According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung, or kidney disease seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness.  As a result, Rhode Islanders over 60 should take extra precautions to keep themselves safe and avoid contracting the virus.  A full list of guidelines from the CDC to prevent the spread of the virus can be found HERE.

The CARES Act benefits every Rhode Islander, but it also allocates significant resources for states to serve older Americans.  The following provides information on the resources available to support seniors through the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

HEALTH AND SUPPORT SERVICES

 

How is the federal government supporting seniors during the COVID-19 crisis?

The CARES Act contains several provisions to help seniors practice social distancing while also receiving necessary services during the present crisis.  These include:

  • $200 million for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) to ensure that seniors can receive the services they need in their homes;
  • $480 million for senior nutrition programs to serve individuals in their homes;
  • $100 million for the National Family Caregiver Support Program to assist caregivers;
  • $50 million for Aging and Disability Resource Centers, so they may better administer long-term services and supports;
  • $300 million for the Social Security Administration, so it can maintain essential services and quickly process claims for retirement and disability benefits.

 

Will seniors be able to access their prescription medicines?

Yes.  The CARES Act ensures that during the COVID-19 public health emergency, people with a Medicare prescription drug plan can receive up to 90 days of a prescription if their doctor prescribed 3 months of medication and there are no safety concerns or coverage restrictions.  Medicare prescription drug plans will also allow people to fill prescriptions early for refills up to 90 days, depending on the prescription.  Contact your health plan for more information on filling prescriptions early and accessing 90-day supplies. 

 

What food assistance resources are available to seniors?

Meals on Wheels delivers meals to Rhode Islanders in need over the age of 60.  More information, including registration, can be found HERE.  To volunteer, click HERE.

Furthermore, the RI Office of Healthy Aging details local resources available to Rhode Island seniors, ranging from delivery to early-morning grocery hours for seniors and more.  This information can be found HERE.

More details on other nutrition assistance resources are available on my Food Security resource page.

 

I am on Medicare.  Will I have to pay for COVID-19 testing?  When one becomes available, will there be a cost for a COVID-19 vaccine?

Seniors on Medicare can get tested for COVID-19 at no cost.  A future COVID-19 vaccine, when approved, will also be available at no cost to seniors on Medicare.

 

ECONOMIC SUPPORT

 

I am not typically required to file a tax return.  Will I still receive a payment?

The IRS has announced that the following groups of people will automatically receive their individual payment:

  • Recipients of Social Security retirement, disability (SSDI), survivor benefits, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Recipients of Veterans Affairs benefits
  • Individuals who receive Railroad Retirement benefits

Any other individual who did not file a 2018 or 2019 return will need to file a simple return through the IRS’ Non-Filers tool to receive their payment.  This tool is available HERE.

More detailed information is available on my Direct Payments resource page.

 

What changes to retirement savings have been made, in light of COVID-19?

The CARES Act permits individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or experiencing related economic losses to take loans up to $100,000 – double the original amount – from defined contribution plans.  Repayment of existing plan loans is also extended for those affected by the coronavirus.

The CARES Act also waives the 10 percent penalty on early distributions from Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and defined contribution plans in the case of coronavirus-related distributions made in 2020.  Distributions are limited to $100,000 and may be re-contributed to the plan or IRA at a later date.  Income from these distributions would be subject to tax over three years.

Further, the new law waives required minimum distributions (RMDs) in 2020 from IRAs and defined contribution plans.  The waiver includes RMDs due by April 1, 2020.

All of these provisions are intended to give seniors flexibility and resources as they face this pandemic.