What Social Security Recipients Should Know About the CARES Act Stimulus Payments

A retired older man wonders if he can get a stimulus check if he is on Social Security

The information in this article was last updated on April 22, 2020. This article relates to the tax laws enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. These laws may have expired or reverted to their original state.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was signed on March 27, 2020. But for Americans on Social Security – especially for those in low-income situations – there continue to be a lot of questions. The IRS and the U.S. Treasury are still working to provide guidance for all circumstances. Here is what we know so far.

At a glance: 

  • The U.S. government passed a stimulus bill giving eligible individuals a one-time payment of up to $1,200, up to $2,400 for joint filers, plus $500 for each qualifying child. 
  • This includes people who collect Social Security benefits for retirement, disability, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  
  • The government will use information from your Form SSA-1099 Social Security Benefit Statement, Form RRB-1099 Social Security Equivalent Benefit Statement, or a tax return to determine how much you qualify for.  
  • The IRS may not have information about dependents for senior citizens, Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who are not otherwise required to file a tax return.  People in these groups who have qualifying children under age 17 can use this application from the IRS to claim the $500 payment per child.

“Can I get a stimulus check if I’m on Social Security disability?”  

Yes. You can still qualify for the stimulus payment even if you receive Social Security benefits. That includes income from disability, SSI, and retirement. 

The following people are not eligible for stimulus payments: 

  • Individuals with an adjusted gross income over $99,000 
  • Nonresident aliens 
  • Dependents* 

*Individuals with dependents under age 17 can receive up to $500 for each qualifying child. That amount will be added to their stimulus check. Anyone who is claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return will not be able to claim a stimulus payment for themselves.

“I’m on Social Security and I don’t file taxes. Do I have to file now to get the stimulus?” 

If you are not normally required to file a tax return, you do not need to file one now to get a stimulus payment. Most people do not need to take any action.

If you receive Social Security, Railroad Retirement, or SSDI benefits, the IRS already has the information they need to calculate your payment. In this case, you do not need to take any action.

The IRS also confirmed that SSI recipients and those who receive veteran’s disability compensation, pension or survivor benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs will receive payments automatically and do not need to take any action.

If you have children under age 17 and you receive benefits – including VA, Social Security retirement or disability benefits (SSDI), Railroad Retirement benefits or SSI – use the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info option on the IRS website to provide information about your child(ren). Dependents who qualify can receive $500. This amount will be added to your $1,200 payment.

For more details about entering information for non-filers, visit the IRS website here.

“I’m low-income on SSI. How much can I get for the stimulus?” 

An adult who receives Social Security income can get the full $1,200 stimulus amount – as long as they are not claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return. Your payment as an SSI recipient will be automatic; you do not need to take any action.

“Do I have to pay it back?” 

No, you will not be required to repay any of your stimulus payment, and it won’t affect your eligibility to receive federal government assistance or benefits.

“When will I get my stimulus money?” 

Stimulus payments are now being delivered. You can track the status of your check on the IRS website here.

For more information, read: When Will I Get My Stimulus Payment?

How is the money coming? 

Your stimulus payment will be sent to you the same way you receive your Social Security benefits – either by mail or direct deposit. The government will use the information on your Social Security form to determine how and where to deliver your money. If the IRS has your direct deposit information on file, the payment will be sent straight to that account. If not, a physical check will be delivered to your mailing address. 

For more information about how CARES Act stimulus payments will work for all Americans, read: COVID-19 Stimulus Checks.

This article is intended to provide general information to the public and does not provide personalized tax, investment, legal, or business advice. You should seek the assistance of a professional for advice on taxes, investments, and any other financial, legal, or business matter pertinent to your individual situation.