enough to pay rent and still allow her to receive SSI.
    I see in the article that the $2400 check from the stimulus package will not count against her SSI. That’s great news.
    The article does not mention how the unemployment increase would or would not affect us.
    My question is what about the extra $600 a week I will receive on top of my current Unemployment check? That’s a sizable payment each month.
    Will that count against her SSI asset limit and cause her to lose her disability and Medical? Will it cause me to lose my Medical and SNAP?

    • Deena Benefiel Aug 10, 2020, 9:58 pm

      I am on SSDI and I’m unable to work I have multiple sclerosis and it is much I have had to move my best freind in with me to help me with my every day care .my health needs are requiring her time so much she is unable to work outside of taking care of me . Was wondering what we can do to get some extra help here with rent and utilities and basic living expenses.

  • Jaime Huckle Mar 29, 2020, 1:52 pm

    I am confused to help people with disabilities in SSI have to file their taxes if we’re not working what taxes is there to file question

  • alphaecho Mar 31, 2020, 2:01 am

    I would like to know if there will be a check sent to me at my residence address, or if it is going to be direct deposited, like my monthly disability checks, to the account of my representative payee. I presume it will go to my payee, but it sure would be nice to get my own money for a change.

    • Kim Beraun Oct 15, 2020, 9:18 am

      You payee was required to give it to you.

  • Diane Dodge Mar 31, 2020, 2:14 pm

    Hello. I have a question. I am on SSDI, am a Stage IV Cancer individual, but have been able to work part time in food prep here in Maine (20 hrs/week) until I was laid off due to Covid-19. I have applied, and have been granted, a small unemployment compensation from Maine. Will the $600/week additional money from the Covid CARES act count as income to me (I read the bill and there is no language precluding this) and render me ineligible for my SSDI check, and more importantly, the Medicare I have (I’m age 62) under the SSDI umbrella? Should I cancel my unemployment–I cannot risk my Medicare and I do not want to get caught up in some hellish loop with the SSA terminating my benefits, having to hire a lawyer to get them back–it was hard enough to get them initially, even with Stage IV cancer. Thank you–hope you can help. I have scoured the internet, and as of this morning can find nowhere that this is addressed, including the SSA.

    • Christian Lesuer Apr 21, 2020, 3:03 pm

      Do not cancel your UI. It is considered to be NON EARNED INCOME and is not included against SSDI when calculating your monthly work total. It happened to me in 2009-2010 when benefits were extended to 102 weeks. They are exclusive of one another .

    • Nancy Salem May 16, 2020, 7:36 pm

      I am in exact situation you are and looking for some answers.
      I cannot get a hold of anyone in social security office to clarify this for me.
      How can I find out if I am qualified to receive PUA if I am currently in SSD?

    • David Kelley May 17, 2020, 10:47 am

      I fall in the same category and trying to find out too. It seems this area topic hadn’t been addressed.

    • Laura Kinary-Hinojosa Jun 10, 2020, 6:41 pm

      Omg! I have been freaking out about this so much! I too was working, let go bc of Covid19, was given a small amount of unemployment in conjunction with the $600 a week. I can’t loose my SSDI so do we need to say no to it? I’m in Texas. If you find an answer, let me know.

  • Alexia Clarke Mar 31, 2020, 4:10 pm

    Is it too late for me? Living below the poverty line with brain cancer and a host of other medical problems, I need that money badly. Never earning enough on disability to file taxes is bad enough, but to base it on my worthiness for receiving help is like rubbing rock salt in my wounds.

  • Ari Kadosh Apr 3, 2020, 11:49 am

    Can I apply for PUA if I get ssi

  • Sherrie A Barron Apr 6, 2020, 4:24 pm

    Will nursing home facility, take away the stimulus check from the elderly

  • Sue a cullen Apr 16, 2020, 2:40 am

    yes im on ssi and i have a payee i was hoping i would get the stimulate check sent to my address instead of my payee so would the check be sent to my home address

  • Christian Lesuer Apr 21, 2020, 2:55 pm

    If the state interprets the law as it is written then she should be fine. The reason being that any form of unemployment benefit is considered to be NON EARNED income which is not included in the allowed monthly income threshold. I’m in the same situation being a contractor now out of work as a result of Covid 19 and also being an SSDI recipient.

  • Susan Palmer Apr 22, 2020, 1:15 pm

    Were you able to get any answers? I’m in same situation.

  • charles kirch May 1, 2020, 4:41 pm

    me and my wife are seperated and filed married filing seperate she got her 1200.00 2 days ago and i haven’t recieved mine

  • Matt May 10, 2020, 10:34 am

    Are the people on workers comp. entitled to the 600.00 aweek like the unemployment people we didn’t ask to get hurt

  • Lorrie jacobs May 19, 2020, 11:38 pm

    Im wondering if i will get mine to and when cause i also have a payee

  • tynetta lawsos May 20, 2020, 5:04 am

    Dose a payee also get a check or just the beneficiary

    • Michelle Gutierrez Mar 30, 2021, 8:23 pm

      If you have a payee they are required to handle paying your expenses but the stimulus has nothing to do with ssi or ssdi do that should go directly to your bank account where your social security disability check goes but its your money nobody is entitled to that but you.

  • Andrea Jun 5, 2020, 1:02 am

    Can you receive the $600 PUA payment if your currently on long term disability from your job and are not currently working from and injury?

    • Nancy McBride Jul 11, 2020, 7:41 pm

      I am also looking for the answer to this question. Where can I find it? Nothing happens when I click on the link???

  • Brenda Berardi Jun 22, 2020, 9:14 am

    I was wondering the same. My husband is on total ssdi and does not work. Is he entitled to the $600 even if not employed? He’s 62

  • Adan Alvarez Jun 25, 2020, 6:53 pm

    How do I sign up to get this money’s It would be a Great! Blessing in this time of need.

  • Adan Alvarez Jun 25, 2020, 6:56 pm

    Yes I am and unable to work due to my disability.

  • Bret walker Jun 29, 2020, 4:40 am

    Now I’m scared. I just at got the check from unemployment even though I am on SSI. My friend said I was qualified so we filled out the sop. Honestly I didn’t think idvet it but I did . But now I’m not sure if I’m entitled to it and I’m scared to death I’ve screws up my disability forever…I’m in a blind panic and scared to spend any of it.. someone please help I m afraid I’ve done something wrong and that’s just st not me…please help

  • Robin McClain Jul 9, 2020, 6:39 pm

    Like I said with the padamic money of 600 plus’s 167 it’s more then SSDI and it been exstended that puts me over time aloud to work if this counts as money earned please help me with this because I’m in need of the extra money my son and his son has come home and all my bills are doubled and I can’t lose my ssdi

  • Kristi Jul 11, 2020, 9:30 am

    Did you find any answers?

  • Keith Vierra Jul 24, 2020, 7:51 am

    Keith July 23. SSDI recipients seems we have been left out of the loop. With regards to PUA I am also freaking out damned if I apply damned if I I don’t apply. Pandemic affects every one.. I thought we were all supposed to be in this together..we need someone in Washington. To fight for us now before its too late and miss out on money everyone else is getting to survive. No help. No vote. Not fair.

  • Rich Jul 30, 2020, 9:43 am

    If I apply for short term disability thru EDD would I collect 600.00 m stimulus check

  • Yolanda Sep 18, 2020, 10:32 am

    If I’m collecting short term disability could I get the $600 stimulus check. I’m soon going to FMLA cause my short term disability is running out ,cause of my sickness which one could I file for, I bein in short term disability since 3/16/20 I needed a operation but was delayed because of cov-19.

  • Kim Beraun Oct 15, 2020, 9:23 am

    They are not allowed to do that. The nursing homes are not allowed to keep it for care expenses. It is supposed to go directly to the elderly to spend. If they do that, report it.

  • Lesha Jett Dec 24, 2020, 3:53 pm

    Hellooo… Did we all just screw ourselves by getting PUA??? Im speaking of SSI benefits people…… Im gonna be so beyond effed if i lose SSI over PUA! THE PUA checks are only $205, does that make a difference? Im not touching them until I know FOR SURE. THX

  • Michelle Gutierrez Mar 30, 2021, 8:16 pm

    Absolutely not, the stimulus check is yours and yours alone. If they take it they are stealing and that my friend is a federal crime.

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