Congress Builds Giant Ventilator for the US Economy
Congress passed and President Trump has signed a $2 Trillion "Stimulus" Package in response to the government-imposed shut down orders that have brought the US economy to a standstill overnight. Think of it as a gigantic ventilator for the economy to get through this pandemic. Here are the most relevant provisions:
Loans and Tax Credit Available to Small Businesses
The stimulus package creates a $367 billion federally guaranteed loan program for small businesses that employ 500 or fewer people who must pledge not to lay off their workers. The loans will be available during an emergency period ending June 30, and would be forgiven if the business uses the loan funds for approved purposes and maintains the average size of its full-time workforce, based on when it received the loan.
Additionally, small businesses forced to suspend operations or that have seen gross receipts fall by 50% from the previous year, will be eligible for a tax credit worth up to 50% of wages paid during the crisis, so long as they keep their workers employed through the crisis. Wages remain eligible until business is no longer suspended or gross receipts for a quarter reach 80% of the prior year. The credit could be applied to all wages for employers with fewer than 100 employees, while the benefit is capped at $10,000 in wages per employee for larger employers.
How will Eligible Employers Get The Loans?
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering loans for qualifying small businesses. These are low-interest (3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits) loans with terms potentially as long as 30 years. You can apply for an SBA loan through its website. In addition, you should reach out to any lenders with whom you share an established relationship. Be prepared to provide the following information:
Tax Information Authorization (IRS Form 4506T), completed and signed by each principal or owner
Recent federal income tax returns
Personal Financial Statement (SBA Form 413)
Schedule of Liabilities listing all fixed debts (SBA Form 2202)
You may also need to provide profit and loss statements, recent tax returns and balance sheets.
After you apply, the SBA will review your credit before conducting its own inspection to verify your losses. The SBA says its goal is to arrive at a decision on any disaster loans within two to three weeks. If it determines you are eligible, it will send you a loan closing document for your signature.
There are also many expansions of support for individuals impacted by the corona-virus shut-downs:
Expansion of Unemployment Benefits
The stimulus package includes a significant expansion of unemployment benefits that will extend unemployment insurance by 13 weeks and include a four-month enhancement of benefits (for reference, many states already provide 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, and thus participants in such states would be eligible for a total of 39 weeks when adding the 13 weeks of federal relief). The enhanced benefits will provide an additional $600 per week on top of what state unemployment programs pay.
Note that many individuals who typically do not qualify for unemployment insurance will qualify under the package, including independent contractors and self-employed individuals. In sum, those who are unemployed, partially unemployed or who cannot work for a wide variety of coronavirus-related reasons will be more likely to receive benefits.
Individual Checks to Taxpayers
As noted earlier, the package will provide direct payments to taxpayers based on the adjusted gross income found on their 2019 federal tax return. All U.S. residents with adjusted gross incomes up to $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples) will get a $1,200 ($2,400 for couples) payment. Families will receive an additional $500 per child, as a way to create a safety net for those whose jobs and businesses are affected by the pandemic. However, the payments will start to phase out for individuals with adjusted gross incomes greater than $75,000. Those with incomes higher than $99,000 will not qualify for payments under the stimulus package.
It is unclear how long it will take the IRS to process every payment. The Trump administration has indicated that Americans could be seeing direct payments as soon as April 6.
How can Individuals take advantage of the stimulus?
Now that you’re acquainted with the impact of the stimulus package, let’s discuss how you might take advantage of these benefits:
How can employees collect unemployment assistance?
If your business is closed because of COVID-19 and your employees cannot work from home, or your employees are unable to work due to the disease or need to take care of someone who has it, they can likely collect unemployment. As each state administers a separate unemployment insurance program, employees should be told to visit their state’s unemployment insurance website, which will provide the relevant details regarding their individual programs. The information employees will need includes their Social Security number and driver’s license or state ID.