COVID-19 Resources For Seniors

I know that these past few weeks have been challenging for all of us as we adapt to the measures necessary to protect our families and our communities. This crisis has been especially hard on our seniors. Last week, I hosted a tele-town hall that focused on new and existing resources available to seniors.

I was grateful to be joined by several experts on the phone to assist me in answering your questions:

  • Leah Finlayson, Esq., Director of Victim Services, Senior Law Center

Leah and Janet discussed the need for seniors to be wary of telephone and internet scams. Unfortunately, dishonest individuals are taking advantage of coronavirus fears with a wide range of tactics. In particular, do not fall for telephone or online solicitations regarding the $1200 federal rebate checks authorized by Congress last month. That money will be deposited in your bank account by the IRS if you filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019, or a check will be sent to wherever you receive your Social Security check.

Here are a few rules to avoid scams targeting seniors:

  • Do not give out personal information, banking information, or credit card information.

If you are not sure if its a scam, call the SeniorLAW Center at:

  • 215–988–1242 (Philadelphia)

If you think you have been the victim of a scam, contact your local police immediately.

Dr. Jacobs discussed how isolation can have detrimental effects to both your physical and mental health. Here is some advice he had:

  • Use your telephone as a lifeline to share how you’re feeling and ask how your loved ones are feeling.

Dr. Jacobs, Leah, Janet and I then answered questions about everything from testing, unemployment compensation and voting, to PPE and hazard pay.

Here are some great questions our seniors had for us.

Can I still get a mail-in ballot?

  • Yes. This year, for the first time, all registered Pennsylvania voters can vote by mail. You can apply for a mail-in ballot by clicking here

How do you qualify for a coronavirus antibody test?

  • The antibody test is still in development and not yet perfected or widely available. Delaware and Chester County hope to begin limited testing soon.

I’m having trouble accessing the unemployment website. What advice do you have?

  • Unfortunately, the Pennsylvania unemployment website has been overwhelmed by the volume of applications and most people are experiencing delays. The best way to apply is still online, but it may require persistence.

I feel like I need testing for COVID-19, but can’t reach my primary care physician.

  • Testing is still usually reserved for those with COVID-19 symptoms: fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. If you think you need testing, but cannot reach your primary care physician, call the state department of health at 1–877-PA HEALTH, or the Chester/Delaware County Health Department, at 610–344–6225. In an emergency, or if you have extreme shortness of breath, call 911 and tell the dispatcher your symptoms.

If I’m an independent contractor, am I eligible for Pennsylvania unemployment compensation?

  • Yes. Federal legislation has expanded the definition of unemployment compensation, so independent contractors and part time/gig workers are eligible.

What can I do if my tenant is struggling to pay rent?

  • The courts are closed to eviction proceeding right now, but that doesn’t mean that the obligation to pay rent has gone away. Our suggestion is to work with your tenants to establish payment plans.

I’m an ICU nurse, regularly being pulled to COVID ICU, is there any legislation to support hazard pay for health care workers?

  • Recent bills that Congress passed contain significant funding for health care workers but the money is not coming out as fast as it should. We have been calling on this Administration to make that happen as soon as possible.

When can we get proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?

  • Health care workers and first responders have priority to receive PPE as long as supplies are limited. I have been working with state and local governments, health care representatives and industry to get sufficient materials to our front line workers. In addition, I have joined many colleagues in Congress in calling on the White House to immediately launch a coordinated and comprehensive federal effort to address the critical medical supply chain issues limiting the supply of PPE.

I am grateful that nearly 9,000 people joined us for the town hall. Here is additional information about some of the benefits for seniors contained in the $2 trillion economic stimulus provisions in the CARES Act, which Congress passed at the end of March.

Stimulus check

The measure would provide refundable tax credits of as much as $1,200 per individual or $2,400 for couples who file joint tax returns, phasing out at $150,000 for joint returns, $112,500 for heads of household, and $75,000 for other filers.

Seniors who do not file taxes are eligible for this benefit and will not need to file additional paperwork to receive a check.

I will continue to fight for additional stimulus money to be put in the hands of the American people for as long as this pandemic and economic downturn persists.

Retirement Savings

CARES will allow older Americans with retirement savings the financial flexibility they need to properly protect themselves and their loved ones.

Individuals can withdraw as much as $100,000 from their retirement accounts in 2020 without being subject to a 10% penalty if they, their spouse, or their dependent are diagnosed with Covid-19, or if the pandemic hurts their finances, such as through layoffs or reduced hours.

Required minimum distributions (RMDs) are suspended for 2020. Waiving mandatory distribution minimums gives seniors greater flexibility to decide how much they’d like to withdraw.

Medicare

Medicare Part B, which provides general medical insurance, will fully cover a COVID19 vaccine without any cost-sharing.

Medicare beneficiaries can receive a three month supply of most medications available through Part D so that they can reduce the number of Pharmacy visits.

Additional resources

The CARES Act also expands SNAP, senior nutrition and meals on wheels. The City of Philadelphia and County websites have information about how to access those benefits, and my office and I are in daily contact With city and county government and health systems to monitor and troubleshoot issues as we respond aggressively to the coronavirus pandemic.

CARES Act provides:

  • $955 million to the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living to go towards aging and disability services, including senior nutrition programs, family caregivers and independent living services, and elder justice.

I know you have more questions, and I look forward to having more conversations with you. We will be hosting town-halls each week to get you the information you need to take care of yourselves, your families and your businesses, and to hear your ideas. I will keep doing my level best to represent the people of our district during this difficult time, and I want to thank each of you for doing your part to keep our community safe.

If you need assistance, please call our office at 610–626–2020 or visit us online at scanlon.house.gov

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Mary Gay Scanlon

Mary Gay Scanlon currently serves a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District.