By Patricia Jones, Task Force on Poverty
In December Congress approved a new stimulus package and President Trump signed it into law last week. It is a follow-up to the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security), which took effect last March.
Although it isn’t as generous as the original relief granted by Congress, there are several economic benefits or payments people will receive.
First the stimulus checks we will be receiving: $600 to single filers earning under $75,000 per year, $1,200 for joint filers earning under $150,000. The amount is reduced $5 per $100 of income above those limits. A household with children will receive an additional $600 for all dependents 16 and under.
If you have your federal income tax return automatically deposited into your bank account, this money may already be there. Otherwise you will receive a check or EIP card in the mail by January 15. The US Postal Service has a free app that can help you track where your stimulus check or EIP card is and when exactly it might arrive.
The new stimulus package prohibits seizing stimulus checks for any kind of debt, including child support or collections from private creditors and banks.
Unemployed people who lost their job due to COVID will be receiving an additional $300 from the federal government in addition to their state unemployment. This will last eleven weeks, until March 14. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) will be extended 16 weeks, providing economic relief to those who wouldn't typically qualify for unemployment: self-employed workers, contractors, and gig workers.
The CARES Act gave us a tax credit on 50% of our wages up to $10,000, and that has been continued in the new stimulus bill.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), originally designed to help small businesses affected by COVID, was funded again through the economic stimulus law. This includes money for PPP loans, for businesses in low-income communities, and for struggling live venues, movie theaters, and museums. PPP loans for small businesses must use 75% on payroll to be eligible for loan forgiveness.
The new stimulus package adds funding for schools, including a governors' relief fund, and money for public K-12 schools and for higher education. There is also some funding for child care.
Students who are paying off federal student loans received a reprieve under the CARES Act, which gave them the option to defer their loan payments without additional interest. That has been extended until April.
We have had an eviction moratorium since last March. The stimulus bill extends this until January 31. Next week we will look at how this moratorium works.
Finally, the new stimulus package allocates $69 billion for coronavirus testing, tracing, and treatment. This money will be used to purchase vaccines, pay for testing and contact tracing, and help fund COVID-19 treatment programs.
Here’s hoping that the new year brings recovery and prosperity, and that the need for all these programs will be reduced or eliminated in 2021.