Senior Stimulus Program: What Help Is Available for Older Adults
8 MIN READ
Published December 04, 2023 | Updated February 23, 2024
Retirees are often the first to feel the pinch of high inflation, with prices of goods and services rising 3.2% as of October 2023 after peaking at nearly 8.0% in mid-late 2022.
With limited retirement income from Social Security and fixed monthly pensions, along with retirement accounts that are often severely underfunded when measured against the 20+ years of an average retirement these days, a little financial help can make a big difference.
Senior stimulus programs can ease the burden for millions of older adults who qualify. While the stimulus checks from the CARES Act have ceased, other financial assistance programs are still available for senior citizens.
What Senior Stimulus Programs Are Currently Available?
If you’re looking for senior assistance programs currently available, the American Rescue Plan Act is a good place to start. The act was passed by Congress and signed into effect by President Biden on March 10, 2021.
The American Rescue Plan Act is a $1.9 trillion relief package that offers financial assistance to families, individuals, and businesses. It provided a third round of stimulus checks of up to $1,400 for eligible individuals and $2,800 for married couples filing jointly.
More Financial Assistance Options for Seniors
The federal government also offers the following programs for financial support:
Full Social Security benefits are available to those who are 62 years of age or older and have contributed to Social Security for at least ten years or over 40 calendar quarters of “covered employment” in total.
Unless you qualify for benefits under someone else’s Social Security record, such as a parent, a spouse, or a former spouse, you must accumulate 40 calendar quarters of employment (or self-employment) during which you paid Social Security Taxes in order to qualify to receive any benefits under the U.S. Social Security program.
Additional financial assistance for seniors receiving Social Security payments may also be available, depending on eligibility. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, stimulus checks were automatically issued to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and everyone who was actively receiving Social Security benefits at that time.
The IRS has issued three economic impact payments, but you can claim the recovery rebate credit if you were eligible and haven't received the payment.
Medicare is a health service program specifically designed to help older adults pay for healthcare services and supplies. Depending on the Medicare plan you’ve signed up for, you may get dental, vision, and prescription drug coverage.
While there are no specific stimulus programs for seniors tied to Medicare, it is still a good way for older adults to make health care much more affordable and accessible.
“If you are over 65 years old and qualify for Medicare benefits, the Medicaid system has integrated with Medicare to provide additional healthcare-related benefits for low-income seniors who qualify,” explains Brad Reichert, a financial expert and the founder and managing director of Reichert Asset Management LLC. “This is why it is critical to obtain the required 40 lifetime quarters (or “credits”) of covered employment or to qualify under someone else’s work record in order to qualify for Social Security benefits,” Reichert adds.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal program that helps qualifying seniors purchase groceries from participating stores. Your gross monthly income must be less than 130% of the federal poverty income limit to qualify for the program, which works similar to a food allowance card.
For an individual, the maximum SNAP benefit you can get is $291 a month, and for a two-person household, you can get $535 per month. Qualifying low-income beneficiaries receive an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card pre-loaded with the benefit amount, which works like a debit card.
Elderly with Disabilities
The American Rescue Plan also included a stimulus program for seniors with disabilities receiving SSDI payments. Older adults receiving disability benefits through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) may have been eligible to receive the third round of stimulus checks of up to $1,400 for individuals.
Economic impact payments do not impact your eligibility for SSDI or SSI benefits. You can claim the recovery rebate credit if you were qualified but did not receive a payment.
Who Is Eligible for These Programs?
The American Rescue Plan offers direct relief in the form of stimulus payments and help with rent, food, and healthcare coverage. While the third round of stimulus payments has already been issued, you may still be able to claim it if you didn’t receive the third payment.
You may qualify if you’re a single person earning less than $75,000, a married couple filing jointly earning less than $150,000, or a head of household earning less than $112,500.
Your income should not exceed 130% of the federal poverty threshold to qualify for SNAP benefits.
How To Apply
Non-filers will need to file their 2020 tax return and 2021 tax return (or, if you have filed but didn’t claim the credit, you can file an amended federal tax return for each of those same two years) to claim the recovery rebate credit. When you file your tax return electronically, the return helps you calculate your credit. The amount will then be included in your refund.
To apply for SNAP benefits, visit a SNAP office near you or call the information hotline for questions.
Is the CARES Act Still Available in 2023?
The CARES Act was the U.S. government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis it spurred. Congress passed the act, and it was signed by President Trump on March 27, 2020.
The CARES Act was a $2.2 trillion package that provided loan forgiveness, direct payments to millions of Americans, and other benefits to provide relief to families, corporations, and businesses. The CARES Act has since expired and will no longer be available in 2023. However, there are other senior debt-relief options, free services, and other key government benefits for those over 65 available.
What To Do Next
While the benefits provided under the CARES Act have expired, President Biden’s American Rescue Plan is still available. Although no new stimulus checks have been issued in the last two years, you may still receive tax rebate payments from your state if you qualify.
Virginia, Arizona, and Alabama are providing one-time tax rebates in 2023. Other states recently concluded issuing tax rebates. For example, Minnesota sent out a $260 rebate for eligible taxpayers in August and September.