The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the third and largest coronavirus relief package on March 27th to help struggling businesses and displaced workers during the pandemic. The Senate had previously approved the $2 trillion response bill, and it will now go to the President's desk, where it is expected to be signed into law.
For Your Employees
The CARES Act includes several elements aimed at helping keep people engaged in the economy. That means direct cash for many families plus expanded unemployment benefits, new rules for things like filing taxes and making retirement contributions.
Cash payments: Estimated to total $300 billion. Most individuals earning less than $75,000 can expect a one-time cash payment of $1,200. Married couples would each receive a check and families would get $500 per child. That means a family of four earning less than $150,000 can expect $3,400.
The checks start to phase down after that and disappear completely for people making more than $99,000 and couples making more than $198,000.
The cash payments are based on either the employee’s 2018 or 2019 tax filings. People who receive Social Security benefits but don't file tax return are still eligible, too. They don't need to file taxes; their checks will be based on information provided by the Social Security Administration.
Extra unemployment payments: The $260 billion estimated cost is subject to change based on the number of people filing for unemployment.
The bill makes major changes to unemployment assistance, increasing the benefits and broadening who is eligible. States will still continue to pay unemployment to people who qualify. That amount varies state by state. So does the amount of time people are allowed to claim it.
This bill adds $600 per week from the federal government on top of whatever base amount a worker receives from the state. That boosted payment will last for four months.
For example, if an out-of-work person is receiving the national average of about $340 per week, under the new federal program their take-home pay will be $940.
The legislation also adds 13 weeks of additional unemployment insurance. People nearing the maximum number of weeks allowed by their state would get an extension. New filers would also be allowed to collect the benefits for the longer period.
Tax returns: The filing deadline for annual tax returns filing has been extended to July 15. The IRS also says that people who have filed or plan to can still expect to receive a refund if they are owed one.
Student loans: Employers can provide up to $5,250 in tax-free student loan repayment benefits. That means an employer could contribute to loan payments and workers wouldn't have to include that money as income.
Insurance coverage: The bill requires all private insurance plans to cover COVID-19 treatments and vaccine and makes all coronavirus tests free.
Gig workers and freelancers: Typically, self-employed people, freelancers and contractors can't apply for unemployment. This bill creates a new, temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program through the end of this year to help people who lose work as a direct result of the public health emergency.
For Your Small Business
The main features for small businesses are emergency grants and a forgivable loan program for companies with 500 or fewer employees. There are also changes to rules for expenses and deductions meant to make it easier for companies to keep employees on the payroll and stay open in the near-term.
Emergency grants: The bill provides $10 billion for grants of up to $10,000 to provide emergency funds for small businesses to cover immediate operating costs.
Forgivable loans: There is $350 billion allocated for the Small Business Administration to provide loans of up to $10 million per business. Any portion of that loan used to maintain payroll, keep workers on the books or pay for rent, mortgage and existing debt could be forgiven, provided workers stay employed through the end of June.
Relief for existing loans: There is $17 billion to cover six months of payments for small businesses already using SBA loans.