Congress is gearing up to vote on its largest emergency aid package in US history in order to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and its economic fallout. But the legislation has raised plenty of questions as lawmakers race to nail down specific language. Here are at least a few answers based on CNN’s reporting:
How and when do I get my check?
President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have targeted April 6. Tax experts (and lawmakers working on this) are very skeptical of that date. There’s no question they want — and need to turn this around — ASAP. There are also different ways it could be done — through direct deposit (which would be the quickest delivery mechanism), through mailing a paper check or even, according to some people involved in the discussions, through mailing pre-loaded debit cards. But the reality is there isn’t a firm answer yet. In other words, Treasury has a lot of work ahead of it.
Is there help for small businesses in the Senate stimulus package?
There’s a lot of focus on the individual checks, but I’m firmly of the mind the small business loan piece of this is far and away the most important given what’s happening right now.
The bill directs $350 billion for loans to small businesses and nonprofits with under 500 employees. The loans would be guaranteed by the Small Business Administration but the actual lender would be approved banks and financial institutions, which should get the money out the door faster. Businesses could receive up to $10 million in loans to float employee salaries, payroll expenses, mortgage, and other debt payments. If used for those purposes, the loans would be forgiven in the future. It’s a huge deal if it works properly.
There are several other small business-related provisions in here that may be useful and/or valuable to those who are eligible. Be sure to check them out to see if you may qualify — a key component of this package is expanding eligibility for government programs (see: the unemployment insurance expansion/enhancement).
Is the check based on my 2018 or 2019 tax return?
Under the plan, individuals who earn $75,000 in adjusted gross income or less would get direct payments of $1,200 each. But which tax return is that based on?
If you’ve filed for 2019, that’s what it would based on. If you haven’t, it would be based on 2018.
Does the bill include anything about student loans?
Federal student loan borrowers would get a reprieve from payments until October and any interest that would have accrued during that period would be waived.
The agreement also allows students to keep any unspent money from Pell Grants or student loans and prevents students who have to leave school due to the pandemic from losing eligibility for future Pell Grants.
I should also note the bill explicitly allows colleges and universities to pay students for work-study programs even if they are unable to work.
Will full-time college students qualify for stimulus checks?
Depends — and I’m not trying to dodge here, but everyone’s circumstances are different, so I don’t want to generalize. Say an individual is claimed as a dependent by their parents, then that’s an automatic no. Say you live on your own, are not claimed as a dependent and had a summer job, then yes.
Will retired seniors also get stimulus checks?
So long as they are not listed as a dependent for someone else (and, as retirees, fall within the income thresholds), yes, they should receive a check.