With the COVID-19 crisis wreaking havoc on the economy, the largest stimulus bill in modern U.S. history was signed into law Friday, March 27. Here’s what the CARES act can do for you.
After way more congressional wrangling than was probably needed (including this guy trying to force a vote just for the lulz), a $2 trillion economic stimulus plan was signed in to law. Like most laws, it contains a lot of complicated provisions and exceptions, but for the most part, the CARES act is expected to prop up the economy – at least through spring.
How does the new law help you or your restaurant? We’ve broken things down into more digestible bits. Some of these new benefits may differ state to state, but in broad strokes, this is what the largest stimulus package in history can mean to you.
The $1200 Checks
This is by far the most reported on part of the law. (But as we’ll see, other provisions may have more impact on restaurants and hospitality workers at large.) Over the next three weeks, money will be sent via direct deposit to nearly all Americans. Single adults who made less than $75,000 in either 2019 or 2018 (your income will be calculated from your last tax return) will receive $1200. Additionally, you could receive $500 for each child under 17.
Married couples with a combined income under $150,000 will each receive up to $2400, plus the $500 for each child under 17.
If you made over $75,000 as an individual or $150,000 as a couple, the payment decreases by $5 per every $100 earned over that income threshold and goes to zero at $99,000. For married couples, the phaseout range is $150,000 to $198,000.
The money will be distributed via direct deposit to the same account as your last tax return. If you haven’t filed taxes in 2018 or 2019, or if the IRS doesn’t have your account information for direct deposit, they are setting up a web portal people can use to update their information and still collect their payments: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus
While the government has not set a date when the payments will be made, expect to see the money by mid to the end of April.
To determine an estimate of your payment, use this calculator from CNN.
Expanded Unemployment Benefits
With many restaurants closed, it’s safe to say many people are now filing for unemployment. While the one-time payment described above is going to be a big help, the coronavirus shutdown may last well past April. Unemployment benefits are going to make the difference for many people as we collectively wait out the virus.
The federal government has ordered Unemployment Insurance to cover not only full-time workers, but also part-time workers, self-employed workers and contractors (eg, gig workers.) Additionally, while benefits vary widely from state to state, the bill adds an additional $600 per week to unemployment payments. The $600 payment will last up to four months – ending on July 31st. All workers on unemployment are eligible for the payment without having to file additional paperwork. States will have to apply to the government, so when this gets phased in is still an open question. States like New York and Oregon have already filed – check with your state’s unemployment website for more information.
If you are filing for unemployment (and if you’re suddenly not working, you absolutely should) remember to be patient. Unemployment offices are drastically understaffed and overwhelmed by new people entering the system. Be persistent and proactive, but keep in mind there are 10’s of thousands of people in your area all calling the same phone line. If you’re eligible, you will get your benefits.
This is another issue that varies state to state, or even city to city, but the bill carries additional provisions about rent payments and evictions. Under the bill, there is a temporary, nationwide eviction moratorium in place for renters whose landlords have mortgages backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or other federal organizations.
If you haven’t yet, absolutely make contact with your landlord about rent payments – even if you have rent for this month. It’s a good practice to work out contingency plans before the worst happens and you’re caught short on rent in May or June. As we’re all learning, planning ahead can pay off.
We’ve all got bills – too many even in normal times. Here’s some good news and some bad news. If you have federally-backed student loans, payments are now suspended through September 30th. Some student loans are privately held, however; in that case contact your lender. You should receive an update from your lender about the status of your student loans in the coming weeks.
The bad news is the bill has no national provision for utilities and internet bills. Some cities are no longer shutting off power and water for lack of payment, but this will vary depending on your area.