Number: 111-5
Date: January 29, 2009

Senate Finance Committee Approves
Draft Economic Stimulus Proposal


On January 27, 2009, the Senate Finance Committee approved, by a vote of 14-9, a draft bill to provide for economic stimulus—the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.” The draft bill includes the following provisions of interest to SSA:

Special Payments to Social Security and SSI Beneficiaries

•  Would direct the Secretary of the Treasury to provide a one-time economic stimulus payment of $300 to adults who were eligible for benefits from one of the four following Federal benefit programs: Social Security, Railroad Retirement, Veterans Disability, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) -- including all disabled children receiving SSI, but excluding SSI rec ipients who reside in Medicaid-funded treatment facilities . Only individuals who were eligible for benefits under one of the four programs for any of the three months prior to the month of enactment shall receive the special payment. If a Social Security or SSI beneficiary has a representative payee, the special payment would be paid to the payee.

•  Would provide that no more than one $300 special payment may be made to an individual. If the individual is also eligible for a "Making Work Pay" credit provided under other provisions of the draft bill, that credit shall be reduced by the special payment, with such adjustment being made through the individual's tax return.

•  Would specify that the special payment would be made only to individuals whose address of record is in 1 of the 50 States, the District of Columbia , Puerto Rico, Guam, the United States Virgin Islands, American Samoa , or the Northern Mariana Islands .

•  Would provide that the special payment is to be made as soon as practicable after enactment, but not later than 120 days after enactment. In no case would a special payment be made after December 2010. The payment, once made, would be unaffected by any subsequent redetermination concerning entitlement to Social Security or SSI benefits during the three-month period.

•  Would provide that an individual would not receive the special payment if his or her Social Security or SSI benefits have been suspended because he or she is in prison, a fugitive felon, a probation or parole violator, no longer lawfully present in the United States , or his or her benefits have been suspended under the administrative sanctions provision. Also, the special payment would not be made if the individual dies before certification of the payment.

•  Would provide that the $300 special payment would not be taken into account as income or taken into account for resources for the month of receipt and the following 9 months, for purposes of determining the eligibility for Federal benefits or federally funded State or local assistance.

•  Would provide that the special payment shall not be considered gross income for income tax purposes and that the payments are protected by the assignment and garnishment provisions of the four Federal benefit programs. However, the Department of Treasury could reduce the special payment to offset an existing delinquent Federal debt.

•  Would appropriate necessary funds to carry out the provision, including $90 million to SSA for administrative expenses.

Special Disability Workload

•  Would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Commissioner of Social Security, to work with the States to reach agreement on a Federal payment for States with Medicare liability due to the Special Disability Workload. Payment would be required no later than three months after enactment.

Health Information Technology

•  Would require the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary to implement an ongoing process for the development and adoption of health IT standards (for interoperability and minimum functionality), including the certification of systems as meeting those standards.

•  Would invest in the adoption and use of health IT systems by health care providers who serve Medicare and Medicaid patients.

•  Would require the Secretary of HHS to adopt measures for determining the meaningful use of a certified HIT system. At minimum, measures would include the use of electronic prescribing technology, the exchange of health information with other providers to help coordinate care, and the reporting of clinical quality measures.

•  Beginning in 2011, providers participating in the Medicare program would be eligible for temporary bonus payments if they exhibit to the Secretary that they are meaningfully using a certified HIT system; those who do not eventually meaningfully use certified HIT would not receive full Medicare payments. Hardship exceptions would be available to providers who face significant barriers to adoption, such as limited access to the internet.

•  Beginning in 2011, high-volume Medicaid providers would be eligible for a temporary payment to subsidize the adoption, maintenance or upgrade of a certified HIT system.