It certainly took long enough. Over the weekend, Congress came to an agreement on another stimulus package — this one worth a little over $900 billion. But thankfully this much needed aid has been agreed upon and can start to roll immediately. Here’s what you can expect.
- Another round of stimulus checks. These total $600 for individuals making up to $75,000, heads of household making up to $112,500, and couples making up to $150,000. At that point they start to taper off by $5 for every $100 in income and at incomes of $99,000 for individuals and $198,000 for couples, they’re gone entirely. Families will receive an additional $600 for each child under 17 years of age. Importantly: These payments are going to be based on income reported on your 2019 tax returns — the most recent info the IRS has. If you, like many people, earned too much to qualify in 2019 but were eligible in 2020, you’ll get the money, only later. It will come in the form of a tax credit when you file your 2020 return.
- Federal unemployment payments will resume. This time they’ll be $300 a week (rather than $600) and they’ll extend until March 14. There’s an additional $100 for freelancers shut out of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, although distribution of that has to be worked out with the states.
- The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for gig workers, contract workers, self-employed and freelance workers will also be extended until March 14. (This is the benefit serving about 13 million individuals that was about to expire.)
- State unemployment benefits will be extended for another 11 weeks, bringing the total available weeks to 50.
- The PPP will be turned back on — there’s another $285 billion in funding in the package, which means that some companies that have struggled particularly hard will be able to apply for a second loan. Stacey Crowley of The New York Times reports that this time around, the bill will allow restaurant, hotel and other food-service businesses to apply for loans of up to 3.5 times their monthly payroll. For other businesses the limit is 2.5 times. (Meanwhile, we are still waiting for clarity, but The Wall Street Journal is reporting that initial PPP recipients will be able to “deduct the payroll costs and other expenses covered by the forgiven loans.”)
- There’s an extension on the halt of evictions until January 31 (it had already been extended until the end of the year) and another $25 billion in the new package for rent relief. Not everyone qualifies. There are caps on the income you can have expected to earn for the year, you have to have been laid off or otherwise experienced a drop in income, and you have to be attempting to make partial payments. Ron Lieber in The New York Times answers all your questions about this program here. This aid will be distributed through state and other programs throughout the country. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has more.
Of course, we know you’ll have questions. Here are a few likely answers, although information is changing in real time. We’ll update you at HerMoney.com as we have it.
When Will I Receive My New Stimulus Check?
Last time they started to be distributed within about two weeks, although for some people it took much longer to receive. This time, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said they should start going out before the end of the year. And given that the government has already gathered much of the information, we can hope to avoid at least some of those delays. If you still haven’t received your payment – or if you received less than you were eligible for due to the birth of a new child, for example, you can claim a tax credit on your 2020 tax return. Reminder: Credits are better than deductions. They’re a dollar-for-dollar write-off against your taxes. As the IRS notes: Generally, this credit will increase the amount of your tax refund or lower the amount of the tax you owe.
What Do I Have To Do To Get Those Unemployment Benefits?
If you’re already receiving unemployment, likely nothing. If you’re not – because your benefits have lapsed – check your state’s unemployment website for instructions. Be prepared that it may take a few weeks (if not more)for lapsed benefits to resume, USA Today warns.
Can I Still Get Mortgage Relief?
The CARES Act program that allows for two 6-month periods of forbearance (once one is over you can request another) for federally-backed mortgages is still available. The deadline for getting in touch with your lender and asking to be a part of this program has been extended to the end of February.
What About My Student Loans?
Payments on federal student loans are now on pause until January 31 – meaning you don’t have to make them – and interest rates have been set to 0%, meaning if you do make them, the money all goes to principal so it makes a bigger dent. Earlier versions of this new bill extended that deadline until the end of April, but that provision doesn’t seem to have made the cut.
What If I Can’t Pay My Bills In General?
Don’t wait. Call your lenders. And look into state and local programs, as well as those from your utility companies. Here’s a good roundup of connections and aguide for where to find financial help if you just can’t manage to pay all your bills right now.
MORE FROM HERMONEY ON LIVING THROUGH COVID:
- Jean lays out the questions you need to ask before you make any changes to your portfolio.
- Kathryn and Becca tackle 10 FAQ about coronavirus, stock market volatility, and your portfolio.
- Dayana looks at how long stock market crashes, dips, recessions and corrections have historically lasted and what to expect going forward.
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