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SSA Announces 2021 Cost of Living Increase

On 10/13/20, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced a 1.3% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), increasing the benefit amount for recipients beginning January of 2021.

As the SSA has published this information, it is considered “verifiable,” and the COLA may need to be included when determining annual income.


For  LIHTC, RD, and HOME properties, the COLA will impact households moving in or recertifying in November or December.

To determine the benefit amount after the increase, either:

  • Multiply the benefit amount by the COLA % to get the amount of increase. Then add the amount of increase to the current benefit to determine the new benefit, or
  • Multiply the benefit amount by 1 plus the COLA % expressed as a decimal (1.3% = 1.013). This will provide the new benefit amount.


On October 11 of this year, the SSA announces a 1.3% COLA for benefit recipients beginning in January of the following year.

Fritz is moving in on November 1 of this year.  He provides a benefits letter dated September 4, reflecting that his gross benefit amount is $600.20.

In this scenario, $600.20 would be counted for two (2) months (November and December), and $608.00 would be counted for the remaining ten (10) months of the certification year (January through October).

Determine new benefit amount: $600.20  X 1.013 = $608.00 (New benefit amount)

$600.20 X 2 months =$1,200.40

$608.00 X 10 months = $6,080

$1,200.40 + $6,080 = $7,280.40 (Anticipated Annual Income)

Make sure to include a copy of the SSA COLA press release in any tenant file.

2021 SSA COLA at HUD Properties

For HUD properties, determining income from Social Security should be computed as discussed above for household moving-in during the months of November and December. However, HUD provides the following guidance related to COLAs and Recertifications.

When processing recertifications with an effective date of January 1, February 1, March 1, and April 1, the owner must use one of the methods below for determining the tenant’s income.

  1. Use the benefits information reported in EIV that does not include the COLA as third-party verification if the tenant confirms that the income data in EIV is what they are receiving;
  2. Use the SSA benefit, award letter, or Proof of Income Letter provided by the tenant that includes the COLA adjustment. If the date of the letter is within 120 days from the date of receipt by the owner;
  3. Determine the tenant’s income by applying the COLA increase percentage to the current, verified benefit amount, and document the tenant file with how the tenant’s income was determined. – OR
  4. Request third-party verification directly from SSA when the income in EIV does not agree with the income the tenant reports he/she is receiving.
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