While much of the fuss over the federal Covid-19 relief bill has been about stimulus checks, unemployment benefits, and child tax credits, there are also several provisions that are designed to help older Americans who have been affected by the pandemic and the weak economy. However, if you don’t know what these protections are, you can’t take advantage of them. We explain how the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) helps seniors and what you should do to make sure you or your elderly parent benefits from them.
Seniors Have Been Hit Hard by the Pandemic
The effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on older Americans is particularly brutal. Not only is the virus more deadly in people over the age of 65 but, in an effort to protect family members from possibly being exposed, many people avoided visiting their elderly relatives, leaving seniors totally isolated and alone. And none of us needs to be reminded of the devastating toll the virus took on nursing home populations. Far too many of us lost elderly spouses, parents, and grandparents in 2020, and many of those who survived continue to struggle financially and to avoid getting the nursing home care they need out of fear for their physical and emotional well-being. Let’s hope the provisions in the ARPA provide much-needed relief for our seniors.
How ARPA Should Help Seniors
Just like everyone else, retired people are eligible for the federal stimulus check. While the latest bill caps the income level at a lower rate than last year’s stimulus plan, seniors can still get boosts of $1400 each if their annual income is less than $80,000 as an individual or $160,000 as a couple. If you are on Medicaid or SSI, the additional income will not affect your eligibility as long as you spend it within 12 months. There are no restrictions on what this money can be used for, but a struggling senior might want to use it to make their home more accessible, pay down medical debt, or upgrade in-home technology for safety.
Other key elements of the plan that directly impact seniors include:
- Improving nursing homes. It is no secret that many nursing homes—particularly those with Medicaid patients—handled the pandemic very poorly. To address the problem and prevent it from recurring, the ARPA provides funds for teams of experts to help nursing homes when they experience a Covid-19 outbreak. It also pays for nursing homes to implement strategies to improve infection control generally.
- Expanding in-home care. While just a temporary fix, the Act expands Medicaid’s voucher program for home and community care for one year. This will allow more people to get the care they need at home or in a senior daycare facility rather than going into a nursing home.
- Protecting pensions. As the pandemic forced many companies to go out of business, some pension plans have become insolvent, jeopardizing the income many retirees depend on. By creating a system that allows pension plans on the verge of collapse to apply for grants, the Act ensures that retirees can continue to collect their full benefits.
- Continuing medical deduction threshold. If your medical expenses exceed 7.5 percent of your income, you have been able to take a tax deduction for the last four years. The threshold was set to increase to 10 percent this year, but the ARPA makes the 7.5 percent cut-off permanent.
- Funding important programs. Programs such as vaccine outreach, caregiver support, nutrition assistance, transportation, and nursing home resident advocacy programs will be able to continue thanks to funding from the ARPA.
If you or your elderly loved one has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, we send our sympathy and understanding, and we would like to help if we can. If you have questions about how you can benefit from the provisions in the American Recovery Plan Act, feel free to contact our Elder Law and Medicaid Planning law office.
How an Elder Law Attorney Can Help You
You might have a family lawyer that you trust, but they might not be familiar with issues that specifically affect older Americans. As Elder Law attorneys, the team at Ross & Shoalmire, PLLC, is tuned into the legal matters that impact seniors. The legal and support services we provide address the needs of seniors across all areas of their life. These are just some of the ways we serve our Elder Law clients:
- Estate planning. It is never too late to plan for the management of your estate during your life and the transfer of your assets upon your death. Revising an existing will or establishing a trust to protect assets from taxes and probate are typical services we provide to seniors.
- Long-term care assistance. We help our clients find affordable, high-quality nursing home care and assist them in finding ways to pay for it without going broke. We also help nursing home residents and their families protect their rights when a nursing home is not providing the best care.
- Financial planning. With proper planning, you can protect your assets, so you don’t run out of money and become a burden on your family as your healthcare costs increase. If Covid has impacted your finances, we can help you access federal programs designed to help you.
- Healthcare planning. You can’t predict the future, but with smart healthcare planning, you can be prepared for almost anything. We help our clients make decisions about end-of-life care, healthcare powers of attorney, guardianship, and more. These documents have taken on new importance in light of the deadly pandemic.