The COVID-19 stimulus checks are set to be released next week, and people are still trying to figure out if they are eligible and what to do. When President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. into law, on March 27th, 2020, it seemed as if every single American citizen (so long they had a social security number) was eligible to receive the stimulus check from the IRS. However, that is not the case, and unfortunately many may not receive the much-needed help.
Here are some of the most asked questions to help you clear your doubts:
What do I need to do to get the money?
If you have filed a tax return for the year 2018 or 2019, you only need to do some research. I know it can get overwhelming, especially when you have to read a bill that is comprised of 247 pages of “legalese” most of us don’t understand, but you need to know specifics.
Now, if you haven’t filed a tax return (due to low-income status or whatever it may be) you have to file a tax return for the 2019 tax year and sign up for direct deposit to receive your check- if you qualify for it. You have until July 15th, 2020, to do so. You can file for free here.
Will I be taxed on this money?
How long will the check take to arrive?
Paper checks can take up to five months to arrive. However, if you receive your tax refund via direct deposit, the money can be available to you as early as next week.
Who will collect the money and how much would that be?
Not every single taxpayer will collect the money, nor will they collect the same amount. U.S. taxpayers can receive up to $1,200.00, from the federal government. Now, you read that right $1,200.00, is the maximum amount of money an individual can collect, meaning there are different tiers to this package. The amount you will receive will be determined based on your 2018-2019 annual adjusted gross income or AGI.
As of today the Act. states that:
•Adults with an AGI of $ 75, 000 or less will receive the maximum amount.
•Couples filing a joint tax return with an AGI of $150,00 or less will qualify to receive the full amount of $1,200 each ($2,400.)
•Head of household with an AGI of $112,500 or less will also receive the full amount.
•If you have a dependent who is age 16 and under you will receive an additional $500 per dependent. However, adults with disabilities and elderly dependents will not qualify for the $500 rebate.
•The amount of money you will collect will be reduced as income rises, dropping to zero above $99,000 per year for single filers and $198, 000 for joint filers.
What about college students?
Unfortunately, college students have slipped through the cracks and under the current law, these young adults are ineligible to receive any help, even if they used to work part-time and paid taxes. Though most college students (17-24) are still being claimed as dependents by their parents, for some unclear reason neither the parents nor the students will receive the $500 rebate.
Will student loans be forgiven?
No, student loans will not be forgiven. According to the CARES Act. most federal student loan borrowers will be able to pause their payments until September of this year. Meaning that your balance won’t increase because both principal and interest accruement will be paused.
As far as private lenders go, you need to know that private student loans are not covered under the CARES Act. Private lenders are not required to offer you any help during this pandemic. If you have a private student loan, you should contact them and ask them if they are offering any relief. Some private lenders require you to fill out a form for disaster forbearance, but you have to request it.
If you are not sure what type of loan you have, contact your servicer to see what applies to you and what doesn’t. The faster and more productive you are, the better.
Who won’t receive the money?
•People without a SSN, even if they have children with a SSN.
•As mentioned above, people with disabilities that are supported and claimed by a parent or relative will not receive the money.
•Senior citizens who are claimed and supported by their children will not receive any money.
•Couples who had a baby born this year will not receive any money, or at least not yet.
•People who owe past-due child support will not receive the money.
•People making over the income limit ($99k single/$198k joint) will not receive any of the money.
What about unemployment, can I apply?
The CARES Act created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program that provides unemployment benefits to workers who lost their jobs but are ineligible for the state’s regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) program.
According to this program, anyone who files for unemployment -if approved- will get a minimum of $600 a week on top of whatever you would receive through your state’s current unemployment package. And coverage will be extended by an additional 13 weeks.
For instance, Florida (my state) covers anywhere between 12 to 23 weeks, depending on the current unemployment rate, so given the circumstances, let’s say they grant you the minimum, 12 weeks, you would then add the extra 13 weeks approved by the bill; therefore, Floridians will be covered for 25 weeks of unemployment.
Because most states provide 26 weeks of regular UI benefits, a maximum of 39 weeks has been the limit imposed by the PUA. Make sure you find out what the law regarding UI says in your state.
Keep in mind this information is not set in stone, and things change and get adjusted every day by state. So if you fall into the ineligible category today, it doesn’t mean that will always be the case. Keep checking for updates, and don’t lose hope, remember there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. We are all in this together! ♥
By Cynthia Paola Bautista