The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, phase three of the legislative response to the coronavirus outbreak, was signed into law on March 27.
Because of the law’s enormous size and scope, as well as the challenges of quickly implementing it during an unprecedented crisis, many Americans may be unsure how it applies to them. In this column, I hope to provide clarity on some of the frequently asked questions I am hearing about it from Ninth District constituents.
Economic Relief Payments
Economic upheaval provoked by the pandemic has threatened the financial security of many Americans. The CARES Act responded by providing direct payments for economic relief, but there are stipulations on who can receive them and differences in how they will be paid.
Anyone with a valid Social Security number who is not a dependent of someone else is eligible as long as their income is under a threshold set by the bill. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will use the most recent tax return to determine eligibility. For individuals with no taxable income other than Social Security beneficiaries, the IRS will soon provide information on how to file information that will be used for the payment. Social Security beneficiaries do not need to take any action to get their check.
The full credit amount is $1,200 for individuals with an adjusted gross income (AGI) at or below $75,000 and $2,400 for couples with AGI at or below $150,000. For each $100 a person or couple makes above those income limits, the amount received is reduced by $5. Individuals with incomes above $99,000 or couples with incomes above $198,000 will not receive a direct payment.
If you have children, you will receive an additional $500. The CARES Act defines a qualifying child as one under the age of 17.
The direct payment is considered a tax refund and so is not taxable.
Beware of scammers attempting to swindle you out of your payment. Common schemes include asking the taxpayer to sign over their economic impact payment, asking for verification of personal or banking information over the phone, email, text, or social media, and suggesting that the scammer can get the payment faster by working on your behalf.
The CARES Act adds temporary unemployment benefits for those laid off by the coronavirus, including the self-employed and independent contractors.
Unemployment benefits are increased by $600 per week on top of what a state normally provides until July 2020. Additionally, thirteen more weeks of unemployment are provided for those who need it, including those who have exhausted benefits under regular unemployment compensation.
Unemployment insurance is administered by states, so to file for unemployment in Virginia, visit http://www.vec.virginia.gov/node/11699 or call 1-866-832-2363.
Businesses with fewer than 500 employees are eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides 100 percent federally-guaranteed loans for eight weeks of assistance. Certain types of businesses with more than 500 employees can be considered small if they meet the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) industry-specific size standards.
Loans provided by the program can be used to cover payroll, paid sick leave, group health insurance premiums, rent, utilities, and mortgage interest payments. Small businesses that retain full staff and use the loan proceeds on payroll and other eligible expenses can have their loan 100 percent forgiven.
To receive full forgiveness, a borrower must prove that it spent 75 percent or more of the loan on payroll expenses. If a portion is not forgiven, the borrower will be able to pay it back over two years at an interest rate of 1 percent.
You can apply for a loan through your local participating lender. To find an approved lender near you, visit https://www.sba.gov/paycheckprotection/find/.
As I told members of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council on a Zoom video call:
“Apply for everything you can get to keep your business afloat. When we get through this, the American public is going to want to do all the things they haven’t been able to do — go to the movies, go out to dinner, go buy things they were looking to buy from businesses that are now shut — and I think the economy is going to take off. But it won’t help if you’re not able to open the doors.”*
The situation surrounding the coronavirus has been changing rapidly. I’ve created a page on my website specifically to find resources to support staying healthy and recovering economically during this situation, https://morgangriffith.house.gov/constituentservices/coronavirus.htm. My office is also available to assist you by phone.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office by calling my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405, my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671, my Washington office at 202-225-3861, or via email at morgangriffith.house.gov.