In order to control the spread of coronavirus, mayors and governors have taken unprecedented and extraordinary measures to help to “flatten the curve,” including, in some cases, shutting down all nonessential businesses and ordering people to shelter in place.
Economically, this has created a downstream effect that has hit low- and middle-income families, small businesses, and gig workers the hardest.
There is a lot of uncertainty around how long these measures will be in place, but the current reality is that many Americans are finding themselves without jobs, paychecks, or childcare in sight.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law on Friday, March 27, includes loans and grants for corporations and small businesses, increased unemployment benefits for workers laid off or working fewer hours amid the outbreak, and direct payments to low- and middle-income individuals and families.
It is estimated to cost over $2.2 Trillion — more than double the size of the roughly $800 billion stimulus package that Congress passed in 2009 to ease the Great Recession — making it the largest stimulus package in modern history. Here’s what you need to know about the bill, and what it might mean for you.
What’s in the bill?
The government will send direct payments to taxpayers.
Lawmakers agreed to send direct payments to taxpayers to help cover living expenses during this economic crisis. Families with children will receive additional financial assistance per child, in an attempt to create a safety net for those whose jobs and businesses are affected by the pandemic.
However, there are income limits that will determine whether or not you qualify for this assistance. If your adjusted gross income is less than $75,000 for single filers and $150,000 for joint filers, then you’ll qualify for a one-time, $1,200 check ($2,400 for couples). Families will receive an additional $500 per child. You can use this money towards groceries, household supplies, rent — whatever you need.
For every $100 you earn above those limits, though, the payment drops by $5. That means if you have no kids and earn more than $99,000 for singles and $198,000 for joint filers, you will not be eligible to receive a stimulus check. Use a stimulus check calculator to see how much you can expect to receive!
What this means for you:
- If you quality for this government assistance and you’ve provided your direct deposit information to the IRS (when you filed your taxes) then it will be deposited into that account. If not, the check will be mailed to you, and could take up to four months. Learn more here.
- The government intends to use 2018 reported adjusted gross income as filed on federal tax returns (or 2019 if you’ve already filed) in determining eligibility. You can find your adjusted gross income on Line 8b of the 2019 1040 federal tax return.
- If you haven’t yet filed your taxes, try to do so ASAP so the IRS has your direct deposit information. If they don’t, this could delay your payment. If you’ve already filed, or you’ve never filed taxes, you can enter or update your information using the IRS’ Economic Impact Payments page here.
- You will receive a paper notice in the mail within a few weeks of receiving your stimulus check, which will contain information about how the money was sent to you (via direct deposit or check). You can check your payment status and add or update your direct deposit information here.
- If you received a check in the mail, follow our check deposit instructions here.
Note: It might take a while to receive your check—so you might want to use your emergency fund for now, and plan to replenish it with your stimulus check once that money arrives. If you don’t have an emergency fund, we have some advice for how to manage your money here.
Warning: Watch out for scammers/hackers.
Unfortunately, even during times of crisis, there will be people trying to prey upon those most in need. Watch out for scams related to these checks from the government, and know that you will not be expected to pay anything in order to receive this money. If you are contacted by someone who says that an up-front payment or fees are required to access the money, you are being scammed.
You should also be suspicious of any texts or emails you receive claiming to be from the government, as these could be hackers trying to get your personal information.
Read this statement from the Federal Trade Commission about how to avoid becoming a victim of scamming here.
Unemployment benefits will grow substantially, and apply to many more Americans.
Also included in the bill is a significant expansion of the unemployment benefits offered to jobless Americans: Including extending jobless insurance by 13 weeks and a four-month enhancement of benefits. In January of 2020, the average unemployment insurance check was $385 per week. This new legislation will increase unemployment benefits by an additional $600 weekly.
Freelancers, furloughed employees, and gig workers (who usually do not qualify for unemployment) are included and eligible for these unemployment benefits for up to 39 weeks (benefits vary by state).
What this means for you:
- If you or your partner lost your income due to the pandemic, you will be able to file for unemployment benefits.
- If eligible, you’ll receive a $600-a-week bump in benefits through the end of July.
- If you’ve experienced income loss (or if your job security has been threatened by the pandemic), take a look at your current expenses to see how you might be able to stretch your budget a little further.
Small businesses will receive emergency loans or tax credits if they keep their workers.
It seems that on both ends of the political spectrum, there is consensus that small businesses will need additional support to make it through this economic crisis.
This is why the bill provides federally guaranteed loans available at community banks to small businesses that pledge not to lay off their workers. The loans would be available during an emergency period ending June 30, and would be forgiven if the employer continued to pay workers for the duration of the crisis. Small businesses will also be able to defer their payroll taxes until 2021.
This news comes as a relief to small businesses, many of which have been struggling with the decision to continue paying their staff despite not earning revenue. These loans would effectively function as grants from the government as long as employers retain their staff during the crisis.
What this means for you:
- If you own a small business, be sure to follow news about this bill so you know when you might be able to take advantage of this loan and/or tax credit.
- If you work for a small business, stay in touch with your employer so that you can stay in the loop about any changes.
Hospitals will receive aid to meet the needs of coronavirus patients.
The agreement includes $100 billion for hospitals and health systems across the nation, according to Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, in a letter sent to members of Congress. It also includes billions more, he said, to furnish desperately-needed personal and protective equipment (PPE), testing supplies, and fund the construction of new hospitals to meet the demand caused by the coronavirus outbreak. A portion of these funds will also be used to reimburse healthcare providers for the cost of caring for uninsured patients.
What this means for you:
- If you work in healthcare, specifically in emergency care, this aid should mean that you’ll be better equipped to meet the needs of patients while keeping yourself safe.
- For the average American, regardless of insurance status, this means that if you or your family member falls ill to COVID-19 or related complications, you’ll be more likely to be able to get access to testing.
- This should also help lessen the financial burden on insured Americans who undergo treatment for COVID-19 and related health complications (especially those using HSA and FSA accounts to cover their care):
- Healthcare insurance policies that provide coverage for tele-health services (medical consultations via video or phone) will be required to waive deductible requirements. Regardless of how much more you have to go before meeting your annual deductible, your insurer must extend full coverage for remote services.
- Rules for what HSA and FSA accounts can be used for have been relaxed, now allowing pre-tax dollars to be used for over-the-counter medications—anything from cough syrup to acetaminophen.
Additionally, to help uninsured Americans get access to health insurance, many states have reopened their health insurance exchanges temporarily—learn more here.
What this means for you:
- If you work in hospitality or travel, these bailouts might help you keep your current job or make new job opportunities available to you in coming months.
- The purpose of these bailouts is to help the economy recover more rapidly from the fallout of the pandemic. If you have money in a retirement account, this will hopefully help you gain back some of what you lost during the initial market downturn.
- Eventually, we should be able to resume travel. This bailout should help to prevent airlines and other affected companies from having to increase prices and fees excessively in order to recover—so the average American can actually afford to travel.
Disclaimer: Hey! Welcome to our disclaimer. Here’s what you need to know to safely consume this blog post: This article is based on information available as of April 13, 2020 and is intended to provide general guidance only regarding an evolving situation (specific situations will vary; consult a professional for specific advice). Any outbound links in this post will take you away from Simple.com, to external sites in the wilds of the internet; neither Simple nor our partner bank, BBVA USA, endorse any linked-to websites; and we didn’t pay/barter with/bribe anyone to appear in this post. These linked sources do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Simple or its partner bank, BBVA USA. Any third-party sources have been provided to offer additional information, and d For the latest information regarding Coronavirus Tax Relief and Economic Impact Payments, please visit the IRS’ website.