If you have ever been flattened by a rogue wave while fishing or sunbathing on the shore, you probably recognize the emotional responses that have accompanied the pandemic wave crashing across the United States – shock, anxiety, and concern for ourselves and others.
We’ve been knocked flat by the unexpected – COVID-19.
In just a few weeks, the virus has changed our world in significant ways. We have become familiar with new terms – elbow bump, social distancing, shelter-in-place, flatten the curve – and learned to guesstimate six feet. We’re finding ways to help our children with schoolwork (often while balancing our own work and online meetings), making cloth masks for ourselves and for healthcare workers, and learning to manage the loneliness that accompanies quarantine conditions.
Businesses are seeing sales and revenue decline. As a result, millions of people are without work. In February 2020, the St. Louis Federal Reserve reported 3.5 percent of the civilian workforce, about 5.76 million people, were out of work. By the end of June, estimates suggest unemployment could reach 32.1 percent and about 52.8 million people may be out of work.1
Whether you are working reduced hours, furloughed, or out of work, there are resources available to help you stay afloat financially. The Federal Reserve, commercial banks, financial institutions, and federal, state, and local governments have taken steps to help people cope. Here are some of the financial resources available to individuals.
Economic Impact Payments
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act created economic impact payments. The Treasury Department will send payments directly to American taxpayers and Social Security recipients and expects to begin making payments April 2020. The payment you receive will depend on your income and filing status. The IRS website explained:2
- Taxpayers with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for individuals, and up to $150,000 for married couples filing jointly, will receive $1,200 each.
- Taxpayers with higher incomes will receive lower payments. The payment amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000/$150,000 thresholds.
- Taxpayers with income exceeding $99,000 (filing singly) and $198,000 (filing jointly) and no children are not eligible to receive payments.
- Qualifying children will receive $500 each.
- Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who are not required to file tax returns also are eligible to receive economic impact payments.
You do not have to do anything to receive your payment. As long as you filed taxes for 2018 and/or 2019, the federal government has the information it needs to send your payment. It may be delivered electronically or arrive by check.
Beware of Scams
The Federal Trade Commission has cautioned Americans to beware of scams:3
“Do not give anyone your personal information to ‘sign-up’ for your relief check. There is nothing to sign up for. Anyone calling to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security number, PayPal account, or bank information is a scammer, plain and simple. Also, be on the lookout for email phishing scams where scammers pretend to be from the government and ask for your information as part of the ‘sign-up’ process for the checks…No one has early access to this money. Anyone that claims to [provide early access] is a scammer.”
Electronic transfers of funds will begin on April 9, 2020. Paper checks will be issued, beginning on April 24, 2020, to taxpayers who have not used electronic deposit for tax refunds, reported The Washington Post.4
Higher Unemployment Benefits
The Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020 was passed as part of the CARES Act. It increased unemployment benefits by $600 per week through July 31, 2020. Since the average unemployment benefit in the United States is about $300 per week, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, households may receive about $900 per week or $3,600 per month in unemployment benefits.5, 6
States also have the option to make unemployment benefits available to independent contractors, gig workers, and other workers who are not usually eligible to receive benefits.5
Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides additional benefits to people who work for companies with 500 or fewer employees. These benefits include:7
- Paid sick leave: At least two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay if the employee is unable to work because he or she is quarantined or experiencing coronavirus symptoms.
- Basic paid family and medical leave: At least two weeks of paid sick leave at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay, if the employee is unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. These reasons include caring for someone who has been quarantined and caring for a child (younger than age 18) whose school or care provider is closed.
- Extended paid family and medical leave: Up to 10 additional weeks of paid family and medical leave at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay, as long as the person has been employed for 30 days and the leave is related to COVID-19.
Loan and Fee Relief from Banks and Financial Institutions
Many banks and financial institutions put COVID-19 plans into place in March 2020. As a result, you may be able to defer mortgage, auto, and loan payments, as well as small business loan payments. The key word is ‘defer.’ You will receive relief now, but you will have to make the payments sometime in the future, in most cases. Contact your bank to find out what options are available to you. Be prepared to spend a significant amount of time on hold.8
There also are resources available to help business owners, including loans and tax credits.
If you would like to talk about your current financial position, or that of your business, and learn more about steps you can take to improve it, please get in touch. We’re here to help.