The US has agreed on a $2tn stimulus package, the largest economic stimulus in US history, in response to the economic impacts of Covid-19. While corporations will be the biggest recipients of the bailout, some of that money will be paid directly to Americans hit by the pandemic.
Most taxpayers will get a check in the mail, while those directly impacted by the economic effects of Covid-19 are slated to receive robust government support.
Here’s what we know so far about how the new stimulus package will directly affect Americans in the coming weeks:
Who’s eligible for a check from the government?
Congress will spend about $250bn for checks up to $1,200 per person that will go directly to taxpayers.
To be eligible for the full amount, a person’s most recently filed tax return must show that they made $75,000 or under. For couples, who can receive a maximum of $2,400, the cutoff is $150,000.
If a person makes more than $75,000, the amount given goes down incrementally by $5 for every $100 increase in salary. So a person who makes $85,000 would get $700 while a person who makes $95,000 would get $200.
If a person makes above $99,000, or a couple makes above $198,000, no check will be given.
There are some requirements and exceptions. Those getting a check must be living and working in the US and have a valid social security number. If a person is listed as a dependent on their parents’ tax return – the case for many college students – they are excluded.
The Tax Foundation, a DC-based thinktank, estimates that 93.6% of Americans will be eligible for a check coming from the stimulus package.
What about parents?
Taxpayers will be given $500 per child 16 or under listed as a dependent on their latest tax return.
When will I get this money?
That is still unclear. Experts say that Americans will likely not get the money until May, given how long it takes the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to send out checks. Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said those whose bank account information is already with the IRS from previous tax returns can expect a payment “within three weeks”.
For those who still need to give the IRS their bank account information, a web-based portal will be opening up soon to allow people to provide the IRS with their bank information if the IRS does not have it. The IRS says this is to make sure people get their checks immediately, instead of sending it via check through the mail.
This is not the first time the government has sent checks to Americans. The federal government gave up to $300 in 2001 and $600 in 2008 to taxpayers who met a certain income bracket to similarly stimulate the economy.
What if a person did not file their 2018 or 2019 return?
The IRS recommends people file their 2018 or 2019 tax return as soon as possible to get the payment. A check will be sent to any qualified person so long as they file their return within 2020.
What if a person does not file their taxes?
A person may still be eligible even if they do not file the taxes. The IRS says people who typically do not file taxes – social security beneficiaries, low-income taxpayers and some veterans – will need to file a “simple tax return” in order to get the payment.
Does the package help unemployed workers?
Yes, specifically the bill will increase unemployment insurance by $600 for 13 weeks – about four months – for every person, added to the existing unemployment compensation a person gets from their state’s program.
The length and amount of compensation varies from state to state. A majority of states providing a maximum of 26 weeks of compensation, while average weekly compensation ranges from 20% of a person’s wage to just over 50%.
What about freelance and gig workers?
While unemployment insurance typically does not cover people who are self-employed – freelancers, contractors and gig workers – the bill comes with a “pandemic unemployment assistance” measure that will extend insurance to those workers.
Has there been any changes to paid leave?
Not in this bill. Earlier last week, Donald Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a bill worth about $100bn meant to expand paid sick leave and emergency paid leave, but it came with major loopholes. Companies with over 500 employees were not mentioned in the bill, while companies with under 50 employees can apply for exemptions.
The bill mandates 10 days of fully paid sick leave for employees of companies with 500 employees or less. Parents of those companies affected by their children’s school closing and those leaving for medical reasons can get 12 weeks of pay at 67% of their salary.
Will there be anything to offset healthcare costs related to Covid-19?
Again, not in this bill. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act included a measure that mandated all Covid-19 testing is free, but treatment for any symptoms (there is currently no cure for the illness) still comes at a cost.
A few states have reopened enrollment for their health insurance programs to allow those concerned about costs to enroll, and three major health insurance companies said they will be waiving any high costs for treatment, but there are still stories of people getting bills for as much as $34,000 to cover treatment of the virus’ symptoms.