COVID-19 Updates and Frequently Asked Questions
Scammers have been taking advantage of COVID-19 and economic insecurity to trick people out of money and personal information. We have learned that some are even impersonating BenefitsCheckUp® because we are a trusted site for older adults and caregivers.
BenefitsCheckUp will NEVER reach out to you by text, email, phone, or social media message to ask you for your personal information or money. If you have questions or concerns about whether something you received is really from BenefitsCheckUp or the National Council on Aging, please email us at BenefitsCheckUp@ncoa.org.
If you believe that you have been the victim of a scam that is targeting seniors, you can visit the National Adult Protective Services Association to learn how to report the scam and get help. You can also submit a complaint to the FTC.
Along with nonprofits, scammers pretend to be businesses, government agencies, and other trusted organizations. Here are some scams to look out for:
Social Security – Some people have gotten fraudulent letters claiming their benefits will be suspended because of COVID-19 related office closures. This is a scam. Social Security is not suspending or reducing benefits because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Check out the Social Security Administration website for more information.
Economic Impact Payments – No government agency will call, text, email, or send send messages via social media asking for money or personal information in order for you to get a stimulus payment. Visit the FTC website for more information about scams related to the stimulus payments.
Contact Tracing – Contact tracing is a process to help identify people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Scammers are calling or sending text messages asking for money or sensitive, personal information that is not part of actual contact tracing. Read more from the Department of Justice.
Medicare and COVID-19 Testing – Medicare beneficiaries are being contacted with phony offers of COVID-19 testing. Beware of unsolicited requests for personal information including your Medicare number. Get more tips and information from the HHS Office of Inspector General website. If you think you have been the victim of fraud or attempted fraud, you can file a report with the Senior Medicare Patrol.
Food & Nutrition Help
Are my SNAP (food assistance) benefits increasing because of the COVID-19 Pandemic?
The USDA Food and Nutrition Service, which runs SNAP (food assistance), has given states options to make it easier to get SNAP during the coronavirus pandemic, including not requiring a face-to-face interview, and temporarily raising the SNAP benefit to the maximum amount. Call your state hotline to see if there are changes in your state. You can also find more information about SNAP in your state on the BenefitsCheckUp® website.
Can I use my SNAP benefits to buy food online and have it delivered to me?
Some states are offering the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot, which allows you to use SNAP benefits to buy food online from certain online retailers. The SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot is currently available in many states. Visit this USDA site for a full list. SNAP benefits can only be used for food. They cannot be used to pay for delivery fees. Contact the store to see if delivery is available in your area.
I’m having trouble getting food. Where can I find help?
NCOA has information about where to get help with food. You can also find more information about programs in your state on the BenefitsCheckUp® website.
Economic Impact Payments
Do I need to do anything to get the Economic Impact Payment?
According to the IRS, most people do not need to do anything to get the Economic Impact Payment. The IRS has more information about the payments and who is eligible. The IRS also has a site to to check on the status of your payment. The Social Security Administration has published guidance for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Beneficiaries.
Will the Economic Impact Payment impact my eligibility for SNAP or Medicaid?
For SNAP eligibility, an Economic Impact Payment will not be counted as income in the month a household gets it and it will not be counted as an asset for the next 12 months, according to the US Food & Nutrition Services. It will also not be counted as income for Medicaid eligibility and, for programs that have a resource limit, it will not be counted for the next 12 months, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. NCOA has a published a factsheet with more detailed information about this topic, including how the Economic Impact Payments will be treated for eligibility for SSI and public housing.
Where can I find help with utilities?
The BenefitsCheckUp website has information about some utility assistance programs. You can select your state and the Housing & Utilities category. There are also some sources of special, short-term help for people impacted by the pandemic. These vary by state and location, so you may want to consider reaching out to:
Can I get help with phone service or internet?
- Places of Worship: Many churches and other places of worship are taking donations and providing the funds to help people harmed by COVID-19 pay their electric, gas, and/or water bill.
- Your utility provider: Some states have asked public utilities to expand assistance programs to customers who are impacted by COVID-19. Call your utilities provider for information.
- Other local programs: Some counties are providing special financial help for utility bills. Check with your local Area Agency on Aging to see what is available in your area.
The Lifeline Program can help low-income consumers get discounted monthly phone service or broadband Internet access from participating providers. Also, if you already have service and are concerned about your ability to pay, many companies have committed to not cutting off service if a customer cannot pay because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is more information about participating companies on the FCC website.