CORONAVIRUS Tele-Town Hall April 2, 2020
Bill Walsh: Hello.
I am AARP Vice President Bill Walsh, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the coronavirus. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan member organization, has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of the global coronavirus pandemic, AARP is providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them.
Today, we will talk with experts. We’ll share the latest information on the virus, give tips to help you make informed financial decisions during these challenging times, and let you know what to expect from the government stimulus.
If you participated in one of our tele-town halls before, you know this is similar to a radio talk show and you have the opportunity to ask questions — live.
If you'd like to ask a question about safeguarding your health from the coronavirus or protecting your finances on the economic fallout of the global pandemic, press star 3 on your telephone. This will connect you to an AARP staff member, who will note your name and question and place you in a queue to ask that question live. To ask a question, please press star 3.
Joining us today is Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, M.D., the U.S. surgeon general; Jean Chatzky, best-selling author and CEO of hermoney.com; and Erik Jones, assistant deputy commissioner for operations at the Social Security Administration.
This event is being recorded and you can access the recording at aarp.org/coronavirus just 24 hours after the event.
Hello, if you're just joining, I'm Bill Walsh with AARP, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic. We're talking with leading experts and taking your questions live. Ask your question, please press star 3.
Now I'd like to welcome our first guest, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, M.D.
Dr. Adams is the 20th surgeon general of the United States. His mission as the nation doctor is to advance the health of the American people, and his motto is “Better Health Through Better Partnerships.”
Welcome and thanks for your partnership and joining us today, Dr. Adams.
Jerome Adams: Thank you so much, and I appreciate the opportunity to join you all. I applaud AARP for bringing you both health guidance and financial insights from the Social Security Administration, the Small Business Administration, and, especially, I'm excited to hear from Jean Chatzky.
One of my signature priorities as surgeon general is making the link between community health and business success, and I look forward to working with AARP to spread the word about that report when it's released later this year. As we all know, our COVID-19 crisis won't be solved from Washington, D.C. or from the CDC in Atlanta, but at the community level. When people are scared or threatened, when they need help, comfort or support, they typically don't look to Washington, D.C. They look to their communities.
And that's why we're trying to empower and equip communities, including health care professionals, hospitals, public health departments and organizations like AARP to do what works to keep our citizens safe from harm. The novel coronavirus or COVID-19 have now spread to over 150 countries, all 50 states and our territories. Over 200,000 cases had been reported in the U.S., and tragically death reports are over 5,000.
The truth is, we expect many more cases in the weeks ahead. That's why it's so critical that we as a nation, a united community, take a few simple steps to slow the spread of the virus. These steps are outlined in the president’s plan to slow the spread of coronavirus, and you can find that plan at coronavirus.gov and put its steps into action immediately.
I'm asking you to share it with your friends, your family and your networks, and use your voices to encourage its adoption. Ask those that you share it with to share it with others. Critically important, there's not a question I've been asked by the media that isn't addressed on that coronavirus.gov website.
It really is a toolkit for how you get through this epidemic. The essence of the plan is social distancing, keeping a safe and consistent separation between people. We talk about 6 feet or two-arm lengths. If you, your child or your grandchild might be sick, we ask that you stay home and keep everyone in the household home.
Stay home if you're older, especially, or if you have a compromised immune system. Avoid dining out, nonessential travel, and please don't visit long-term care facility unless medically necessary. We know that it's hard, but we also know it can mean the difference between life and death for many of our citizens. By social distancing, along with good hand and cough hygiene, we know we can dramatically reduce the spread of this disease.
We've seen it in places that have leaned into this early — like California, like the state of Washington. While we do everything we can together to limit this illness, I want to make sure you know what to do if you develop a fever, a dry cough or shortness of breath, which are the top three symptoms of the coronavirus.
First of all, I want you to know that we partnered with Apple, and if you go to apple.com/COVID19, it will walk you through symptoms and help you understand whether or not you should reach out to talk to your health care provider about getting a test. But if you experience symptoms, we ask that you not head directly into your doctor's office.
Give your health care professional a call and make a plan together. And if you don't have a health care professional, if you call your emergency room or if you go to your state Department of Health website, there's usually numbers there to help you get screened and figure out how you can safely get tested without exposing other people or without exposing yourself.
It's also important to note that even if you're feeling well, you may have been exposed to the virus still and you could unknowingly spread it to those least able to fight it. In fact, our advice is if you are around anyone considered vulnerable due to age or underlying conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes or being on an immunosuppressant, we ask that you behave as if you have COVID-19, test or no test.
Your extra care will keep your loved ones, strangers and our nation safe. Finally, what else can you do? Follow the guidance from your local health department and find ways to partner with them to strengthen their impact within your communities. And if you're able, make an appointment today to donate blood in the days and weeks ahead to help patients counting on life-saving blood throughout this pandemic. We know blood donations are down, and we know that seniors actually donate blood at much higher rates than other age groups, so we're worried about this disconnect, this mismatch here. But if you call and make an appointment first, then you can go in in a way which will still facilitate social distancing. Workers at blood clinics are being screened for COVID-19, and anyone who comes in is being screened for temperature and symptoms for COVID-19. And they're increasing even more so than before their already fantastic infection-control policies. So now is a safe time to give blood.
Thank you for the opportunity to address you today. I look forward to the questions, and I thank you for your support of this whole of America response.
Bill Walsh: All right.
Jerome Adams: No doubt about it. This is a challenging time. Please know I appreciate your efforts to communicate our work and the steps that can be taken to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Bill Walsh: All right, Dr. Adams, thanks so much for that comprehensive overview. Let's get right to it. First, how can people safely get medical treatment? What steps have been taken by the public and private sectors to ease access and lower costs?
Jerome Adams: There are many things that we've done. But a lot of these efforts have been led by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. One of the things they've done is increased access to telehealth services. Before this all started to evolve, it was only available in limited circumstances and in rural areas. Now, telehealth is available everywhere. People can get paid the full amount for telehealth services. We're also lowering regulations to build hospitals without walls to make it easier for people to stand up care for both COVID-19 and non-COVID patients outside of traditional hospitals, so that it's easier for people to access care. And so I want seniors to remember that, unfortunately, one of the unintended consequences of this or outcomes of this epidemic is going to be seniors not dying from COVID-19, but seniors dying from their diabetes or not paying attention to their heart disease or not doing the things that are appropriate for their lung disease.
Now more than ever it's appropriate that you stay in touch with your health care provider, that you take your medications, that you come up with a plan to take care of your comorbidities so that those don't end up taking out more people than coronavirus.
Bill Walsh: OK. Thank you for that information. Dr. Adams, the pandemic seems to be unfolding at a series of urban hotspots. Is this primarily an issue for largest communities? Do the needs of rural America differ? And if so, how?
Jerome Adams: Well, we know that everyone is going to have a different curve in their communities, if you will. Curve meaning increase in cases, peak and then decreasing cases. Coronavirus or spread person to person, so the more people you have in a densely packed area — New York has 8.6 million people in a very small area — the quicker the disease is going to spread. But as I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, every state, all the territories have seen cases. There was actually an article this morning that I was reading talking about a small rural Georgia community where individuals came together for a funeral. And in this small rural community, coronavirus spread like wildfire. There is nowhere that is immune to this disease and so it's important that we all take measures to protect ourselves. That's why we put out the 30 days to slow the spread recommendations nationally, because we want everyone to understand you've got a role to play in determining what this looks like in your community and how many people are ultimately put at risk in your community, rural or urban.
Bill Walsh: OK. Let's move to the topic of masks. Are there any circumstances in which people should wear masks, or is the priority to preserve masks for health care providers?
Jerome Adams: Thank you so much for asking that question, because it's complicated and I'm going to try to succinctly give you an answer. Initially, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and my office recommended against the general public wearing masks because of the evidence at the time. The majority of the evidence suggested that they were not effective at preventing a wearer of the mask from catching coronavirus. We have always recommended that people who have coronavirus or other cold and flu symptoms wear a mask to prevent spreading disease to other people.
So we've committed to continuing to look at the data. And as we look at the data, we've seen that there is about a quarter of the people who spread coronavirus are spreading it before they get symptoms or they're not getting symptoms. It's called asymptomatic spread. And so there is reason to believe that if people wear a face covering then that can prevent them from asymptomatically spreading the coronavirus in their communities. So again, it's not wearing a mask or face covering to protect yourself so much as it's wearing a mask or face covering when you go out to protect other people in case you are an asymptomatic spreader, and CDC is looking at that data right now and may be soon issuing advanced or revised recommendations.
But this is important, three quick things. Number one, if you do wear a mask, please wash your hands before you put it on and wash your hands after you take it off, and don't touch your face. We are worried that people will touch their face more frequently when they're wearing a mask, and actually potentially expose themselves to disease that is on surfaces.
Number two, when it comes to wearing a mask you don't need an N95 or a surgical mask; please save those for the health care providers. If you choose to wear a mask, you can make a mask, you can wear a bandana, you can wear a scarf — anything that will prevent those droplets from coming out of your mouth when you are coughing or sneezing or talking or singing or yelling.
Number three, this is not a substitute for social distancing. The most important thing you can do to stay safe from the coronavirus is to stay away from other people who may have the coronavirus. And so social distancing, staying at home is the most important thing. Just because you decide to wear a mask doesn't mean it's now OK for you to go out and be around other people because you will still be at increased risk for getting COVID-19.
Bill Walsh: Thank you so much for that clarification. I know there's been some confusion around that. I appreciate you giving us the facts there. It's now time to address your questions with the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams. Press star 3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member to share your questions.
It is my pleasure today to be joined by my colleague Jean Setzfand, AARP senior vice president of programs. Jean will be our organizer and help facilitate your calls today. Welcome, Jean.
Jean Setzfand: Hi Bill, delighted to be here.
Bill Walsh: Let's turn to our questions. Please stay tuned after these live questions. We'll talk to other experts about what you can expect about the recently approved governance stimulus law. Let's take our first question for Dr. Adams.
Jean, who do we have on the line?
Jean Setzfand: Our first caller is Joyce from Colorado.
Bill Walsh: Hey Joyce, go ahead and ask your question.
Joyce: I've seen articles about new coronavirus tests coming up. How do I get tested?
Jerome Adams: Joyce, thank you so much for that question. And I used to live out in Boulder, Colorado. Love it out there. Great question about testing. It’s important to know that we are now testing over 100,000 people per day. We've surpassed 1.2 million tests as a nation, and testing is becoming more and more available. We initially prioritize those at highest risk, meaning health care workers, people in hospitals or people who met one of our risk categories — over 65 or with underlying medical conditions, because those were the people who were most likely to get sick and die from coronavirus. So we initially prioritized them. We also initially prioritized urban areas like New York City that were particularly hard hit. We are now trying to increase the availability of testing in other areas, and in many cases a lot of rural areas have stepped up. Montana actually has tested more people per capita than the national average. So we know that testing is becoming more available. There's a new testing from Abbott and other companies that returned results in five minutes. And so we're trying to make that more available for people so that not only you can get a test, but you can get a result right away. But there's a difference between diagnostic testing, which is making sure we are testing the people who were sick, and surveillance testing, which means we're testing people who aren't showing any symptoms. We're trying to transition from a place of making sure everyone who needs the test to be diagnosed can get a test to a place where we're doing surveillance testing of asymptomatic people and can truly understand the rate of disease and communities. But talk to your health care provider. Again, apple.com/COVID19 is a great way to determine if based on symptoms and risk you need a test, and that will also increase your chances if you go to call your health care provider and say, look I feel like I'm in a risk category and the app told me I was, for you to go in and get diagnostic testing. And again, surveillance testing will be more and more available over the next coming weeks with 100,000 tests being done per day.
Bill Walsh: OK, very good. Thank you for that. Jean, who's our next caller?
Jean Setzfand: We have Lois calling in from North Carolina.
Bill Walsh: Go ahead, Lois.
Lois: I'm a caregiver right now for my husband, who has health issues, and I'm
concerned about people who need to come into our home. How do I keep a safe social distance and what should I do to keep my house clean and safe after they leave?
Jerome Adams: Fantastic question, Lois. Love North Carolina; great barbecue out there — I probably shouldn't say that as surgeon general. But everything in moderation, and you know everything in moderation including family and friends. If you or your husband or if you know someone who is at higher risk, now is the time to really hunker down and to say look, we can see the grandkids from the window or over Skype or through FaceTime. But now's not the time to have people coming in and out of the house, because everyone who comes in and out of the house can potentially be an asymptomatic carrier. And remember, 25 percent of the cases of COVID-19 are estimated to be spread by asymptomatic carriers. If people do come in the house, please pay attention to what they're touching. Please clean your surfaces frequently — door knobs, door handles, tabletops. Clean them with a bleach cleaner or a disinfectant or alcohol-based cleaner, and make sure people when they come in wash their hands right away. If anyone is coming into your house who is sick or has cold symptoms, you should feel empowered to ask them, Have you been running a fever? Do you have a cough? Do you have a sneeze? Do you have any symptoms? Then ask them to wear a facial covering so that when they're talking to your loved one they aren't potentially spitting out droplets that could be containing COVID-19. So those are the things you can do to stay safe — frequent cleaning, good hygiene, but most importantly for the next 30 days at least — until we see a peak and see things start to come back down — the best thing is just to have that good social distancing and to keep your husband safe and away from other people.
Bill Walsh: OK. Did you say a peak is coming, Dr. Adams?
Jerome Adams: Based on the models that we're looking at, we anticipate the United States peak to be in the next two to three weeks in terms of cases. But every community is going to see their peak at a different time. New York is going to hit their peak sooner. Washington looks like they've already hit their peak and are coming back down. Many communities have not yet hit their peak because the cases are just starting to spread. So it’s important to, again, know what's going on in your in your local communities by following your local health department's website, and your state by looking at your state department of health website, because when we give out information we're giving it out nationally. But really what's important to you is to know what's going on locally.
Bill Walsh: Right. OK, very good. Jean, who do we have on the line now?
Jean Setzfand: We have Jerry from Arizona.
Bill Walsh: Hi Jerry, go ahead with your question.
Jerry: Yeah. I’m Jerry, I'm calling from Phoenix. I'd like some information about we're not hearing a lot about people once they get the virus, how they are being treated. And I know there's not a cure yet. I am a 50-year survivor of tuberculosis. I was given a treatment in a pill form called INH Isoniazid … with a regimen of I think a B12 or B6 shot. It completely helped me kick that tuberculosis. So I was just wondering if that's been considered or what you're doing to treat patients with the coronavirus.
Jerome Adams: Jerry, thank you for the question. I love your name. I'm the United States surgeon general, but my first name is Jerome and I have been called Jerry a time or two in my life. We have several officers out there at Phoenix Indian Medical Center. You asked some great questions. Number one, there are many studies going on right now looking at different therapeutic medicines that can treat people with the coronavirus. I'm going to walk backward. About a year from now we hope that we will have a vaccine. We're on track to have it about a year from now, and that could be a game changer in the event that this virus comes back. And in weeks to months we hope to have much better information about different drugs and therapies that can treat people with COVID-19, but right now the most important thing to do, the way these outbreaks are usually slowed down and stopped, is by good old public health measures. What's your mother told you: Wash your hands, keep your hands to yourself, don't talk to strangers. Social distancing and good hand hygiene are going to be critical. Now you asked about the clinical course. It's important for people to know that 80 percent of individuals who get COVID-19 are going to have a mild type of a course. It's going to be like a bad cold or a flu, and they will get over it. They won't need hospitalization. Twenty percent of people will need to see a doctor and may need hospitalization. And of that 20 percent we know that people who have underlying medical conditions and are older are going to be at highest risk for needing to be on a ventilator, and ultimately, unfortunately, some of them will pass away. But 98 to 99 percent of people around the world so far on average have recovered from COVID-19, so even if you get COVID-19 chances are you won't need medical care, and 80 percent chance if you do need medical care, most people are still recovering and going home. The most important thing you can do is try to prevent yourself from getting it in the first place through social distancing and good hygiene.
Bill Walsh: Very good. Dr. Adams. And Jerry was getting at something that we've heard a lot about, which are experimental treatments. What can you say about that? Are there any things you want to warn people not to be doing?
Jerome Adams: Well, I would want to warn people to always talk to your health care provider. There is a terrible, terrible story out there, I believe it's from Arizona, about a gentleman who took fish-tank cleaner because he had heard about hydroxychloroquine. Well, that's not the same hydroxychloroquine that people take as a medication. So before you do anything, talk to your medical provider first and foremost. We are trying to do everything we can at a federal level to give people an array of options on an experimental basis. And we're collecting data so that we can quickly tell you whether or not these medications work, are actually effective, and who they're safe for. So right now it really is on an experimental level from a compassionate use standpoint, which is why you need to talk to your health care provider and determine on a case-by-case basis if the risks are less than the benefits from trying these new methods. But again, the best way to make sure you recover from COVID-19 is to make sure you never get COVID-19 in the first place. So stay at home, and I know I keep harping on that, but I don't want you to be in a situation where you're having to make a tough choice about whether to try a new experimental drug. If you get there, and some of you will, we want to make sure you have every option available. But my first choice, my first option is that you not get exposed to COVID-19 in the first place.
Bill Walsh: OK, very good. Jean, let's take one other question.
Jean Setzfand: We have a call from Sandy from Florida.
Bill Walsh: Hi Sandy, go ahead with your question.
Sandy: I live in a senior apartment complex. I stay in my apartment with the exception of doing laundry and going to take my garbage out. My daughter and her son and her husband go to work every day, and they would like me to come stay with them. What is your opinion on this?
Jerome Adams: Sandy, thank you so much. I just talked to your governor in Florida yesterday. You know, those are decisions that are tough and that you have to decide on a case-by-case basis. What I would say is, if you are comfortable and you feel safe and you can get what you need in your apartment, the safest thing is for you to be in an environment where there aren't people coming and going. But we know that seniors in many cases need help or rely on assistance from others. And so if that's the situation, then we just want to make sure the people who you're staying with are wearing a mask when appropriate so that they don't spread disease to you, or a facial covering if that's appropriate if they have cough and cold symptoms. We also want to make sure they're washing their hands frequently and that they're showering as soon as they come in and out of the house so that they aren't bringing COVID-19 back and forth. So my recommendation would be to try to stay where you are if you can, because the fewer people you're around the better. The more people you're around and the more people they're around, the more chances you're going to be exposed to COVID-19. But if you do go and stay with them, please make sure they're wiping down surfaces frequently and that they're practicing good hygiene around you, and that if they get sick they wear a mask and let you know immediately that they're sick so that they don't expose you to their potential illness. And best of luck to you; those are tough choices. But again there are choices that need to be made by families and by friends and colleagues with the scientific information guiding it.
Bill Walsh: And I think about the piece of advice you gave to the caller earlier about staying in touch through other means, whether it's like the telephone or Skype or Facebook or whatever it is. You know, the social distancing shouldn't lead to social isolation.
Jerome Adams: Exactly. I say social distancing doesn't mean social disengagement. Now's a great time to establish a buddy system, to look out for other people in your neighborhoods, in your apartments, in your complexes. You can check in on them and just see if some people can't get out and get groceries. So asking them, Hey can I bring you groceries? Is there something I can do for you? There are still things you can do to stay connected by telephone, by Skype, by FaceTime and by all this new technology while still keeping a good social distance of 6 feet from one another. So thank you for the opportunity. These were fantastic questions. I think I may post some of them on my own website and on my Twitter so that people hear those answers. And everyone out there, please stay safe. We will get through this. The good news again if that we're seeing places that have done this lower their death rates, flatten their curve, and start to decrease cases in a matter of about two to four weeks. And so I'm confident that we can do this in all communities across America if everyone participates and does their part.
Bill Walsh: All right. Excellent. I know you have to leave. Thank you so much again for being with us today, surgeon general.
Jerome Adams: My pleasure.
Bill Walsh: Now I'd like to transition to another important topic. What should you expect from the new stimulus law and how can you best manage your income and finances during this turbulent time? Before we begin, though, we need to hear from you. Please take a moment to tell us what's the most significant way the coronavirus pandemic has affected your financial situation at the moment. Press 1 on your telephone keypad If the most significant impact at the moment is lost income; press 2 if the most significant impact is depleted savings; press 3 if the most significant impact is missed payments or worried about your bills; press 4 if the most significant impact is needing to work longer than expected; and press 5 if you've not been affected financially.
Today we're talking with experts about what to expect from the new economic stimulus law, managing your money during these turbulent times, staying healthy and protected from the coronavirus, and changes that the Social Security Administration has made to protect the public. This is a timely discussion. Last week Congress passed and the president signed a bipartisan law with several vital measures that AARP fought for. I want to touch on a few that are important to our members. First, the law will send payments of $1,200 to most Americans, no matter their work status — including people whose primary source of income is Social Security.
AARP worked hard to get this included. The law also includes expanding unemployment insurance benefits for people who are out of work due to the pandemic. And extend deadlines for Americans to take the required minimum distributions from their retirement plan. It hasn't gotten a lot of attention but the law also allows employers to delay payment of their Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes. This could negatively affect the finances of these critical programs, so AARP successively fought to ensure the trust funds are replenished. And finally, and this is important, we received word last night that Social Security recipients who would normally file a tax return will receive the $1,200 payment automatically. This is the direct result of AARP advocacy. So we're delighted to share this news with you.
These are important victories for older Americans that would not have been possible without the phone calls emails and actions from AARP members, volunteers and other adults across the country. So thank you.
Now I'd like to introduce our next speakers. First we are joined today by Jean Chatzky,
an award-winning personal finance journalist and best-selling author with more than two decades of experience helping people manage their money, including serving as AARP financial ambassador. Thanks for joining us today, Jean. We're also joined today by Erik Jones, the assistant deputy commissioner for operations at the Social Security Administration. Eric helps direct and manage an organization of approximately 45,000 federal employees who served more than 40 million visitors and completed nearly 8 million claims for benefits last year. Thanks for being here.
Erik Jones: Hi, Bill. Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me to participate on today's call. My greetings as well to Dr. Adams and both Jeans that are with us today. It's a pleasure to be on the show with you. Since we are talking about finances today I thought I'd start with the bottom line. First, Social Security checks continue to be deposited as normal.
It is true that out of a concern for our employees and our visitors, we had closed their offices to the public, but while our offices are not physically open at present our employees are continuing to work. What I would ask your listeners is that if you need help from Social Security in the weeks ahead, please check out our website first at ssa.gov. I think you might be pleasantly surprised at just how much you can get done online with us.
Bill Walsh: All right. Thank you for that greeting. We're going to swing back to you in just a moment to get into some more of those details. Jean Chatzky, I'd like to start with you if you don't mind.
Jean Chatzky: Hello to all of your listeners as well.
Bill Walsh: Thank you for being with us. There's been a lot of information about the stimulus package and direct payments from the federal government. Tell us what people can expect; what do they need to do?
Jean Chatzky: So let's break it down for people, because there are a lot of facts and figures in these answers and it's very important that people understand what they have to do, but what they also don't have to do in order to get these payments. And the good news for most people listening is that you're not going to have to do anything. So here are the facts. As long as you are a resident of the United States; you have a valid Social Security number; you're not claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer — so if you're supported by adult children, for example, they can't have claimed you as a dependent; and you have an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less as a single person, $112,500 or less if you're head of household, or $150,000 or less if you're a married couple, you should be eligible for that full stimulus check. And that stimulus check will be $1,200 for single people and $2,400 for married couple.
Now the deal is that if you make more than those initial thresholds, the amount of your check will gradually decrease once your adjusted gross income hits those numbers, and by the time you earn $99,000 for singles and $198,000 for married couples, that stimulus check will vanish completely. The IRS is the agency that is going to determine, first if you're eligible, and second send out those checks. And send out Is not the appropriate term in many cases; a lot of these checks will be direct deposited if you have received a direct deposit of a tax refund in the past or if you get your Social Security that way. The agency will base the amount that you'll get on your 2019 tax return if you've already filed it. If you haven't already filed it — and don't panic, you do not have to have filed until this point — it'll be based on your 2018 tax return. The IRS is stepping up to say that the vast majority of people don't have to do anything. The IRS will automatically send the economic impact payments to those people who are eligible. So that should really clear things up for a lot of people. Again, this payment will be deposited directly into the same bank account that is reflected on your tax return. And as Bill mentioned — and this is really important because it's such a change we just learned of yesterday: Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return don't have to take action. You will receive your payment right in your bank account by direct deposit. Or if you typically get your Social Security payments by paper check, you'll get this payment in the same way. And a big shout out again to AARP. AARP worked so hard to make sure that the vast majority of Americans — people who work, people who are unable to work, who are unemployed, who are retired — get the most money as possible in the midst of this crisis.
Bill Walsh: Thank you very much for that, Jean. And for our listeners, I know Jean threw a lot of data points at you. You can find out more at aarp.org/coronavirus. There is a lot of content there that will walk you through the eligibility guidelines that Jean just covered. While we're on the topic of the economic stimulus, we want to provide a quick AARP Fraud Watch Network coronavirus alert. Scam artists are at it again, posing as banking government representatives to steal your personal information. They're asking for confidential information as a requirement to receive stimulus or coronavirus checks. It's simply not true. The Justice Department advises you to only accept or follow financial guidance from a source you trust and can verify, and to be very wary of anyone requesting your bank account, Social Security number, or payments by wire transfer, cash, gift card or through the mail. Please report any suspected fraud by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 866-720-5721. Scams like these can really hurt at a time like this.
Now staying on the topic of income, Jean, if somebody is struggling to pay bills or coping with job loss, what assistance is available and what can they do now without hurting themselves in the long run?
Jean Chatzky: There are a number of things that we should talk about in answer to this question. The first is that there has been a step-up pace as part of the CARES Act in unemployment benefits. So if you have lost your job, if you were previously unemployed, there are benefits that will be available to you. You can now get an additional $600 a week on top of the benefits that you typically would receive from your state, and under the CARES Act — which is this the formal name for the federal coronavirus response bill — you'll now be able to receive unemployment benefits for up to 39 weeks, and that's 13 weeks longer than the cutoff that many states use. You can and you have to file for unemployment with your own state. I understand that unemployment offices are overwhelmed right now. They are really … I mean, if you saw the unemployment number that came down the pike this morning — 6.3 million, I believe maybe 6.6 million unemployment claims — it's bigger than we've seen in our history. Just stick with it. You will be able to apply, file for your unemployment, and you will be able to get through it. It just may take a little more patience and a little more perseverance than you would have to apply in normal times. As far as bills, then it's a really really good time to talk about them, because we just passed the first of the month. Bills are starting to come due. If you don't have money to pay your bills, you want to first reach out to your creditors. There is a lot of relief now for mortgages, for rent. There are procedures in place that will not allow you to be foreclosed upon or evicted during these times. Same with student loan payments. There's a lot of relief out there and there are many credit card companies that are willing to work with customers and let them skip a payment. Same with auto insurance companies, but you have to contact your creditors. You have to pick up the phone or go online, get in touch with them, and let them know what's going on in your life. And then although this is not advice that I would give in normal times, it's a good time to hold onto your cash. So let's say you're sitting with a credit card bill and you are in the habit of always paying your credit card bill in full because you know that that's the best thing to do if you want to avoid interest charges. But you're a little bit tight on cash right now, don't pay that full credit card bill. This is the time to actually make a smaller payment and hold onto some of that cash to tide you through.
Bill Walsh: All right, Jean, a lot of good advice there. Callers, just remember that you can ask a question by pressing star 3 on your telephone keypad.
OK, Erik Jones, I'd like to bring you into the conversation. The Social Security Administration announced a couple of weeks ago that local offices are closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. How can people get the information and resources they need? Will it create any delays or affect any decisions for beneficiaries, including for disability benefits? You had started to get into this a little bit earlier. You want to return to it?
Erik Jones: Thank you, Bill. And welcome, Jean. I'm glad you were able to join the conversation. I think before I was mentioning that Social Security checks continue to go out and be deposited as normal. Our offices are currently closed to the public out of safety concerns for both our employees and the visitors. My first and foremost request is that folks go online first and see if they can't help themselves. We have a lot of services that are self-service online that can allow folks to get their business with Social Security taken care of quickly and efficiently. If that's not the case, our folks are still answering the phones and are in their local office. So if you have a question or a service that needs to be taken care of immediately, please do call the line and we will answer those calls. Here's the deal, though: For the near term we are going to prioritize critical requests first. So this means we're focusing on getting and making sure that those who should be getting benefits are set up to get those payments. Similarly, we are going to focus on processing actions like Medicare and Medicaid enrollments to ensure those who should be getting health care coverage are getting it. Some other requests may take a little longer, and we ask your patience in advance for that, but we're here to serve even though the offices are closed to the public. We're here to get to your questions answered.
Bill Walsh: OK, Erik Jones of the Social Security Administration. Thank you for that.
Erik, are we seeing an uptake in first-time Social Security claims due to the financial hardship, and what is the long-term cost of someone claiming early? Appreciate your expertise on that.
Erik Jones: Sure, thanks Bill.
I think it may be still a little bit too early to see if we're going to see an uptick in claims as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic and the associated unemployment. However, it's true that in past times, similar times of a higher unemployment, we have seen increased both retirement and disability filings. And so we will not be surprised if that happens this go-around again.
You know, filing or not filing is very individualistic and is based on a case-by-case situation. I think one of the best pieces of advice I can give your listeners is to go online to ssa.gov and create your My SSA account. And we have a number of things that you can play around with. One is you can access your Social Security statement, which will look at your past earnings and your past payments into Social Security. And we'll give you an estimate based on different retirement ages of what you would get if you are retiring before your full-retirement age. That monthly amount is going to be a little bit less, and if you're able to wait until past 67 for most of us, that's going to be a little bit more. We also have online a retirement calculator that again allows you to plug in some different variables and see how that might affect your retirement income.
Bill Walsh: OK. And Jean, on the on the topic of claiming Social Security early, do you have some uh thoughts on what people should consider before they do that?
Jean Chatzky: Absolutely. It's a really, really important question, because for so many people Social Security is the backbone of what they live on during the latter portion of their life, and the difference in the amount of money that you receive from claiming early versus waiting until age 70 can just be staggering. It can be tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars when you add it all up together. So you want to take it really carefully. And I would say if possible, in good times, the advice is always if possible you want to try to wait or at least have the higher-earning person in your family wait, because the difference in monthly payment for every year that you delay taking Social Security from age 62 when you're first eligible until age 70 equals about an 8 percent bump in your payment every single year. That is a lot of money, and so before you say “Oh my gosh I need money; I have to claim my Social Security now,” think about whether there are other things that you could do to relieve your cash crunch in the short term so that you don't have to make this long-term decision on the fly. We were talking, Bill, a little bit earlier about how there is relief out there. You may be able to defer your mortgage payment or your rent or your utilities or your student loan payment, and that may give you the relief that you need in order to say “OK, I can wait. I can pump the brakes. I'm not going to take Social Security.” I want everybody to think long and hard if this wasn't something that you were planning to do along if you were planning to wait, think about it; there are other tools that you have in your toolkit that you could pull out so that you can still continue to wait.
Bill Walsh: Jean, I wonder if you've seen any of those lenders be more flexible in the face of the crisis to either renegotiating terms or at least being flexible in terms of payment deadlines.
Jean Chatzky: Oh, absolutely. And the CARES Act, by the way, has some relief built into it. So for example we know that it requires mortgage servicers to offer 60 days of forbearance to borrowers who are having financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And this can be extended for another four months. This applies, by the way, to mortgages that are owned by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA, USDA and Indian mortgage loans. We know that during this period the CARES Act prohibits landlords who are receiving forbearance on their properties from evicting tenants, so that offers some relief. Student loans are on pause. Federal student loan payments are on pause for six months through Sept. 30, and if you make your payments, interest rates have gone to zero on those federal loans. So everything that you pay will go to principal. And then on an individual case, I have seen a number of banks — the website that I run is called hermoney.com — we've put up a list of a number of banks that have said that we will work with you if you can't make your credit card payment, if you can't make your car loan payment. So yeah, the answer is we are seeing a lot of it. This is a time unlike that we've ever seen before, but you do have to pick up the phone and call your lenders. You can't just put your head in the sand in most cases and not pay. You have to tell them what you're doing.
Bill Walsh: OK. Thank you so much, Jean Chatzky and Erik Jones from the Social Security Administration. It's now time to address your questions with Erik Jones and Jean Chatzky. Press star 3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with AARP staff to share your question.
Let's take our first question. Jean, who do we have?
Jean Setzfand: We have Annie from New York.
Bill Walsh: OK. Hey Annie, go ahead with your question.
Annie: Good afternoon. I'm a social worker. I work with the Department for the Aging, and I’ve been getting a lot of calls from my seniors who are on lower income, living on Medicaid, you know, getting their medications through Medicaid. And they're being told that they're going to get this stimulus money. And their fear is that maybe this $1,200 will increase their income and they may lose their Medicaid and their medications. And the other part of the question, is this in all states or just New York?
Bill Walsh: Thank you very much, Annie. Jean Chatzky, that sounds like a question for you. Will receiving the stimulus checks disqualify people from the programs that Annie mentioned?
Jean Chatzky: No, it will not. That is not something that the seniors that you're dealing with — Annie, thank you, by the way, for everything that you're doing. I'm in New York just like you and it is a different world out there — but, no these payments are being treated like a tax refund. They are not treated as income for the purposes of determining eligibility for any of these programs. And that's not just the ones that you mentioned but Social Security income and SNAP as well, so please tell people they do not have to worry about this. And it's not just New York. This is countrywide.
Bill Walsh: Very good.
Erik Jones: I can go ahead.
Bill Walsh: Erik, jump right in.
Erik Jones: I can just confirm what Jean said from a Social Security standpoint that this is not countable income. It is not going to come against anyone for SSI purposes.
Bill Walsh: Very good. Thank you very much. Jean Setzfand, do we have another caller on the line?
Jean Setzfand: Yes, we do. We have Pat from Pennsylvania.
Bill Walsh: Go ahead with your question.
Pat: Hi. Thank you so much. My question was, if on last year I owe taxes to the IRS, how will that affect my stimulus package this year?
Bill Walsh: Jean Chatzky, you want to take that one?
Jean Chatzky: Sure. I don't believe this will impact your stimulus payment at all. The only thing that we are hearing payments being reduced for at this point are for people who owe back child support. So even in the case where you are on a payment plan with the IRS or you're delinquent on your student loans, things that would normally get garnished, that is not happening.
Bill Walsh: OK. Thank you very much. Jean, do we have another caller?
Jean Setzfand: Yes, we had a caller, I think, it's Wilmer, from an 858 area code.
Bill Walsh: Go ahead with your question. Is that Wilmer?
Bill Walsh: Hi, is that Wilmer?
Wilmer: Hi, yeah. I have question on unemployment insurance. I'm a senior, I'm 75 years old, but I was doing Uber driving, which I discontinued because of my car condition.
Am I like, can I claim I need unemployment insurance for the lost income that I have over the past three months and for future months?
Bill Walsh: Jean Chatzky, do you want to take that?
Jean Chatzky: You may be able to, but you also may not be able to. These additional payments are supposed to cover people who are working part time, in addition for the first time to people who are self-employed, file a 1099 or received 1099, or are Independent contractors or sole proprietors. I would go through the process; I would go ahead and try to see if you are able to file a claim, but based on the level of your income I am not sure whether or not you will qualify.
Bill Walsh: OK. And just a clarification on that wanting to folks. If they're filing an employment claim, do they file where they live or where they work?
Jean Chatzky: You file in your state of residence.
Bill Walsh: in your state of residence? OK. Well thank you very much.
Jean Chatzky: Excuse me, I just misspoke. You have to file typically for benefits through the state where you work, not where you live.
Bill Walsh: You work.
Jean Chatzky: Not where you live.
Bill Walsh: Exactly. Thank you for clearing that up. I appreciate it.
Do we have another caller on the line?
Jean Setzfand: I have actually a question coming in from Facebook live, and I think this is one for Social Security. The question is, can people still get disability determinations while the offices are shut down?
Bill Walsh: Erik, do you want to take that one?
Erik Jones: I sure do and I appreciate the question. The answer is yes. Those are one of the cases we're trying to get online; we're trying to do it as quickly as possible. You know, I will say, Social Security has been affected by COVIT-19 as well, so we do have reduced staff levels, and it may take a little bit longer but those are the types of cases I was talking about that we are trying to prioritize and get folks online who should be in payable status.
So absolutely file, if you can file online. I think that'll be the easiest way to do it. And we're absolutely taking and processing those cases.
Bill Walsh: OK. Thank you so much for that. Do we have another caller on the line?
Jean Setzfand: We have Pat from North Carolina.
Bill Walsh: Go ahead, Pat. What's your question?
Pat: Hi. My question is I've been retired now for quite a few years and I've lost a third of my 401k that we are currently living on. And because we lost so much, I was afraid that we would not have enough left if we lost even more. So I pulled out of the market. So what I'd like to know is, A) was that the smart thing to do, to put things in cash? And B), if it wasn't, when would be the best time for us to get back in? I know we can't time the market, but I would like to know when the best time to get back in is since it's so volatile right now.
Bill Walsh: Jean Chatzky, do you want to take that question? I think it's a question in the minds of a lot of people these days?
Jean Chatzky: I know it's a question on the minds of a lot of people, and it is such a tough call. The volatility emotionally is so difficult to take, so I completely understand why you did what you did. Historically, what we've seen is that it's better if you can ride through it. It's better if you can hold on as things come back, things do, historically, recover. If you look at 2001, 2008, 1987, big downturns in the market, a few years later, things were back where they were before. But I also understand the need for money for people in retirement. And so as you think about how much to put back into stocks and when to put that money back into stocks, I'd first take a look at what your needs for cash coming out of that account are going to be in the next three to five years. You want to make sure that the money that you need in that short term, and I’m really talking about over the next three years, doesn't belong In stocks. It never belonged in stocks. We should be at a place in our lives when we are in retirement pulling money out of stuff on a regular basis, selling on a regular basis, and consoling to cash for that money that we know that we need for our living expenses.
And so as you look at when to put the money back in, I'd answer that question first and I’d corral the money off to a side that you know that you are going to need to live on. As for the rest, I don't know what's going to happen in the market; I wish I had a crystal ball and I can tell you exactly the day that things were going to turn around and when they're going to turn around and how long they're gonna stay and if they're going to go down again from there. I think that the strategy of dollar-cost averaging of dividing that money into a group of piles, 12 piles perhaps, and just putting some into the market continually on a regular monthly basis is what makes sense. It enables you to buy the market at all levels and it also gives you a little bit to hold onto when markets are down, knowing that you bought shares at those lower prices.
If you want to wait and see how all of this has washed out and in three, six months, I think that that is an OK thing to do, but I also think it's OK to say there's been a lot of pain already and I'm going to start putting some money to work knowing that it could go down again. I also want to say for anybody who has had their retirement plans upended, this is a really good time to seek the assistance of a financial adviser. There are financial advisers out there who work in all sorts of ways, and you can hire a financial adviser, a fee-only financial adviser, who is not going to try to sell you anything, to look over your account and give you some objective advice about how to make sure that you have enough money to last the rest of your life.
The association of fee-only financial advisers is called NAPFA.org. That's the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, and they are not going to try to sell anything.
Bill Walsh: OK. I mean, we often think of financial advisers just for people who had a great deal of money, but you'd recommend a financial adviser even for people just making decisions, Should I continue to contribute to my 401k? and maybe people still on Social Security.
Jean Chatzky: Let me let me say something about the continued contributions as well. Look, I think we all have to look at how we're using our resources these days. Perhaps hiring a financial adviser to do everything for you, which can get pricey, is definitely not in the cards for everybody, but for spending a little bit of money on an hour or two of expertise is often a smart move. There's also often the opportunity, if you have a 401k that is administered by a major financial institution, there is often a financial planning advisory service that you have access to for free through your employer; you can just pick up the phone and call, so think about that as well. And if you still are able to contribute to a 401k, I would say go ahead because the matching dollars that you get from your employer in many cases are free money. You don't want to leave those on the table. And because the markets have come down so far, putting money in at these levels are, at least according to a lot of the smart folks watching these things, chances are you're getting a better buy on these same shares than you would have gotten a few months ago.
Bill Walsh: OK. Jean, thanks so much for that.
Jean Setzfand, do we have another caller on the line?
Jean Setzfand: Yes, we do. We have Carole from Chicago.
Bill Walsh: Hey Carole. Go ahead and ask your question.
Carole: You may have answered this a little earlier, but I recently applied for Medicare benefits. I was there actually on the last day before the office closed to the public. And I'm just wondering if those requests are being processed on a timely basis or if I need to somehow plan for that because I would not have health insurance if I did not have Medicare.
Bill Walsh: Erik Jones of Social Security, You want to take that one?
Erik Jones: Yes, I sure do. And thank you, Carole.
I think I did mention earlier on that one of the high priority workloads that we have our folks focusing on are Medicare and Medicaid benefits. So I would hope you would see yourself enrolled in the short term. If you don't I would encourage you to call our office again, and that’s one of the things we would hope to help you out with in the short term because we want you to have your health care benefits.
Bill Walsh: Erik, what should Carole expect? Is there a confirmation letter that would go out, would she get an email? How would she know that the coverage is activated?
Erik Jones: She should get a letter in the mail.
Bill Walsh: OK. And if she's not getting that in a few weeks to call the office?
Erik Jones: I think it should be within a week to 10 days that you should see the letter. You said you were in, I guess on the 16th it sounds like, Carole, cause I think we closed the offices on the 17th, so I think you would get a letter fairly shortly, and I think your coverage based on when you file would start around July.
Bill Walsh: OK. Very good. Thank you for that, Erik Jones of the Social Security Administration. Do we have another question?
Jean Setzfand: Yes. This is coming in from Elaine from Connecticut.
Bill Walsh: Elaine, go ahead with your question.
Elaine: Yes, thank you. Just want to ask about the $1,200 check. Do you know the timing of when people would see that in their direct deposit, or however they are receiving it?
Bill Walsh: Jean Chatzky, do you want to field that one?
Jean Chatzky: Maybe Eric actually knows better than I do, because I'm hearing a number of dates. I've heard two weeks, I've heard three weeks, and I've heard the end of the month.
Erik Jones: Thanks, Jean. And that was going to be something I covered in my opening is that we have worked really closely with the IRS and our colleagues at Treasury. I think we all heard the good news last night that most folks are going to have their checks deposited automatically or mailed if that's how they get their benefits right now. The IRS has set up a website, and Bill, I know we've probably both mentioned a couple of websites and your folks were good enough to put those online. I'm going to mention another one and it's the IRS site that they set up specifically to give you status updates on when those checks might be mailed out. That website is irs.gov/coronavirus. And if you go there — and it may still be a little early cause I think they're still working out the timing themselves; I, like Jean, have heard two weeks, three weeks. They're trying to get those out as quickly as possible, but that website will be the best place to go to get up-to-date information on when you might see your payments.
Bill Walsh: OK. And I have just a little bit to add to this. We had heard that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin say that people may get their payments by April 17. So the IRS has not said when they'd be receiving checks — people receiving checks — would get them. But that appears to be a date that's been put out there right now for these direct deposits. But I think that's good advice to check with the website that Erik Jones suggested and go to that portal.
Do we have another question for our experts?
Jean Setzfand: Yes we do. We have a call from from Cybill from New York.
Bill Walsh: Hey Cybill, you're on the line. Go ahead and ask your question. I think we might've lost Cybill. Do we have another caller?
Jean Setzfand: Absolutely. We have a call coming in from Gerri of Ohio.
Bill Walsh: Hey Gerri, go ahead and ask your question.
Gerri: Hello. I am a senior living in a HUD facility. Will this stimulus check deposit affect my rent, because our rent is based on a third of our income. How will this affect my rent?
Bill Walsh: You want me to take that, Jean? Did you have any insight on that?
Jean Chatzky: Absolutely it should not affect your rent at all. It is not treated as taxable income. And so if your rent is based on your taxable income, if your rent is based on your adjusted gross income, this will not impact that.
Bill Walsh: You had said before it's like a tax refund.
Jean Chatzky: Right, exactly. It's this stimulus and it's a little confusing because of the lingo that everybody is using and throwing around, but that's the bottom line. It's treated like a tax refund. It's not treated as taxable income. I'm getting questions from people who want to know, Am I going to have to pay this money back in 2020? The answer to that is no as well.
Bill Walsh: I am Bill Walsh with AARP and we're taking your questions today about the coronavirus with key experts. I had asked for everyone on the line to participate in a poll earlier, and I have some results. It's clear that there are a range of concerns related to the immediate financial impact of the coronavirus based on the poll that many of you answered earlier. It looks like 38 percent of people on the line say it hasn't affected them financially. Well, that's good news. Another 28 percent, however, said it has depleted their savings, and 14 percent report lost income. So it's having an effect on some and not on others.
Let's take more questions from our callers. Jean, who do we have up next?
Jean Setzfand: We have a caller, Anita from West Virginia.
Bill Walsh: Anita, go ahead with your question.
Anita: I filed my income tax on the 5th of March. I'm eligible for money back, which I elected to leave in, no big deal. But today I got a letter — IRS, it says, Austin, Texas, and they say I need to call a certain 800 number in the next 30 days between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. to verify this. They say if we don't hear from you we won't be able to process your December 31, 2019, income tax returns.
And to expedite this process I must have all the following: this letter; a prior year income tax return — all my forms, 1040 etc,; the income tax returns for the years shown above which will be 2019 and all those 1040s etc.; and any supporting documents for each year's income tax return. And if I don't call this and give them this information my form will not be filed. I think it's a scam.
Bill Walsh: Yeah, and I was going to say the same thing. Jean Chatzky, Erik Jones, what's your sense of what's happening there with Anita?
Jean Chatzky: So we know that the IRS will not call you; the IRS won't email you, and they won't text you. If they are going to reach out to you, they are going to reach out by mail. However, the amount of information they're asking for makes me very wary as well. I would crosscheck that phone number, Anita. I might place a call to the IRS but I wouldn't necessarily call the number on that letter. I would go to irs.gov, and I would place a call to the IRS directly or send an email directly to make sure before you give any information to anybody that this is legit. And if and when you do call them, I would be very, very wary of giving them any personal detail. Erik?
Erik Jones: Jean, I was going to echo exactly what you said. Since it's IRS I'm a little less familiar with the different types of scams that are out there. We certainly encourage you to crosscheck those numbers. Go to our official website, call our official number, talk to one of our agents, and make it be a call that you placed as opposed to responding to a number that's on a piece of paper that you find suspicious. So I think your gut instinct is probably right; I think the advice to go online, find the number to IRS themselves and talk to someone there to either confirm that that was a legitimate request on their part or quite likely that was not something that was issued from the IRS.
Bill Walsh: All right. And Erik, are we seeing any scams related to Social Security that you've been aware of since the outbreak of the pandemic?
Erik Jones: Absolutely. And some of them are quite heinous. I think you know over the course of the last year we've seen a lot of either phone calls, mail, emails, texts that say: We suspended your number, we suspended your payments. Now they're saying: We suspended because of COVID-19. Even more heinous from my consideration is you're seeing some out there that say: We're going to increase your Social Security benefit by this amount because of the new stimulus package but you need to call us. I assure you none of those are coming from the Social Security Administration. We are not suspending anybody's number because of COVID-19. We're not suspending anybody's payment because of COVID-19. We have another website, our inspector general's website. I know you had a website as well, Bill, that you mentioned before, but if it's specifically related to Social Security, I would ask that you go to our inspector general’s site and provide the specific information. We are trying very hard to track down these individuals that are doing this. It's more important now than ever. And so any information you can provide that help us track these folks down is so much appreciated.
Bill Walsh: OK. Very good. And Jean and Erik had made reference to the IRS customer service number. I have that here if folks on the line want to take that down. That number is 800-829-1040. That's 800-829-1040.
Jean, do we have another caller on the line?
Jean Setzfand: We actually have an interesting question coming in from our YouTube watch channel, and it's a question about eligibility for the stimulus:
My son is a full-time student at the University of Puerto Rico. He's 23 years old. Will he receive the $1,200 stimulus package, and if so, how?
Bill Walsh: OK, the person's son is a 23-year-old student. Will they be eligible for the stimulus payment? Jean Chatzky, do you want to take a crack at that one?
Jean Chatzky: It’s going to depend if he is a dependent or not. People who are claimed as dependents, whether they are your children or perhaps older parents, are not going to be eligible for any stimulus payments. And parents are only getting stimulus payments for children under the age of 17. So it really depends on the status on his parents' tax returns.
Bill Walsh: Jean, do we have another question?
Jean Setzfand: Yes, we do. We have a caller Joan from Henderson, Nevada.
Bill Walsh: Joan, go ahead with your question.
Joan: I'm still working, I'm 80 years old, but I still work and I do have a 1099 coming in. Well that money is no of course I can't work Uh I can't go outside to work And uh I was wondering I can't I understand I can't go for unemployment but is there some kind of a payment that we can get as 1099 workers.
Bill Walsh: Do you want to jump on that one, Jean Chatzky?
Jean Chatzky: Joan, actually you can claim unemployment in this case. The rules have been changed in this scenario where people who are self-employed 1099 sole proprietors are eligible for unemployment benefits. So I would look there. The other thing that is available to you as an independent contractor is what's being called a PPP loan from the Small Business Administration That's a paycheck protection loan. The applications for those loans, which are again part of the CARES Act, are coming out tomorrow, April 3. I believe for independent contractors you're not eligible to apply until April 10, but you may want to read up on whether that's something that makes sense for you as well. And can I just say, good for you working at 80 — you sound like you're 80 years young. So I hope that you're doing OK.
Bill Walsh: Yeah, that's fantastic.
All right, Jean, do you want to take one more caller?
Jean Setzfand: Yes, I think that here's a quick one from Facebook. This question refers to a relative who lives on their Social Security overseas. What did we tell them about their Social Security? Are they still going to get their checks?
Bill Walsh: Erik Jones, do you want to take that are relatively accuracies on Social Security?
Erik Jones: Absolutely, 100 percent, those checks are still going out, and they should count on that monthly income.
Bill Walsh: OK, very good. Jean, do want to take another question?
Jean Setzfand: Sure. Since we have an abundance of Jean … here's another one, from Jean from Alaska.
Jean: Hi. My question is, I have a daughter who has a disability and we file her taxes with ours. She does have a minimum income. Will she get a stimulus check? It doesn't sound like we're going to be eligible, but would she and another daughter who doesn't file and does not get Social Security?
Bill Walsh: Jean, how old are your daughters?
Jean: 20 and 21
Bill Walsh: And do you claim either of them as dependents on your taxes?
Bill Walsh: Jean Chatzky, do you want to handle that one?
Jean Chatzky: Basically, a two-part answer. If you claim them as dependents, they will not receive their own stimulus payments. But you did raise an interesting point for people who haven't filed taxes and don't claim Social Security. You should file a very basic quick tax return. That's the best way to ensure that you get your stimulus checks.
Bill Walsh: A very quick tax return for 2019, you mean?
Jean Chatzky: For 2019, yes.
Bill Walsh: And you that will accelerate the …
Jean Chatzky: That will put you in the system. That'll put you in the system. It'll help them know where to find you and you want to accelerate that payment, you want to both file the tax return but also elect direct deposit.
Bill Walsh: Direct deposit. That should expedite things as well.
Jean Setzfand, do you want to give us another question?
Jean Setzfand: Sure. We have a call coming in from Ida from Texas.
Bill Walsh: Hey Ida, go ahead with your question.
Ida: I want to find out about the stimulus payment, if you are on SSI, will you have to fill out a form or anything to get your payment?
Bill Walsh: Erik Jones, do you want to take that one?
Erik Jones: So I hope the answer is going to … I'm going to hedge just a little bit. Ida.
I hope the answer is going to be no, but we are honestly still figuring out the logistics for that, working with our colleagues at the IRS.
So for the most part everybody, as Jean mentioned earlier, is going to get those checks automatically. For our SSI folks we are working hard with the IRS to figure out how to make that happen as well. But I can't say for 100 percent certain yet that you might not need to file something. So what I'd ask you to do is stay-tuned for the next few days as we try and work through that. I mentioned the website earlier. If you're able to access that, we'll continue to provide updated information there. And so we hope to have an answer for that in the coming days, but I don't have a 100 percent answer for you just yet.
Bill Walsh: Just to clarify, it was our understanding that Social Security recipients would not have to file a tax return in order to get the stimulus payments. Are you making a distinction there, Erik, between folks who are on SSI?
Erik Jones: Yes, exactly. So it's a different file for us and so it's a little more complicated there, but again we're trying to work through that. We hope to find an answer to that; I just don't want to say for certain one way or another just yet.
Bill Walsh: And where's the best place for Ida to track that? Obviously this is a major issue for her. We would direct your day aarp.org/coronavirus. Is there a phone number you would suggest she call to stay on top of that?
Erik Jones: if you're able to, I'd go to that irs.gov/coronavirus website. That's where IRS is trying to centralize the most current information on everything to do with the stimulus or the economic impact payments. So I think that's the number one source. We're trying to refer everyone to it so that everybody is getting the most current information.
Bill Walsh: And if you don't have access to the internet, I can give you that phone number again to the IRS customer service. It's 800-829-1040.
Jean, do you have another question for us?
Jean Setzfand: have a caller, Caroline from Florida.
Bill Walsh: Caroline, go ahead with your question.
Caroline: I own an S corporation. And I put on one event per year that's not going to happen this August. And I'm 62, and I do collect full Social Security. But I do take a salary under the max, which is allowed when taking Social Security. It sounds like from the other callers that I am eligible for unemployment, and there are two things I'm not sure. Can you apply online or do you have to call and wait those hours? Cause I certainly don't want to go in person at my age and I'm high risk. And the second question is, Is there anything else as a small business that I could apply for besides unemployment?
Bill Walsh: Jean Chatzky, do you want to take that one?
Jean Chatzky: My first answer to your first question is you absolutely can apply online, so I would go ahead and try to do that. There is a lot happening in terms of small businesses in the CARES Act, but the big thing that people are looking at is something that's called paycheck protection, which allows small businesses to apply for loans that would cover two- and-a-half months’ worth of their average 2019 payroll. I don't know how you paid yourself for this event that you put on per year, but if you had a regular payroll it would cover two- and-a-half times that monthly obligation, and the way that it is being structured as long as employers do not lay off people during the eight-week period following the taking of the loan, then they are eligible to have that loan forgiven. It becomes a grant rather than a loan. So that's a great benefit for small businesses. The applications for those loans, which will be made through existing SBA lenders — banks, nonbank lenders and credit unions, will be coming out tomorrow. And what I'm hearing is that it's best to work through the bank where you have your preexisting business relationship. Banks are expecting to be so overwhelmed that some are saying: Unless you have your business account with us, we would rather you work through the institution where you already bank.
Bill Walsh: I'm afraid that's all the time we have for callers.
Jean Chatzky and Erik Jones, I wonder if you have any closing thoughts or recommendations for us. Jean, do you want to go first?
Jean Chatzky: Absolutely. First of all, thank you for having me. I really enjoyed participating in this conversation and I would just encourage everybody to take care of themselves. I think that we all have to keep in mind that our number one job in this very trying and unexpected period is to keep ourselves healthy. And if you can keep yourself healthy, that will be a great financial benefit to you ultimately as well. So I hope everybody stays safe and takes care.
Bill Walsh Thank you, Jean Chatzky, and Erik Jones of the Social Security Administration, I apologize earlier for cutting you off. Do you have any closing thoughts or recommendations for what AARP members should understand from the conversation today?
Erik Jones: Thank you, Bill, and no worries there. Jean, I've learned an awful lot from you today as well and so enjoyed our conversation. One thing I would say in going out that really ties to something you said, Jean, in terms of education — postponing collections for student loans for six months. We as well are suspending our collection of overpayments for six months. So I think you're finding a lot of folks around the board are trying to pull back where they can to help folks make ends meet. Again, my parting words are Social Security is there. We're there to answer your questions. Please try and do your work with us online first. But if you can't, give us a call; our folks are there for you. Look out for those scams; if you're suspicious, do a crosscheck on those numbers and report anything suspicious to us. And finally, as Jean said, please everybody, stay safe, stay healthy.
Bill Walsh: Erik Jones from the Social Security Administration and Jean Chatzky, a financial expert, thank you so much for taking the time today, and thank you our AARP members, volunteers and listeners for participating in this discussion. If your question was not addressed, please go to aarp.org/coronavirus. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan member organization, has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of this crisis we are providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them protect themselves from the virus, protect spread to others while taking care of themselves. All of the resources referenced today, including a recording of today's Q&A event can be found at aarp.org/coronavirus starting on April 3. Again, that web address is aarp.org/coronavirus. There you'll find the latest updates as well as information created specifically for older adults and family caregivers. We hope you learned something that can help keep you and your loved ones healthy. Please be sure to tune into our next AARP tele-town hall on April 9 at 1 p.m. ET. Thank you, and have a good day. This concludes our call.
Experts address health concerns and questions related to managing your income, credit and retirement accounts, accessing Social Security services, the extension of the tax filing deadline, and the effects of the economic stimulus legislation. Guests include Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, Surgeon General of the United States; Erik Jones, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Social Security Administration; and Jean Chatzky, CEO of HerMoney.com.
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