In the coronavirus crisis, even doctors can face a cash crunch.
Dr. Benjamin Ticho, an ophthalmologist in Chicago Ridge, Illinois, has seen his revenue plunge 80% as patients stay home and he cancels non-emergency surgeries. He’s cut his staff’s hours sharply and is negotiating with his creditors.
“We’ve reached out to many of our bigger vendors and said, ‘Hey, we may be facing a cash crunch — can you give us a break, or at least defer payments?’ Many have been sympathetic,” said Ticho, who owes loans on medical equipment. He’s giving his patients a break, too, by holding off for now on collecting their unpaid balances.
The record $2.2 trillion emergency relief package that Congress gave final approval to Friday is aimed at businesses like Ticho’s and people like his patients: Caught in a public health lockdown that has closed companies and brought economic life to a standstill, they are at risk of running out of money and being unable to pay bills or meet daily expenses.
The idea behind the measure is to give companies and families a cash cushion to better weather the health crisis and looming recession. When it’s safe to go back to work, dine out and book airline tickets again, the thinking goes, they’ll be more financially ready to return to something closer to normal life.
“It will inject trillions of dollars of cash into the economy as fast as possible to help American workers, families, small businesses and industries make it through this disruption and emerge on the other side ready to soar,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who helped negotiate the package.
So Congress is sending a one-time payment directly to most American adults and U.S. residents with Social Security numbers. That amounts to $1,200 for single adults earning up to $75,000 a year and $2,400 for married couples earning up to $150,000, plus $500 per child. Someone filing as head of household would get the full payment if they earn $112,500 or less.
The payment is reduced by $5 for each $100 that a taxpayer’s income exceeds those thresholds, and is completely phased-out for single filers with incomes exceeding $99,000, $146,500 for head of household filers with one child, and $198,000 for joint filers with no children.
The package will also help replace the earnings of unemployed workers for four months, providing them with their state’s unemployment benefits plus an extra $600 a week. For the first time, gig economy workers such as Uber drivers can claim unemployment benefits, too.
The support for individuals and households is especially important because the social safety net in America isn’t as strong as it is in the wealthy developed countries of Europe.