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April 2024 Update: 7 Critical Changes You Can’t Afford to Miss!

April 2024 Update: 7 Critical Changes You Can’t Afford to Miss!

Things are always changing fast for low income Americans, with new deadlines, programs, and money on the table all the time. I know it’s hard to keep up, and that’s why I’m here to do it for you. This is your can’t-miss update for April 2024. 

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Major SSI Calculation Change

The SSI program is a crucial source of income, offering up to $943 monthly for an individual and $1,415 for a couple. However, under current regulations, even non-monetary assistance such as receiving a bag of groceries can affect your SSI benefits.

This is due to the ‘In Kind Support and Maintenance’ rule, which considers getting help with things like food or housing as income since they contribute to your support or maintenance. That’s why getting a free bag of groceries could lead to a reduction in your monthly SSI benefits. Some sources have reported that this simple act of kindness can drop their monthly benefits by as much as a third.

Obviously, this rule makes SSI calculations quite complicated for people who rely on these benefits and those that have to calculate them. The good news is that this program will be drastically simplified on September 30th, with the introduction of revised Social Security Administration (SSA) guidelines.

The new adjustments will exclude food assistance from the ‘In Kind Support and Maintenance’ rule. As a result, SSI recipients will be able to accept food support from friends, family, or charitable organizations without the risk of diminishing their SSI payments.

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Request More Social Security

Speaking of updates, we’ve received a major update on how Social Security overpayments will be handled. I covered this in depth a few weeks ago, but there is one clarification that I wanted to address today: If you are currently in repayment for overpaid Social Security benefits, you need to reach out to the Social Security Administration to renegotiate your repayment amount.

The new Social Security Commissioner Martin O’Malley has said that the agency’s previous method of taking your entire check away to repay old debts was cruel. Instead, he said that the Social Security Administration will now only take up to 10% of your check to pay back those old debts. That means you could reclaim hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month if you’ve lost your benefits due to an overpayment. 

However, this does not happen automatically. You have to file a waiver or call the Social Security hotline at (800) 772-1213 to request a lower repayment rate. The new default is 10% but you can request a lower percentage as long as you’ll be able to fully repay the debt within five years at that lower rate. 

If you decide to call in, make sure to give yourself plenty of time. The Social Security Administration is currently very understaffed. I think I read their staffing levels are at a 27-year low. News outlet 11 Investigates found that the average wait time is over 60 minutes, but you can request a callback instead of waiting on hold that entire time. 

Another alternative is to reach out to your elected officials in Congress. They can often cut through bureaucratic red tape for you and make the process easier. This was mentioned in at least one news article, but I also know it from personal experience because I’ve contacted my Congresspeople for help with VA issues before. It is surprisingly effective. You can find the names and contact information for your elected officials by searching your address in the “Contact Your Member” box at Congress.gov. 

Major Medicaid Mistakes

Now, if you’ve lost Medicaid in the last year, please listen closely! In some states, more than 80% of people who lost their Medicaid benefits were wrongly removed. This is happening nationwide, and you may still be eligible. 

Here are some things you need to know: 

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  • Over 19 million people have had their Medicaid benefits taken away and many were wrongly removed due to paperwork issues even though they are still eligible. 
  • Some states were especially harsh. In Nevada, around 93% of people who lost their benefits were removed for paperwork reasons. In Georgia, it was around 84%.
  • Some states removed more people than they kept. In Utah, 57% of people who were getting Medicaid were kicked off the program.

Now here’s the thing: a lot of these people were and are still eligible for Medicaid coverage. They just missed something in the mail or forgot to update their phone number or made a little mistake on their paperwork. But a lot of people don’t know that they can reapply. 

In Idaho, more than 20% – that’s more than 1 in 5 – people who lost their Medicaid coverage have re-enrolled in the program and are receiving those benefits again. That’s a great start, but there are others who may be eligible who have not reapplied. 

So, here’s what you need to do if you’ve lost Medicaid recently:

  • If you’re still within your appeal period, appeal the decision. You can request a hearing. It’s your right. 
  • If the appeal period has ended, just apply again. You may be able to get those benefits, and they may even be retroactive. 
  • If you are not eligible for Medicaid but have children in your house, apply for CHIP – that’s the Children’s Health Insurance Program. It has higher income limits than Medicaid and may still provide health coverage for your children. 

Whether it’s Medicaid, CHIP, or another option, there could be help available. Don’t give up on getting the healthcare you and your family deserve!

Now for those of you who definitely aren’t eligible, the US Department of Health and Human Services has recently announced that they are extending their Special Enrollment Period to help people who have lost Medicaid enroll in a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace. This enrollment period is now set to end on September 30, 2024.  

They’ve also rolled out some new guidance and tools to ensure that states are being fair. The new guidance provides tools to ensure states are doing this properly and new offers resources to help people navigate their Medicaid fair-hearing process as well.

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Claim Your Settlement Money

Before we move on, I do want to remind you that time is running out to claim your check from the Verizon Administrative Charges Settlement. You may be owed up to $100 from this settlement if you have or had a Verizon account for wireless or data services between January 1, 2016, and November 8, 2023.

But here’s the thing: You have to file a claim by April 15th in order to get a payment. I filed my claim months ago and it took only a few seconds, so it’s not as hard as it sounds… but if you don’t file a claim and you don’t exclude yourself, you get nothing and you basically forfeit your right to ever sue Verizon about this issue. Don’t let that happen to you; go to the official Verizon settlement page to file your claim or opt-out. 

And on that note, our sponsor Injury Claims is available to help you file for Social Security, appeal a disability denial, or stand up for your rights against big companies. If you’ve been injured by certain blenders, developed cancer after using chemical hair straighteners, or experienced significant side effects after using Ozempic or Mounjaro, they may be able to help you. Browse their open cases to find one you may be eligible for!

ACP Program Update

April may be the last month that you receive a full subsidy through the ACP program. The program is expected to pay a partial payment in May but it will run out of funding at that time. 

As of the recording of this video, the program still has not been extended despite having broad bipartisan support. There’s a bill in the Senate, sponsored by Senator Peter Welch of Vermont, which has not been acted on… and there’s another bill in the House that was sponsored by Representative Yvette Clarke of New York that has a whopping 221 cosponsors, but it hasn’t been acted on either. These bills are just sitting there and so far they aren’t going anywhere. 

This is an essential program that provides free and low-cost internet to millions of low income households across the country. The good news is that there is still time for this program to be extended but even if it ends, there are other free and low cost internet options that may be available to you. There were low income internet discounts before ACP and there will be again if ACP ends. Here’s a list of discounted internet programs

3 More Changes in April

Don’t forget these other updates that we’ve already discussed on our site:

  • Please remember that tax season is wrapping up. Every year, nearly 1 in 5 eligible taxpayers miss out on the Earned Income Credit, which can be worth up to $7,000 or more depending on your household size and income. If you think you may be eligible, please talk to a VITA volunteer in your area before the tax deadline. 
  • Winter LIHEAP is wrapping up in most areas by the end of April. If you need help with your utility bills, please reach out to your local Community Action Council for assistance.
  • Many spring programs, like the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program and the Double Up Food Bucks program, are starting to open up in certain states. For SFMNP vouchers, make sure you follow the Area Agency on Aging in your state and for Double Up programs, just look for a local Double Up provider in your area.

Relief Recap

The Low Income Relief team is always looking for the latest news to help you save money, make ends meet and maximize your benefits. For the latest low income news and updates, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel or just visit our news archive.