For the first time in two years, Social Security offices nationwide are set to open their doors.
The Social Security Administration is expected to reopen more than 1,200 field offices starting March 30 under an agreement reached this month with the unions representing workers for the agency. However, the exact date could still change since negotiations are ongoing and the situation with the pandemic continues to evolve.
The agency closed its offices across the country to the public in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, Social Security officials said the move was intended to protect the agency’s employees as well as its beneficiaries, many of whom are at high risk from the virus.
Since that time, nearly all of the agency’s business with the public has been handled by phone, online and through the mail.
The Social Security Administration had planned to reopen its offices Jan. 3, but the move was delayed amid concerns from unions.
Under the new agreement, all employees and visitors will be required to wear masks in Social Security offices, whether or not they are vaccinated.
“This agreement is only the first step, but we now have a path forward to begin reopening SSA offices and worksites in a manner that protects both the health and safety of employees and the public we serve,” said Rich Couture, chief negotiator for the American Federation of Government Employees, one of three labor unions representing Social Security workers.
More than 69 million Americans receive monthly payments from Social Security, including 8 million Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries, many of whom have disabilities.
“I know the public will have questions about what this means to them,” Acting Commissioner of Social Security Kilolo Kijakazi said in a statement. “For now, you should continue to reach us online at http://www.socialsecurity.gov or by calling our national 800 number or your local office. We will let you know when we are able to restore additional services.”