Date: December 28, 2020
President Signs the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021
On December 27, 2020, the President signed into law H.R. 133, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which became Public Law 116-260.
The bill provides appropriations for Fiscal Year 2021 and includes the following provisions of interest to the Social Security Administration (SSA):
Division N – Additional Coronavirus Response and Relief
Title II, Subtitle B, the “COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020”
Section 272 - Additional 2020 Recovery Rebates for Individuals
- Treasury will issue additional recovery rebates (also called “economic impact payments (EIPs)”), which were first authorized under the CARES Act. SSA will not be directly involved in issuing these payments, but will be appropriated $38,000,000 for costs related to administering these payments, such as helping Treasury in conducting a public awareness campaign, providing data on beneficiaries and recipients, and answering inquiries from the public.
- The additional EIPs will be a one-time payment of $600 per individual, or $1,200 for joint tax filers, plus $600 for each qualifying child in the household. These amounts will be reduced if a taxpayer does not provide valid identification numbers for the taxpayer, his or her spouse, or children.
- The amount of the recovery rebate is reduced by 5 percent of the amount by which a person’s adjusted gross income exceeds certain limits ($75,000 for individuals, $150,000 for joint filers, and $112,500 for head of household). It is also reduced by the amount of certain advanced tax credits the person received.
- To be eligible, a person needs to have a work authorized SSN and not be a non-resident alien or claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return. A qualifying child needs either a work authorized SSN or adoption taxpayer identification number (ATIN).
- Treasury will issue the EIP using the address or electronic payment information from the person’s tax return for 2019. For Social Security beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients who did not file a return, Treasury will pay the EIP based on the latest information provided by SSA as of the date of enactment. If a beneficiary or recipient has a representative payee, Treasury will issue the EIP to the representative payee to be used only for the benefit of the beneficiary or recipient.
- Treasury will not pay an EIP based on SSA data to any beneficiary whose benefits were suspended for being a prisoner or fugitive felon, nor to recipients who were ineligible because they resided in a public institution, for the most recent month that was included in the most recent data provided by SSA.
- Treasury is required to issue the payments as quickly as possible after enactment.
Section 274 – Extension of Certain Deferred Payroll taxes
- Extends the date by which employees must repay payroll tax obligations (for certain wages paid September 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020) that were deferred in accordance with the President’s memorandum, Deferring Payroll Tax Obligations in Light of the Ongoing COVID-19 Disaster, and the Internal Revenue Service Notice 2020–65, Relief with Respect to Employment Tax Deadlines Applicable to Employers Affected by the Ongoing Coronavirus (COVID–19) Disease 2019 Pandemic.
- Employees have until December 31, 2021 (instead of April 30, 2021) to withhold and pay such deferred payroll taxes without interest, penalties, or additions.
Section 283 - Disclosures to Identify Tax Receivables Not Eligible for Collection Pursuant to Qualified Tax Collection Contracts
Amends section 1106 of the Social Security Act to do the following:
- Requires SSA to enter into an agreement with Treasury to provide an indicator as to whether an individual receives Disability Insurance or SSI benefits solely for Treasury’s use in excluding such individuals from its private debt collection program.
- Requires Treasury to pay SSA’s full costs (including systems and administrative costs) of providing such indicator.
- Allows Treasury to disclose the taxpayer identity and date of birth to SSA employees and contractors so that SSA can provide such indicator.
- Applies to disclosures made on or after the date of enactment.
Division CC- Health Extenders
Section 120 – Beneficiary Enrollment Simplification
- Makes Medicare coverage take effect earlier for people who enroll in the General Enrollment Period (GEP) or within the last three months of their Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), as follows:
- Authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a special enrollment period for people in exceptional circumstances, as defined by the Secretary.
- Effective January 1, 2023.
Section 402 – Extended Coverage of Immunosuppressive Drugs for Kidney Transplant Patients
- Enrollment in Parts A and B for people who have end-stage renal disease generally ends 36 months after they receive a successful organ transplant. This provision allows a person who has no other health insurance coverage to remain enrolled in Part B beyond this period for the purpose of covering immunosuppressive drugs.
- The premium for this extended Part B coverage will be less than the standard Part B premium, and will not be subject to late enrollment penalties, or the income-related monthly adjustment amount.
- Coverage starts January 2023, as follows:
- People whose 36-month coverage period ends before January 2023 can enroll starting in October 2022 and their coverage will start the later of January 2023 or the month after they enroll; and
- People whose 36-month coverage period ends January 2023 or later will be automatically enrolled.
Division FF – Other Matter
Section 801 - Access to Death Information Furnished to or Maintained by the Social Security Administration
Amends section 205(r) of the Social Security Act to do the following:
Payment to States
- Requires the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) to pay the States for their death information as follows:
- a fee, established by the Commissioner in consultation with the States, that covers:
- the right to use State death information by the Commissioner and any other agency that receives the death information from SSA, and
- the State’s share of the costs associated with collecting and maintaining death information, ensuring the completeness, timeliness and accuracy of the information, and maintaining, enhancing, and operating the electronic systems that allow States to transmit death information.
- the full documented cost to the State to transmit death information to SSA as well as the States’ costs to maintain, enhance, and operate any electronic system used solely for transmitting death information to SSA.
Reimbursement to SSA for Sharing State Death Data
- Requires all Federal and State agencies to reimburse the Commissioner for the following:
- the Federal or State agency’s proportional share, as determined by the Commissioner in consultation with the head of the agency, of:
- States’ fee and full documented costs;
- SSA’s costs to develop contracts to obtain the death information; and
- SSA’s costs to carry out the study and report to Congress on “Sources and Access to Death Data;” and
- SSA’s full documented costs for developing cooperative arrangements and transmitting the State death information to a Federal or State agency.
- Prohibits SSA from using the Limitation on Administrative Expenses provided in fiscal year appropriations to cover the costs of other Federal and State agencies’ proportional share and full documented cost to SSA for State death data, including the Sources and Access Death Data study and report, except as the Commissioner determines is necessary on a temporary basis, subject to required reimbursement.
Correction of Death Information
- Allows SSA to notify a State about an erroneous State death record when an individual provides SSA with the necessary documentation to correct it. Additionally, SSA is allowed to notify the individual that the State provided incorrect death information.
Expanded Sharing of Death Data with Do Not Pay (DNP)
- Requires SSA to provide, to the extent feasible, State death information to the agency that operates the DNP working system through a cooperative arrangement subject to reimbursement requirements. SSA is required to start providing the data three years after enactment and continue providing it for a period of three years.
- All provisions are effective upon enactment unless otherwise specified.
Section 802. Study and Report to Congress on Sources and Access to Death
- Requires SSA to enter into an agreement within 180 days of enactment with the National Academy of Public Administration to conduct an independent study of current and potential sources for, and provision of access to, State-owned death data for limited use by Federal agencies and programs for purposes of program administration and payment integrity.
- Requires the study be done in consultation with State vital records agencies, the National Association of Public Health Statistics and Information Systems, SSA, the agency that operates the DNP, and other Federal agencies using such death information, as appropriate.
- The study will include:
- an analysis of:
- the sources and owners of death data;
- the timeliness, accuracy, and completeness of State-owned death data, including the process for correcting inaccuracies;
- Federal and State laws that may affect legal access to, and protections for, State-owned death data;
- Federalism and the appropriate roles of the relevant Federal and State entities, including States' role in recording vital records and the core mission and responsibility of any Federal agency involved
- the costs incurred for each step of the death data collection, management, protection (legal and otherwise), and transmission processes, and the challenges to adequate funding of State vital records programs;
- unmet needs (if any) for these data among Federal agencies or programs; and
- options for providing Federal agencies with limited access to State-owned death data, including Federal agencies contracting directly with States for access to such data or distribution of such data via the Commissioner of Social Security or another Federal agency or program, and corresponding options for appropriate reimbursement structures; and
- an assessment concerning providing Federal agencies with limited access to State-owned death data.
- Requires SSA to send the completed study to the House Committees on Ways and Means and Oversight and the Senate Committees on Finance and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
Division H, Title IV: SSA Appropriations
- SSA received $12.931 billion in administrative funding, a $60 million increase from the FY 2020 enacted funding level. This funding includes:
- $45 million to remain available until expended to continue to modernize SSA’s information technology (IT).
- $50 million, available through September 30, 2022, to address the disability hearings backlog within the Office of Hearings Operations.
- $1.575 billion, the authorized level of program integrity (PI), to remain available through March 31, 2022. This funding will allow SSA to continue cost-effective PI work and pursue anti-fraud efforts. The funding is $7 million less than the FY 2020 enacted level but the same as the FY 2021 President’s Budget request. SSA may transfer up to $11.2 million of PI funding to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for cooperative disability investigation units.
- SSA also received $86 million for Research and Demonstration, which is $15 million less than the FY 2020 enacted level but the same as the FY 2021 President’s Budget request, and $105.5 million for the OIG, which is the same as the FY 2020 enacted level and $10.5 million less than the FY 2021 President’s Budget request.
Other provisions of the new law include the following:
Section 214 – Temporary Special Rules for Health and Dependent Care Flexible Spending Arrangements
- Allows participants to carry-over all unused amounts in their health and dependent care flexible spending accounts (FSA) for plan years ending in 2020, 2021, and 2022.
- Allows participants to receive reimbursement of dependent care expenses for a child up to age 14 in two situations:
- for the plan year where the open enrollment period ended on or before January 31, 2020 (i.e., the 2020 plan year for a calendar year plan); and
- in the 2021 plan year, with respect to any unused balance from the prior plan year.
- Employers can extend its health FSA or dependent care FSA to a 12-month grace period following the plan years ending in 2020 or 2021 to apply unused balances to cover expenses. An employer may not adopt both the unlimited carryover and the extended grace period for the same FSA.
- Allows participants to make changes to their health FSA election without experiencing a qualifying event in 2021. Participants can take any of the following actions:
- revoke their election;
- make a new election; or
- increase/decrease their contribution for any reason.
- A participant who terminates participation in a health FSA during the 2020 or 2021 calendar years may continue to receive reimbursements through the end of the plan year in which participation ceased (including any grace period).
1 This provision is also found under Division FF – Other Matter, Section 102.
3 Calculation for the late enrollment penalty, which counts the number of full 12-month periods in which a person is eligible for Part B but not enrolled, would not include months after the month of enrollment.