The announcement of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act just last night is exciting news for the millions of Americans struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The stimulus package includes $250 billion in relief for average Americans in the form of stimulus checks.
Coronavirus Disease 2019 Stimulus Checks: Who’s Eligible?
How Do They Determine Who Is Eligible for Stimulus Checks?
Check eligibility is based on tax returns. For those that filed their 2019 tax return, their eligibility is based on their reported income from that return. For that that haven’t filed their 2019 tax return, their entitlement will be based on their 2018 tax return. According to the Tax Foundation, those who receive “too large” of a check based on their new 2019 filing won’t have to return the additional money.
Those not required to file a tax return and are on Social Security will have their eligibility determined by their Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement, or Form RRB-1099, Social Security Equivalent Benefit Statement.
Those on Social Security as part of retirement or through the Social Security Disability Insurance program will have their Social Security Administration data used directly to claim their stimulus check, meaning no tax return is needed. Beneficiaries of Supplemental Security Income aren’t included in the bill.
All single Americans (those who file a tax return as single) who earn less than $100,000 are eligible for a stimulus check. Those earning less than $75,000 per year will receive $1,200. Those earning between $75,000 and $99,999 will receive less money – $5 less for every $100 over that $75,000 threshold. For example, a single filer who earns $85,000 per year will receive $700.
Married couples – that is, those who file a joint tax return – will receive up to $2,400. This doesn’t factor in any additional funds for dependent children, which will be covered next. Joint filing couples also see a reduction in how much they receive depending on their joint income.
The same $5 less for every $100 over a set amount applies for married couples and heads of households. This reduction starts at $112,000 for the head of the household and $150,000 for couples that file jointly. Childless couples who earn over $198,000 will receive no stimulus checks.
Every dependent child will receive $500 per child. This $500 benefit only applies to children 16 years old or younger. There’s no cap on the number of benefits you can receive for children under this age, which can provide some tremendous financial support to large families.
Non-Citizens and Green Card Holders
According to reports, the bailout checks will also be sent to non-citizens and Green Card holders, provided they currently pay taxes.
When Will I Get My Coronavirus Check?
According to most reports, Americans can start to expect checks as early as April 15. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin wants the checks to get into American accounts as soon as possible. Still, the precise timeline isn’t set in stone. As a rule of thumb, those with direct deposit set up with the IRS can expect in their bank accounts sooner.
Others, without their deposit information on file, will have to wait on a physical check in the mail. Those checks will likely be sent to the address the IRS has on file. Of course, economic relief in the form of checks took considerably longer in 2008, with many Americans not receiving their checks for up to two months.
Will There Be Further Checks?
That depends. If the national emergency continues, there is a chance of at least one more stimulus check. That is according to Secretary Mnuchin, but the CARES Act only stipulates one check. That means Congress would have to approve any additional checks.
Do I Have to Pay It Back?
Since there isn’t any information on whether this is a loan or a gift, that’s something that can’t be answered right away.
What’s the Best Way to Use My Coronavirus Check?
Paying Off Debt
The best use for COVID-19 stimulus checks really depends on the individual. Paying down existing debt is one such option – and might make the most sense for those struggling with existing balances on their loans of credit cards. This might include using the stimulus check as part of a concerted debt repayment plan, which might consist of the debt avalanche method. This, in turn, could significantly reduce interest payments in the coming months.
Using the stimulus check as part of a coordinated effort with a robust balance transfer credit card, such as the Upgrade Card, can pay huge dividends in a short period. The Upgrade Card works differently than your standard credit card and can offer substantial savings on interest payments.
The card works by opening a line of credit of up to $20,000, which can you can then use to pay off all existing balances and refinancing the debt into one, low-interest payment over between 12 to 60 months. Using a stimulus check to pay down an Upgrade Card balance is an excellent option.
Investing in Yourself
Economic downturns can make or break a person. When you find yourself out of work, it’s easy to panic. While instantly applying for fifty jobs might make sense, perhaps it’s an excellent time to take a step back and invest in yourself.
If you have enough savings to see you through, maybe a $1,200 stimulus check is the perfect opportunity to consider a course you’ve been itching to take. Or perhaps you can learn a new job skill? LinkedIn is currently offering free classes for those working remotely or laid off due to COVID-19, but supplementing these with a paid course may boost your job prospects in the coming months.
Spending on Small Businesses
Why not use that money to help some of the thousands of small businesses reeling from the economic downturn? While some businesses are altering their operational plans to produce antibacterial gels or delivering food or other items, others are being forced to shutter their doors. Using $1,200+ to invest in the local economy can pay huge dividends for all involved.
Unemployment Relief for COVID-19 Layoffs
The CARES Act also introduced new protections for those laid off as a result of COVID-19. These updates include “unemployment on steroids.” Those receiving unemployment are eligible for an additional $600 per week on top of what is already collected for regular unemployment benefits. This extra cash lasts for four months.
Unemployment is also extended for a further 13 weeks on top of the standard limit of approximately 26 weeks. It also extends unemployment benefits to those previously ineligible. These include:
- Furloughed workers
Student Loan Forgiveness
One of the more significant stories last week was President Trump halting student loan payments for the foreseeable future. The CARES Act furthered this stance and gave it more context. Here’s what the act does:
- Allows students to pause their federal student loan payments through September 2020.
- No interest on federal student loans through September 2020.
- Those six months of no payments count towards student loan forgiveness programs. This means not paying for six months will qualify as “payments.”
- Employers can pay up to 45,250 of their employee’s student loans tax-free.
Note that these benefits only apply to federal student loans, however, and loans through private banks or other lenders may not qualify.
Stay Up to Date on the Latest Coronavirus Financial News
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