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Coronavirus Stimulus Package Offers Relief for Retirees

The coronavirus stimulus package passed by Congress suspends the 2020 required minimum distributions on retirement plans. (Adobe stock)
The coronavirus stimulus package passed by Congress suspends the 2020 required minimum distributions on retirement plans. (Adobe stock)
April 1, 2020

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- As older Americans face the health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or "CARES" Act has specific provisions to help seniors cope with the financial consequences as well.

Many folks aren't aware that people living on Social Security benefits also can receive a stimulus check through the CARES Act, according to Tammy Bresnahan, associate state director of advocacy for AARP Maryland.

"AARP negotiated the full $1,200 stimulus checks for Social Security recipients," she said. "The checks are available to households with adjusted gross income of less than $75,000 on the 2019 tax return."

She said the stimulus package also waives the rule that people 70 and older must take required minimum distributions for 2020 from their 401(k) retirement accounts.

Bresnahan said the new law also lets a person withdraw from their retirement plan without a 10% penalty if they're younger than 59 1/2. She said she thinks Congress has its priorities in the right place by passing the emergency bipartisan bill, which also boosts support for food banks and Meals on Wheels programs.

"You know, we're all kind of in this together," she said, "and we feel like the Congress really acted in a way that brings people together and looks at, especially, the folks that could be injured the most, which are the elderly."

About 47 million Americans are age 65 and older, according to the Institute on Aging. About 6 million live in Maryland, and 85% of Maryland seniors receive Social Security benefits.

The CARES Act, Senate Bill 3548, is online at congress.gov, and a Social Security fact sheet is at ssa.gov.

Disclosure: AARP Maryland contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Energy Policy, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Diane Bernard, Public News Service - MD