The largest ever economic stimulus package — the $2 trillion CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act — carves out a portion for individual Americans to help alleviate financial struggles. The plan calls for making direct cash payments of up to $1,200 for individual taxpayers, $2,400 for couples and $500 per child. Another boon for out-of-work individuals is an expansion of unemployment benefits to include freelancers, furloughed employees and gig workers who previously didn’t qualify.
The remaining funds from the economic stimulus package are allocated to companies in need: $100 billion is going to hospitals, $350 billion to help small businesses, $500 billion to large corporations, and $150 billion to state and local funds.
Will I get a $1,200 check?
Here’s how the direct payments from the coronavirus relief bill work and who is eligible:
- If you are making up to $75,000 per year, you’ll receive a check for $1,200.
- Couples making up to $150,000 per year will get $2,400.
- Families get an additional $500 per child.
- Payment amounts start to decrease for individuals making more than $75,000. Amounts phase out entirely for individuals who make more than $99,000 per year and couples making more than $198,000 per year.
- Heads of household will get the full payment if they made $112,500 or less in 2019.
How much you get is based on the adjusted gross income reported on your 2019 tax return, or your 2018 tax return if you haven’t filed yet. If you’re not required to file a tax return (e.g. low-income individuals, some Social Security recipients, veterans and people with disabilities), you will receive payment under the same method used to distribute benefits (electronically or via paper check) as long as your total income does not exceed the limits.
Check out the Washington Post coronavirus check calculator to see how much stimulus money is coming your way. Note that for individuals, the payment amount drops by $5 for every $100 you make over the $75,000 threshold.
If you’re a college student, you’re likely out of luck. The New York Times reports that college students are the forgotten age-group of this stimulus bill. At their age, they are too old to qualify for the child stipend (which is 17-years-old, per Forbes), but since many parents still claim their college-age students as dependents, they will not get a check of their own.
When will I get my stimulus check?
Individual stimulus checks will start being automatically deposited into taxpayer bank accounts in two weeks, according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. He says 50 to 70 million Americans will receiving funds by April 15. Following that, the government will begin to mail checks to those who do not direct deposit bank account information on file with the IRS. The IRS says they can process up to 5 million checks per week, so it may take up to 20 weeks to get checks to the 90-110 million Americans expecting checks by mail, according to USA Today.
The IRS is setting up a portal later this month for those who do not have their bank information already on file. Visit the IRS Coronavirus Tax Relief portal for the most current information.
What to Do with Your Potential Windfall
If you’re lucky enough to still have a steady paycheck and don’t need a personal bailout from the coronavirus relief bill right now, this is an opportunity to use that $1,200 check to strengthen your financial safety net to get through the coming months. If you can, also consider earmarking a portion of your check to help others who may not be faring as well during the coronavirus crisis. Some ideas for wise moves to make with this money:
Bulk up your emergency fund. If coronavirus has taught you anything, I hope it’s that you definitely need an emergency fund. Take that check and direct deposit it into your high yield savings account. The future you will be so relieved. (See our HerMoney Emergency Fund How-To for guidelines on how much to save and where to put the money.)
Pay down high-interest debt. This is the perfect chance to chisel away at any debts you’re carrying that charge double digit interest rates. Why? Because you just got free money and have the opportunity to start over with a clean slate. (Here are the do’s and don’ts of credit during the coronavirus crisis.)
Save for retirement. If you’re not already contributing enough money to your 401(k) to get the employer match, hop to it! That’s free money and there’s nowhere you’ll get stock market returns better than that. Once you hit your match goal, fund a Roth IRA, which also can serve as a last-ditch emergency fund if you need to access cash down the road.
Buy into the market. The age old advice holds true even in a global pandemic: buy low, sell high. Now is as good a time as ever to buy stocks and get some money into the market. This will benefit you in the long run, and it will help to stimulate the markets.
Support local businesses. Small businesses are taking a huge hit, even with help from the coronavirus relief bill. Many will not survive. Make conscientious decisions about which stores to support: For example, order in takeout from your favorite neighborhood restaurant or stock up on goods from your go-to mom and pop convenience store. This will help to keep them in business during a time when no one is out shopping. Similarly, you can use a portion of your government money to buy gift cards from your favorite stores (for actual gifts for others, or for yourself to use when you’re ready). Doing so will give these businesses the funds they need now, and will benefit you later.
Donate, donate, donate. There are plenty of places that are in need of financial donations right now, like the American Red Cross, the CDC Foundation, and Feeding America. Your contribution will allow these organizations to do what they are meant to do. Check out Coronavirus-focused charity ratings on Charity Navigator.
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