Seniors to receive stimulus money
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Starting in May, many Pittsburgh seniors and retirees will receive $250 from the federal government -- their cut of the stimulus package passed by Congress in the first weeks of the Obama administration.
Across America, roughly 55 million people are eligible for the payments. About 2.5 million are in Pennsylvania, according to Social Security figures, and perhaps a quarter-million or so live in Allegheny County.
The Social Security Administration is spreading the word through a recorded message on its national 800 number (1-800-772-1213, which has been overwhelmed at times by the number of calls) and informational leaflets available at field offices and Wal-Mart stores across the country, a Social Security deputy commissioner said this week in a statement to a House Ways and Means subcommittee.
Those who qualify for the $250 payment were ineligible for the "Making Work Pay" tax credit, which gives individual workers up to $400 (and couples up to $800) in incremental rebates, fed through reduced paycheck withholding. Those minirebates, about $45 a month for an individual, began appearing in paychecks this month.
In other words, if you're a senior but you're still working, you won't be eligible for this one-time rebate. The money goes to those already on Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, railroad retirement or veterans disability.
You can't, by the way, receive two rebates if you are eligible for two of the retiree benefits -- those receiving both Social Security and SSI will not be seeing a check for $500.
However, if you are married, both spouses can draw a check, if eligible.
The rebate applies to only those drawing Social Security before the law was passed -- January 2009, at the latest -- so anyone who starts receiving Social Security benefits in May 2009 won't be eligible for the $250.
If you are eligible, you needn't sign up for the rebate -- you should receive it automatically, according to the Social Security Administration.
You'll receive the payment in the same form as your current benefits, meaning that if you now receive benefits via electronic direct deposit into your checking account, or via debit card, that's how you'll receive the $250, too.
Otherwise, you'll receive a paper check in the mail.
The rebates won't show up on the same day as your normal Social Security payments, so don't be alarmed if you get your typical benefit and it isn't accompanied by the $250. The Social Security Administration is asking that people wait until June 4 before contacting the agency about a missing stimulus rebate.
In all, the payments will total nearly $13 billion. Economic experts say, and the Obama administration hopes, the money will be spent quickly, since many recipients live paycheck to paycheck. That means the cash would be funneled back into the economy, rather than saved in a bank account.
First Published April 30, 2009 12:00 am