Things are moving fast as states take steps to contain the growing coronavirus outbreak. Many readers were laid off, furloughed without pay or had their shift hours cut. Others work at schools temporarily closed to slow its spread, but aren’t eligible to file unemployment. How are people supposed to pay rent and bills with no income right now? Below, we’ll list all the federal and state aid programs recently approved to help those hurt financially by coronavirus.
Congress Passes Federal Coronavirus Assistance Package
On March 18, 2020, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This federal law provides the following financial relief for people who cannot work due to COVID-19 restrictions and closings:
- Two weeks of paid sick leave for employees who have COVID-19 or are caretakers for someone with the disease. This rule only applies to employers with 50-500 employees. The bill caps sick-pay salaries at $511/day, but healthcare providers and first responders are exempt from this coverage.
- Up to 12 weeks of paid FMLA leave for parents of children whose schools must remain closed. To qualify, you must have worked in your job at least 30 days before your child’s school closed for coronavirus. In addition, this only requires employers with 50-500 employees to offer paid FMLA leave for coronavirus. Anyone unable to do their jobs or work from home while caring for minor children should apply for this benefit. Paid FMLA leave maxes out at $200/day, or $10,000 total. Healthcare workers and first responders are exempt.
Part-time workers can also qualify for pro-rated benefits (up to 80 hours of sick leave/12 weeks of paid FMLA leave). Eligible employers won’t pay Social Security taxes on these benefits, which expire at the end of the year.
Internal Revenue Service Delays April 15 Tax Deadline to July
The IRS also notified taxpayers and business owners they were moving this year’s April tax deadline to July 15 instead. If you believe you’re owed a refund, their press release recommends filing before the usual April 15 deadline passes. That way, you’ll get some cash to pay bills with until the coronavirus restrictions begin to lift. But if you typically owe the IRS money (i.e., you’re self-employed and pay taxes quarterly)? Then the IRS lets you defer those payments until mid-summer without any penalties or interest.
Department of Labor Guidance Offers States Flexibility Around COVID-19 Unemployment Claims
While no federal law provides unemployment benefits to workers laid off due to coronavirus, there is some good news. On March 12, the U.S. Department of Labor announced it would give states more flexibility in determining eligibility for unemployment. Specifically, federal law now allows states to pay unemployment benefits to workers affected by coronavirus in the following ways:
- You can’t go to work because your job site’s temporarily closed down due to COVID-19
- You’re unable to work during the 14-day quarantine period after testing positive for COVID-19
- Risk of coronavirus is so great at your place of employment that you must take temporary leave
- You take temporary leave to care for a family member with COVID-19 symptoms
Since every state has its own unemployment insurance program and unique eligibility requirements, where you live and file matters. To get started, find your state in this pull-down menu and then click the “search” button. You’ll see your state’s program website, online application link and toll-free phone number listed in the displayed results. If you only have internet access through your phone and a limited data plan, try calling 211 instead. The agents answering calls usually know which local resources are available now to help people like you who need them.
Low-Interest Government Loans for Small Business Owners
Many small businesses and privately held nonprofits are now closed due to coronavirus. In many cases, your local or state government can order you to close indefinitely during this pandemic. If you’re impacted, you may qualify for a low-interest Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The agency is now taking applications from small business owners and privately held nonprofits in all 50 U.S. states. In addition, you can receive an advance of up to $10,000 that you don’t need to repay if you spend that money on rent, payroll or utilities.
This money IS available to independent contractors, sole proprietorships and and self-employed persons. Approved applicants receive their payments within days. Again, if you qualify for this loan, you’ll never have to pay the $10,000 advance back. Here’s a direct link to the EIDL $10,000 advance application. That money goes out within a few days to successful applicants. Be aware that once this money’s gone, it’s gone, so approvals are made on a first-come, first served basis.
If approved for a larger loan (or you have a company with up to 500 employees), you’ll pay less than 4% interest annually to borrow up to $2 million from the SBA. This way, you can still pay your financial obligations and operating expenses while coronavirus keeps you closed for business. Take note, however: The SBA’s website says you’ll only get approved for an EIDL if you cannot obtain credit elsewhere. Ready to see if you may qualify? You can start your online loan application through the SBA’s website here.
HUD Halts Evictions, Foreclosures Nationwide for 60 Days
As of March 18, 2020, the Department of Housing and Urban Development suspended all evictions and foreclosures for 60 days. HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson issued the new guidelines that apply specifically to FHA-insured single-family homes through May 18. The guidelines list several FHA loan-modification options potentially available for homeowners who cannot make their mortgage payments due to coronavirus. Contact your FHA loan provider and ask what mortgage modifications are available based on your current circumstances and income.
$1,200 Coronavirus Stimulus Checks to All Americans Who Qualify
Congress also recently passed a $2 trillion stimulus bill that provides direct cash payments to all who qualify. Every individual who makes less than $75,000/year will receive a one-time payment for $1,200. Eligible couples who earn less than $150,000/year will receive $2,400. In addition, you’ll receive an extra $500 for every dependent child younger than 16 living in your household. Here’s what else you should know:
- Your payment amount goes down $5 for every $100 you earn above those income limits. Individuals who earn more than $99,000 each year ($198,000/couples) won’t get a one-time stimulus check.
- If you filed income taxes in 2018 or 2019, your adjusted gross income determines your payment amount. They’ll direct-deposit your payment into the bank account currently on file with the IRS.
- People getting Social Security payments are also eligible for one-time coronavirus stimulus checks. If you don’t normally file taxes with the IRS, don’t worry! They’ll use your annual Social Security benefit statement to calculate your payment and where to send it.
- People who direct-deposit their tax refunds or Social Security benefits will get paid much faster. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said direct-deposit payments will go out sometime in April. If you normally receive tax refunds or benefit checks by mail, expect your payment to show up by July.
- You don’t need to apply for the coronavirus stimulus check; the government is sending them out automatically. There’s literally nothing for anyone to do in order to get this money, it’s automatic.
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.