Many people with chronic illnesses start online fundraising to help pay medical or life expenses through sites like YouCaring and GoFundMe.
Ironically, this type of fundraising can cause you to lose your Medicaid, Food Stamps, SSI, Medicare Savings Programs, utilities assistance, or subsidized housing.
Luckily, there are safe ways to fundraise or receive gifts.
What are the fundraising rules?
🌷SSI – Below are the rules for SSI.
🌷 SSDI – SSDI is totally different than SSI. There are no financial restrictions around gifts or fundraising for SSDI. Someone can give you a yacht and it will not matter. How to Tell What You’re On
🌷 Medicaid, Medi-cal and Food Stamps – The rules vary by state and program, so we can’t give specific information. However, we can say that the rules below are quite similar to most medicaid and food stamps programs.
🌷 Section 8 and HUD Housing – HUD is different than most other programs when it comes to gifts. Some of the rules below will be different for HUD: Gift Rules for HUD Housing
Safe Way to Fundraise # 1 – HelpHopeLive
HelpHopeLives is an online fundraising site for medical expenses. They do not give you any money. Instead, they collect money for you and pay your medical bills directly. Extra bonus: Donations are also tax deductible. Your friends or family can donate and get a tax deduction. Since no funds go to you it will not impact SSI or most benefits programs. Depending on frequency of payments, it could impact HUD.
Safe Way to Fundraise # 2 – UGift
If you have an ABLE account, this site will allow you to collect donations directly into your ABLE Account without affecting your SSI, Medicaid, Food Stamps or Housing Assistance. ABLE accounts are for people who first became disabled before the age of 26. You do not have to be on disability. UGiftAble. Since no funds go directly to you, it will not impact SSI, SNAP, HUD or many other benefits.
Safe Way to Fundraise # 3 – Gifts
Social Security regulations will allow you to accept certain gifts without affecting your SSI. In most cases, any gift that is not a “resource” will not affect your check. Examples of things that do not count as resources: clothes, books, computer, furniture, household items, appliances, and medical supplies. Learn more about What Counts as a Resource for SSI? and about the SSI Gift Policies. One exception to this policy is food. Regular gifts of groceries or food can cause SSI to be lowered.
🌷No Problem: Johns’ grandmother gives him a winter coat.
🌷Possible Problem: John’s grandmother gives him money to buy a winter coat.
Safe Way to Fundraise # 4 – Paying Bills
Please note: This section applies to SSI only. Other benefit programs may have different rules.
Social Security regs will also allow someone to directly pay your bills. Sometimes! It depends which bills they are paying and how they are getting paid. Check out: SSI Bill Payment Rules. One exception to this policy is food, rent, mortgage or utilities. Someone else paying these bills can cause SSI to be lowered.
🌷No Problem: Joe’s grandmother pays his car insurance and phone bill.
🌷Possible Problem: Joe’s grandmother pays his rent.
🌷Possible Problem: Joe’s grandmother gives him money to pay his car insurance.
Safe Way To Fundraise # 5 – Government & Nonprofit Programs
Many government and nonprofit programs offer assistance with medical expenses and living expenses. In most cases, this type of assistance will not affect your SSI. Programs that reimburse your expenses also will not count.
Safe Way To Fundraise # 6 – Housing Assistance
One of the biggest ways that people on SSI survive financially is through government programs that subsidize rent, such as Section 8. This will not impact your SSI check, and may have a huge impact on your ability to take care of yourself. If you think Section 8 is not available or not possible or not nice, think again: Section 8 Guide for the Disabled and Plucky
Safe Way To Fundraise # 7 – Loans
Loans from friends or family do not count as income for most benefit programs. However, if you save the money instead of spending it, it will start to count as a resource. Loans must be properly documented with a valid loan agreement. (in most cases, contract would need to be signed before the money is given to you). Loans from Friends and Family.
Safe Way To Fundraise #8 – Trusts & ABLE Accounts
ABLE accounts are excluded from Food Stamps, SSI, Medicaid and HUD Housing. Most special needs trusts are also excluded. Friends or family can deposit funds into a Special Needs Trust or ABLE account for you. Please be careful: if the money goes to you first it will count as income. Important: Check must be written and deposited directly to the trust or ABLE account. ABLE accounts are only excluded for gifts. Income from employment will still count.
🌷 No problem: Suzie’s grandmother writes a check for $1,000 to Suzie’s ABLE account
🌷 Big problem: Suzie’s grandmother writes a check for $1,000 to Suzie. Suzie cashes the check and then writes another check to put the money into her ABLE account.
Safe Way to Fundraise # 9 – Fundraisers Run By Other People?
What happens if a friend or family member sets up a fundraiser, collects the money, and then pays for something for you? Social Security does not have clear specific rules about how this is handled.
If any money is given directly to you, or your social security number or bank account are attached to the fundraiser, obviously this is all going to be treated as income to you.
If someone else collects funds and uses this to directly pay your rent, mortgage, food or utilities, SSI will treat this as “in kind support and maintenance” and lower your check for the months when this happens.
If someone collects funds and pays other bills without ever giving money to you, according to these SSI rules, this should not be treated by Social Security as income. However, the rules do not specifically address fundraising, so it is not 100% clear.
Safe Way To Fundraise #10 – More Types of Income
There are a number of other ways that someone can receive help and assistance that does not affect SSI. For example, PASS plans, school financial aid (in some cases, even if the financial aid is used for other life expenses), and work incentive programs. Please see: How You Can (and can’t) Make Money While on SSI
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