En español | Since the very first cases of coronavirus were detected in the United States, AARP has been actively engaged in the national response to this pandemic. Each and every day, we are helping our members navigate these frightening and challenging times. Often that includes fighting in the corridors of power, at the local, state and federal level, to make sure older Americans are getting the help they need.
Last week, Congress came together in a bipartisan way to pass the groundbreaking Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act. One of the key provisions in this new law is a $1,200 Economic Impact Payment that is available to every American who makes less than $75,000. AARP fought hard to make sure seniors, especially those who are living on Social Security, got the same benefit that everyone else will receive.
Unfortunately, earlier this week the IRS put out some very confusing information about how Social Security recipients would get their payments. Many seniors for whom Social Security is their main source of income are not required to file tax returns because their income falls below a certain threshold. Under the original plan from the IRS, they would have had to fill out extra paperwork and send it in before they would receive their payment.
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We found this unacceptable and immediately got to work. Many seniors do not have internet service at home, and rely on tax preparers, like the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program, to help them file their taxes. This year, because of the coronavirus, those programs are closed down. It would have made no sense at all to ask seniors to put their health in danger and venture out to get help preparing a new tax form.
I’m pleased to tell you that our advocacy got results. AARP reached out to officials in the White House and in Congress. Nearly two-thirds of the Senate sent letters to the Treasury Department demanding they reverse course. Within 24 hours, the IRS did just that: They announced late Wednesday night that seniors who receive Social Security benefits will automatically get their payments. We expect those payments will come very soon, and they should be direct deposited into the account where you receive your Social Security check.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. AARP’s advocacy has resulted in billions of dollars in emergency funding for the National Institutes of Health and the CDC to develop treatments and a vaccine to fight this virus. We have secured a major expansion of telemedicine through Medicare to make it easier to get on the phone with your doctor or health care provider and cut down on in-person visits to a doctor’s office. Our work has also resulted in significant expansions of food assistance, paid sick leave and funding for services counted on by older Americans who are most in need.
We are working in every state capital as well. We have passed laws in states all across the country to give medical professionals the tools they need to fight this virus. Our work in the states has led to new laws and policies expanding telemedicine; paid sick and family leave; requirements for nursing homes to help residents connect with their loved ones virtually; and new rules that allow nurses to provide care to the maximum extent of their training.
For more than 60 years, it has been AARP’s mission to fight for the health and financial security of older Americans. You can count on us to keep fighting for you every single day as we get through this crisis together.
Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO, AARP