Senior citizens in Escambia, Jackson, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties who sustained losses during the recent severe storms and flooding need not worry that applying for federal and state disaster aid will cause them to sacrifice their Social Security benefits, pay more taxes or give up income-based benefits.
A grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency does not add to a senior’s taxable income as long as the grant is to help recover from the recent disaster.
“Severe weather can affect everyone,” said FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer Gracia Szczech, the federal official in charge of disaster recovery in Florida. “We do not want our seniors to be reluctant to apply for disaster aid. Not doing so could cause eligible citizens to miss out on much-needed assistance.”
A few questions that typically arise following a disaster declaration are:
Question: I’m between 62 and 65 years of age, and have chosen to receive Social Security benefits. If my income is more than a certain amount each year, I must reimburse a portion of my Social Security payment. Will FEMA grants add to my income and require me to repay Social Security?
Answer: No. FEMA grants for housing and other disaster assistance are not counted as income.
Question: I’m over 65, but if I earn more than a certain amount, I must pay tax on my Social Security income. Will FEMA grants boost my income and require me to pay tax on my Social Security income?
Answer: No. The IRS does not count FEMA grants for housing and other disaster assistance as income.
Question: Will receiving a grant cause my income to increase to the point that I am no longer eligible for Medicaid, welfare assistance or food stamps?
Answer: No. Grants for housing and other disaster assistance are not counted as income in determining eligibility for income-tested benefit programs that the U.S. government funds.
For more information, visit the Social Security website at www.socialsecurity.gov or call, toll-free, 800-772-1213 (for the deaf or hard of hearing, call TTY 800-325-0778). Operators are available Monday through Friday, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.