In The News

Coronavirus Update: Questions and Answers

May 28, 2020
In The News

 

Given the rapidly changing dynamic in our country around coronavirus, I put together a list of answers to frequently asked questions about federal assistance for you, your family, and small business. 

 

Will I get financial help from the government?

Most Americans will get a check or direct deposit of $1200 per individual, or $2400 per married couple, with an additional $500 per child (for incomes below $75,000 per person or $150,000 per couple). 

Are children older than 16 eligible for the $500 payments?

No, unless they are no longer dependents.  Then they will be eligible for the $1200 payment.  However, Congress may fix this.

Do I have to pay income tax on this check?

No.

I am on Social Security.  Will I also get this payment in addition to my Social Security?

Yes.

What about my IRA?

There is a temporary suspension of required minimum distribution rules for older Americans.  You can also withdraw IRA funds temporarily without penalty.

I have lost my job.  Now what?

Unemployment benefits have been significantly expanded, including for the self-employed and independent contractors.

When are taxes due?

Tax filing and payment are delayed until July 15. 

Do I have other options besides unemployment benefits?

Yes.  One option is for your employer to take out a loan to pay your salary and benefits. 

Do I have to pay my student loan?

If you ask your loan provider, you can possibly delay your student loan for sixty days.

When will I get my check?

The payments have already started going out to those who have direct deposit.  The IRS has now started sending paper checks to those without direct deposit. 

Where’s my payment?

If you filed your 2018 or 2019 tax return and it has been processed, you can check the status of your Economic Stimulus Payment on the IRS website by clicking on Get My Payment.

I received a stimulus payment for someone who has died.  Do I have to return the money?

Yes.  If the payment was a paper check, you should write “Void” in the endorsement section on the back of the check and send it back.  If the payment was a direct deposit, you must send a personal check (made payable to “U.S. Treasury”) to the IRS.  For more information: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center#more

I received a Visa prepaid debit card in the mail. Is this fraud?
Likely not. Do not throw it away. Read the details on instructions sent by the Treasury Department or contact my office.

I am on Social Security.  Do I have to fill out a tax return?

Those receiving Social Security, Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) do not have to take further action.  If you need to supply direct deposit information, you may do so at: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here

 

SMALL BUSINESS

How is the help for small business being delivered?

The main way is through the Paycheck Protection Program (or PPP).  It is an SBA-guaranteed loan with deferred interest and payments, with loan forgiveness for payroll costs of employees.  Due to the popularity of the program, Congress has provided an additional $310 billion for it.

How does the loan forgiveness component work?

If a business keeps their employees on the payroll for eight weeks, during the period from February 15th through the end of June, the portion of the loan covering payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities is forgiven.  There is flexibility for those employers who laid off workers and then re-hired them. 

I am a business owner.  Does loan forgiveness apply to my salary?

Yes, within limits.

Who is eligible?

Businesses with fewer than 500 employees and private non-profits – 501(c)(3)s.  Health care providers are also eligible, no matter how they are structured.

What is the loan limit?

Loans can be as high as $10 million.

How do I apply for these loans?

Go to your bank or credit union.  Your financial institution will primarily run the program, not the government.  However, the SBA.gov website has a lot of good information.

Are contractors and sole proprietors included?

Yes.  You are eligible for the loan and the forgiveness portion of wages paid to yourself.

How long will the SBA loan review by my bank take?

Due to the unique nature of this situation, the lender can process, close, and service the loan without an SBA review. 

I am a farmer.   How does an SBA loan help me?

The bill includes a number of small business provisions designed to help farmers stay in business.  This includes a provision that allows farmers to work with their trusted farm credit institutions for the purposes of securing payroll tax loans, along with 1-year deferrals, 100% guarantees, and low rates.

Is there any other help I can get?

Yes.  There is the disaster loan program of the SBA called the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.  It will provide you a grant of up to $10,000, with deferred interest and principal.  Due to the popularity of the program, Congress has provided an additional $60 billion for it.  While dealing with its current backlog, the SBA is currently only accepting applications from agricultural interests.

What is the employee retention tax credit?

Employers can temporarily receive a 50% tax credit on wages up to $10,000 per employee for anyone kept on the payroll.  Employers are eligible if their business was closed due to government shutdown or if they suffered a revenue loss of at least 50%.

Are taxes delayed?

Yes.  Payroll taxes are delayed until 2021.  Tax filing and payment are delayed until July 15.

My business is doing fine right now, but I am worried about what will happen in the next weeks and months.  What should I do?

Go to your financial institution.  Banks and credit unions are the primary portal through which loans will be released.  You don’t have to be idle right now.  The intention of the legislation is to keep you working.

I have not been in business for a year.  Can I still apply for the loan?  Can I use it to hire someone?

Yes.

Can my bank delay my existing loan payments?

Yes. 

 

HEALTH CARE

If I get coronavirus on the job, are my medical costs covered?

Yes.  Your medical care will be covered for coronavirus. 

If I become unemployed, what happens to my health insurance benefits?

Existing COBRA insurance rules still apply. 

Will the loans my employer uses to keep me employed also cover health insurance costs?

Yes.

Should I get tested?

Testing is free.  Contact your medical provider or state and local health department on if, when, or how to get tested. 

Can my doctor treat me over the phone?

Yes.  We have greatly expanded the option of using telemedicine for health care treatment. 

Should I wear a mask?

The CDC recently recommended that you should wear cloth face coverings in public settings where it is difficult to remain at least six feet apart, like trips to the grocery store or pharmacies.

Where do I get a mask?

The CDC recommends the use of traditional medical masks or simple cloth face coverings.  These can be made at home using common materials, and they should be washed regularly. 

How long will this crisis last?

We don’t know.  But adhering to social distancing and good hygiene helps reduce the spread.  Hopefully we will turn the corner soon.

Why is Nebraska one of the few states without a stay-at-home order?

This is the advice the Governor has received from the infectious disease experts at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.  So far, Nebraska’s social distancing approach has worked well to limit the spread without completely shutting down the state.  This approach could change if conditions change.

 

Please note these answers are intended to provide basic clarity––some aspects of the law have additional requirements.  I hope you find this information helpful.  If you need anything, my staff and I are here for you.