Identification Number:
EM-21050
Intended Audience:All
RCs/ARCs/ADs/FOs/TSCs/PSCs/OCO/OCO-CSTs/OHO/OARO /WBDOC
Originating Office:ORDP OISP
Title:Special Processing Instructions for Applying Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Income and Resource Exclusions to Pandemic-related Disaster Assistance
Type:EM - Emergency Messages
Program:Title XVI (SSI)
Link To Reference:See References at the end of this EM
 
Retention Date: January 23, 2022


A. Purpose and Background

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in Federal, State and Tribal governments issuing a wide variety of assistance payments or other relief to affected individuals. Most SSI claimants and their families received some form of assistance, and we have determined that many forms of assistance qualify as disaster assistance. Special development and documentation procedures apply to disaster assistance paid on account of the pandemic.

Due to the number of pandemic-related assistance programs and the varying end dates for the assistance types, more instructions will be forthcoming.

B. Income Policy for Pandemic-related Disaster Assistance

Many types of assistance received during the pandemic are excluded from income in accordance with disaster assistance procedures.

1. Procedure for identifying disaster assistance

See EM-20014 REV 3 for updated information on sources of pandemic-related assistance and the policy treatment for identified assistance types. For any assistance classified as disaster assistance in the chart in subsection C.1 of EM-20014 REV 3, follow the special processing instructions in this EM.

NOTE: Contact your Regional Office for help with alleged disaster assistance that is not listed in the chart in EM-20014 REV 3.

2. Procedure for documenting income exclusions from pandemic-related disaster assistance from March 2020 until the end of the disaster period in each State, Territory, and Tribal area

Follow these steps when documenting receipt of pandemic-related disaster assistance received from March 2020 through the end of the pandemic period. Refer to the chart in subsection B.4 of this EM for the COVID-19 pandemic period by State, Territory, or Tribal area. As of the publication date of this EM, the disaster declaration remains in effect in all States, five territories, and 32 Tribal areas. By default, any pandemic assistance received after the end of the applicable period is not pandemic-related disaster assistance; such assistance would be subject to normal income and resource policies.

More information will be forthcoming at the end of the disaster period.

How to Document the Initial Disaster Assistance Allegation
Step
Action
1
When developing income during initial claim and posteligibility events, ask SSI individuals if they are receiving or have received any of the types of pandemic-related assistance identified in EM-20014 REV 3 or any other type of pandemic-related assistance.

If No, record the negative response on a report of contact (i.e. DROC or SSA-5002). Accept the allegation and follow normal policies to process the claim or posteligibility event.

If YES and unemployment is involved, proceed to Step 2.

If YES and unemployment is not involved, proceed to Step 3.
2
Follow instructions in subsection B.3 in this EM to document unemployment income.

If other assistance was also received (e.g. Economic Impact Payments), continue to Step 3.
3
Document the person’s allegation regarding receipt of pandemic assistance on a report of contact (i.e. DROC or SSA-5002) and lock it. Include ALL of the following:
      · “The President has declared a major disaster for the relevant State, territory, or Tribe due to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. As of (enter date) the declaration is still in effect.”
      · Document:
          o who received the income (name and relationship to the SSI individual);

          o how much income was received; and

          o the month(s) in which the income was received.

      NOTE: Follow these documentation steps for each type of disaster assistance received from the chart in EM-20014 REV 3.
        · Ask the SSI individual if any of the disaster assistance was retained. Document the yes or no response in the DROC. If the person answered yes, document how much was retained and identify any financial accounts involved.

    Important: The Toolbar Remarks Tool has been updated to save time and ensure consistency in documenting pandemic disaster assistance allegations. Technicians should use the Remarks Tool when completing the report of contact in the SSI Claim System. For more information on using Remarks for these cases, see this link.

    If an SSA-5002 is used to record the allegation, fax it into the Electronic Disability Collection System (EDCS) or Non-Disability Repository for Evidentiary Documents (NDRed).

    Proceed to Step 4.
    4
    Exclude from income all pandemic-related disaster assistance identified on the chart in EM-20014 REV 3 that was received from March 2020 through the end of the pandemic period, based on the individual’s reasonable allegation.

    (See chart in subsection B.4 in this EM for end dates.)

    Important: In EM-20014 REV 3, we have provided additional program information about the various types of assistance and we will continue to update the chart as we obtain more information. Use your best judgment when assessing the reasonableness of a person’s allegation and obtain detailed explanations when needed. If you have reason to question the person’s allegation or if you suspect fraud, follow normal disaster assistance policies in SI 00830.620 and SI 01130.620 to request evidence in support of the individual’s allegation.

    For example, a couple alleging $5,900 for their first EIP may be reasonable if they have 7 dependent children in their household. It would be questionable for a single person with no dependents to allege that amount for their first EIP.

    Proceed to Step 5.
    5
    If the individual alleges retaining any pandemic-related assistance amounts, continue to subsection C in this EM for instructions on how to handle pandemic-related resource exclusions.


    3. Procedures for documenting Unemployment Insurance Benefits (UIB) exclusions

    If the SSI individual answered yes to receiving UIB at any point from March 2020 through the pandemic UIB end month provided in the chart in B.4 below, and the record is active:


      · Enter the allegation regarding unemployment payments and exclude the amounts in the corresponding Other Deduction Amount(s) column on the Unemployment Compensation Page in the SSI Claims System.

      · On the Unemployment Compensation Page remarks section, type the following, “Exclusion due to COVID-19 disaster assistance from 3/2020 through xx/xxxx.” (Fill in end date based chart in B.4.)

      · Ask the SSI individual if any of the UIB received during the pandemic was retained. If answered yes, document the allegation in a DROC following Step 3 in the chart in B.2 above. Continue to instructions in subsection C of this EM for the resource exclusion procedures.

      If the SSI individual answered yes to receiving UIB from March 2020 through the pandemic UIB end month provided in the chart in B.4 below, and the record is a Non-MSSICS Claim:

        · Record the allegation regarding receipt of unemployment on an SSA-5002 Report of Contact and include all of the information in Step 3 of the chart above in subsection B.2.

        · Fax the SSA-5002 into the Electronic Disability Collect System (EDCS) or Non-Disability Repository for Evidentiary Documents (NDRed).


      Ask the SSI individual if any of the UIB received during the pandemic was retained. If answered yes, document the allegation in a DROC following Step 3 in the chart in B.2 above. Continue to instructions in subsection C of this EM for the resource exclusion procedures.

      NOTE: Changes in August 2021 to the SSI Computations software (MSSICS and SSI Computations) will eliminate the need for corrective actions on cases in which we posted unemployment according to the procedures in EM-20014 REV, published 7/10/2020. More instructions will follow.

      4. Disaster Assistance Income Exclusion Periods by State or Territory

      The following chart lists the time period in which pandemic-related disaster assistance income exclusions apply by State or Territory. Assistance received after these dates is not pandemic disaster assistance subject to the special processing instructions in this EM. Instead, follow normal policies and processing instructions for income received after the disaster end date in the chart. For unemployment income, the end date is determined differently. Unemployment received after the “Pandemic UIB End” date in the chart is subject to normal income counting rules.

      We will update this chart as situations change.

      NOTE: The disaster end date in the chart below refers to the end of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-specified “incident period.”

      For Tribes, SSA will consider March 2020 as the starting month for the pandemic disaster period. To determine period end dates for Tribes, consult FEMAs disaster assistance declaration page at https://www.fema.gov/disaster/declarations.

      Pandemic Disaster Assistance by State and Territory
      State or Territory Name
      Disaster Begin Date
      Pandemic UIB End
      Disaster End Date
      State or Territory Name
      Disaster Begin Date
      Pandemic UIB End
      Disaster End Date
      Alabama3/20206/2021currentMontana3/20206/2021current
      Alaska3/20206/2021currentNebraska3/20206/2021current
      Arizona3/20207/2021currentNevada3/2020currentcurrent
      Arkansas3/20206/2021currentNew Hampshire3/20206/2021current
      California3/2020currentcurrentNew Jersey3/2020currentcurrent
      Colorado3/2020currentcurrentNew Mexico3/2020currentcurrent
      Connecticut3/2020currentcurrentNew York3/2020currentcurrent
      Delaware3/2020currentcurrentNorth Carolina3/2020currentcurrent
      Washington D.C.3/2020currentcurrentNorth Dakota3/20206/2021current
      Florida3/20206/2021currentOhio3/20206/2021current
      Georgia3/20206/2021currentOklahoma3/20206/2021current
      Hawaii3/2020currentcurrentOregon3/2020currentcurrent
      Idaho3/20206/2021currentPennsylvania3/2020currentcurrent
      Illinois3/2020currentcurrentRhode Island3/2020currentcurrent
      Indiana3/20209/2021currentSouth Carolina3/20206/2021current
      Iowa3/20206/2021currentSouth Dakota3/20206/2021current
      Kansas3/2020currentcurrentTennessee3/20207/2021current
      Kentucky3/2020currentcurrentTexas3/20206/2021current
      Louisiana3/202007/2021currentUtah3/20206/2021current
      Maine3/2020currentcurrentVermont3/2020currentcurrent
      Maryland3/20209/2021currentVirginia3/2020currentcurrent
      Massachusetts3/2020currentcurrentWashington3/2020currentcurrent
      Michigan3/2020currentcurrentWest Virginia3/20206/2021current
      Minnesota3/2020currentcurrentWisconsin 3/2020currentcurrent
      Mississippi3/20206/2021currentWyoming 3/20206/2021current
      Missouri3/20206/2021currentNorthern Mariana Islands3/2020currentcurrent

      C. Resource Policy for Pandemic-related Disaster Assistance

      Many types of assistance received during the pandemic and retained into (the) month(s) following receipt are excluded from resources.

      Given the administrative complexities involved in processing pandemic-related resource exclusions at such a large scale, special processing applies to resource determinations involving pandemic-related disaster assistance.

      1. Procedures for developing resource exclusions for retained pandemic-related disaster assistance

      Pandemic-related disaster assistance exclusions must be considered during initial claims, redeterminations, and any other post-eligibility event involving resource verifications. Access to Financial Institutions (AFI) verifications REQUIRE additional scrutiny in months when excess resources (N04) are involved. Manual actions will likely be required to apply pandemic-related resource exclusions.

      Develop and exclude from resources pandemic-related disaster assistance identified in EM-20014 REV 3 only when an individual alleges retaining an amount that may affect eligibility.

      Accept the individual’s reasonable allegation regarding how much assistance was retained and how the funds were held following the steps below.

      How to Document the Allegation about Retained Amounts
      Step
      Action
      1
      Document the individual’s allegation about how much assistance was retained and how the funds were held in the SSI Claim system using the same DROC established for income documentation. (You may have already completed this in Step 3 of the chart in subsection B.2 above.)

      Important: The Toolbar Remarks Tool has been updated to save time and ensure consistency in documenting pandemic disaster assistance allegations. Technicians should use the Remarks Tool when completing the report of contact in the SSI Claim System. For more information on using Remarks for these cases, see this link.
      2
      Document the alleged exclusion amount on the appropriate resource page (i.e. Financial Institution Accounts page or Cash page) following instructions in the chart below.

      AFI responses may include retained EIPs, unemployment benefit amounts, and other disaster assistance in the first of the month balances. When an individual alleges retaining any excludable funds, check ALL financial account balances in any month the individual has excess resources (N04). When account balances contribute to an excess resources determination, do the following for each month:

      How to Develop and Document Excluded Resource Amounts
      Step
      Action
      1
      For all months during the period of review in which the individual alleged retaining pandemic disaster assistance and excess resources are involved:

      Compare the account balances to the alleged pandemic assistance received. Check for allegations on the:
          · DROC or SSA-5002 created in subsection B of this EM; and
          · Unemployment Income page in the SSI Claim System.
      2
      When fact patterns and bank balances align with the initial allegation:
          · Apply resource exclusions to the appropriate months based on the individual’s allegation.


      When fact patterns and bank balances do not align with the initial allegation:
          · Contact the person and verify whether the excess resource balances are attributable to saved pandemic assistance;
          · Exclude only those amounts attributable to retained pandemic assistance (unless another exclusion applies, e.g. early deposits or Federal tax returns); and
          · Record discrepancies, updated disaster assistance allegations, and any other information material to the resource determination on a DROC. For changes to Unemployment allegations, update the Unemployment Income page in the SSI Claim System.
          · If you discover other income during the investigation, develop according to normal policies.
          · Use your best judgment when assessing the reasonableness of a person’s allegation and obtain detailed explanations when needed. If you have reason to question the person’s allegation or if you suspect fraud, follow normal disaster assistance policies in SI 00830.620 and SI 01130.620 to request evidence in support of the individual’s allegation.

      NOTE: The resource exclusion for pandemic unemployment only applies to unemployment paid during the timeframe outlined in the chart in subsection B.4 of this EM. Regular unemployment benefits paid outside of that period retained in the month after the month of receipt are countable resources.
      3
      Exclude from resources all retained pandemic-related disaster assistance identified on the chart received from 3/2020 through the end of the pandemic period based on the individual’s reasonable allegation. (See chart in subsection B.4 in this EM for end dates.)

      Apply exclusions to the appropriate resource page and enter “disaster assistance” as the reason. Document the reason in the file documentation notes if there are multiple exclusions involved (e.g., we also excluded an early SSI payment or some of the account funds were from a Federal tax return).

      NOTE: For continuing resource exclusion amounts, advise individuals to save documentation of disaster assistance. We may request evidence for individuals who continue to save disaster assistance long-term.

      2. Example of applying pandemic-related resource exclusions.

      At the 8/2021 redetermination, the technician documents the following on a DROC:

      “Recipient and spouse received all three EIPs, each in a single deposit to their checking account ($2,400 in May 2020, $1,200 in January 2021, and $2,800 in April 2021). Recipient alleges saving some of the money in their joint checking account in the months after they received the EIPs, but that all of the money was spent down within a few months each time.”

      Since the person alleged having more than $400 in liquid assets during the period of review, the technician requests an AFI verification. When the response comes back, the technician notes a pattern of lower balances, usually between $900 and $1,300, then spikes in resource values that result in N04 ineligibility in the months of June 2020, February 2021, May 2021, and June 2021. The technician also notes a higher than normal balance in March 2021, but it was not high enough to cause an N04 ineligibility month.

      Since the bank balance patterns and allegation from the DROC align, the technician applies the pandemic assistance exclusion on the Financial Account page to the months that would otherwise calculate to N04 ineligibility (June 2020, February 2021, May 2021, and June 2021).

      Direct all program-related and technical questions to your Regional Office (RO) support staff or Program Service Center (PSC) Operations Analysis (OA) staff. RO support staff or PSC OA staff may refer questions, concerns or problems to their Central Office contacts.

      D. References

      EM-20014 REV 3 Effect of COVID-19-Related Financial Assistance on SSI Income and Resources

      MS 08114.042 Unemployment Compensation

      MS 04422.010 Report of Contact (DROC)

      2/24/2021 White House Announcement: Continuation of the National Emergency Concerning the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic

      SI 00830.230 Unemployment Insurance Benefits

      SI 00830.620 Disaster Assistance – Presidentially-Declared Disaster

      SI 01130.620 Disaster Assistance

      SI 01150.007 Transfer of Resources by Spend-Down

      SI 01140.200 Checking and Savings Accounts

      SI 01140.206 Electronic Financial Institution Verification

      SI 01130.700 Identifying Excluded Funds That Have Been Commingled With Nonexcluded Funds


      EM-21050 - Special Processing Instructions for Applying Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Income and Resource Exclusions to Pandemic-related Disaster Assistance - 07/23/2021