Government financial stimulus during the coronavirus pandemic. What's in it? (Updated June 18)

The federal government is sending stimulus checks designed to help Americans as businesses take a massive financial hit from the coronavirus pandemic.  But what does it mean?  What financial help will you and your family get?

News 12 Staff

Mar 20, 2020, 8:46 PM

Updated 1,575 days ago


Government financial stimulus during the coronavirus pandemic. What's in it? (Updated June 18)

The federal government is sending stimulus checks designed to help Americans as businesses take a massive financial hit from the coronavirus pandemic.  But what does it mean?  What financial help will you and your family get?  The list below compiled by News 12's Walt Kane breaks it all down.  
What happens if I’m laid off, terminated or furloughed from my job? The CARES Act provides enhanced unemployment benefits. The benefits last four months, not three. And the federal government will pay $600 a week to full-time workers who are unemployed, on top of what they would normally receive in state unemployment benefits.
How does that work? State unemployment typically covers 40 to 55% of your income, depending on where you file. You’ll continue to get that. Plus, you’ll get $600 a week from the federal government.
Does that mean I can get more in unemployment than I was making at my last job? Yes.
How do I get the extra $600? Just file a regular claim.
My doctor advises me not to go to work. Can I file for unemployment benefits? That is not typically covered by unemployment, but it is often covered by Disability.
I’m self-employed and don’t normally get unemployment. Is there help for me? Yes. Self-employed individuals such as subcontractors, freelancers and gig workers, may qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Insurance or PUI, to replace self-employment income lost due to economic problems caused by COVID-19.
I'm a freelancer/subcontractor/gig worker. How do I file for unemployment? File a claim with your state department of labor. Some have set up different online forms for PUA.
What if I was not laid off but my hours were reduced, or my salary was cut? In many cases, you can file for partial unemployment.
If I file for partial unemployment, will I get the $600 a week in additional federal benefits? That depends on the amount of income you are making and how much you lost. But you could get up to the full $600 a week.
My claim is listed as “not payable” (or I have received one payment and subsequent payments have been marked as “not payable.”) What does that mean? This typically indicates there is a problem with the claim. Usually, it means there is a problem with one of your answers to the initial questionnaire. Most of the time, it means that when asked if you are currently seeking work, you said “no” rather than “yes.” While that answer is understandable, given the pandemic, it is not the answer the DOL’s computer system is programmed to expect. Occasionally, it can also mean that your employer did not provide the needed information. Regardless, it indicates that you will need to speak to a representative before your claim can proceed further.
My claim is listed as “pending.” What does that mean? This is arguably the worst message you can receive. The DOL’s say it means your claim is still being processed. The problem is that should you call and connect with a representative, they may not actually have an answer as to what this means.
My unemployment benefits ran out. How do I get an extension?

• If you have a claim that will expire, or you have a claim filed after July 1, 2018, that is now expired (because benefits were exhausted or the benefit year ended) and HAVE NOT worked since then, the NJDOL says you will receive an email or text telling you when you can certify for your 13-week extension.

• If you have an old claim that expired (because benefits were exhausted or the benefit year ended) but you HAVE worked since then, then an extension does not apply to you. Just file a new claim.

• if you filed for unemployment since July 1, 2019, and have not used up all your benefits, you don’t need an extension yet. Just re-open that claim.

• If you've exhausted 26 weeks of benefits after 7/1/2019, apply for your 13-week extension online at If you can't apply online, you can call 1-888-209-8124.

• Qualified individuals can apply for extensions at PEUC benefits will be backdated to when jobless benefits expired.
I accidentally threw away my stimulus payment card, mistaking it for a pre-approved credit card offer. What can I do? The IRS said that if you threw the debit card away or think it was lost or stolen, you can get a free replacement by calling 800-240-8100 (option 2 from main menu). You do not need to know your card number to request a replacement but will be required to provide your Social Security number. 
Will I get money? 90 percent of American families are getting stimulus payments.
How much will I get? Iindividuals get up to $1,200. Couples get up to $2,400. There are additional payments of up to $500 a piece for up to two children, age 16 or under. The amounts are reduced, or even eliminated, based on your income.
What are the income limits? Individuals making over $75.000 a year, heads of household making over $112,500 and couples making over $150,000 a year will get reduced amounts. Individuals earning over $99.000, heads of household earning over $136,500 and couples earning over $198,000 will not qualify for payments. Please note: These income levels are based on your adjusted gross income from your tax returns, not your salary.
If we're over the income level as a couple, or I am over the limit as a head of household would we/I still get payment for my child(ren)? No.
How does the government calculate my income? Your income is based off your Adjusted Gross Income from your tax return. If you filed your 2019 taxes this year, the IRS will calculate your income based on your 2019 tax return. If you have not, the IRS will calculate your income based on your 2018 tax return. If you have not filed since 2017, you will need to file, unless you were not required to file a tax return.
What’s the difference between Adjusted Gross Income and Salary? Adjusted Gross Income is your income from all taxable sources, including wages and tips, investments and others, minus all pre-tax withholdings, such as payments to a 401(k), and all tax deductions. For most wage earners, AGI is considerably lower than total salary. But in some cases – for example, if you had significant income from an investment from a real estate sale – it could be lower.
What if I was not required to file tax returns? The IRS says people who were not required to file tax returns because their income was too low will be automatically included.
I have not gotten my payment yet. When will it arrive? Direct deposits have already started arriving. Payments started arriving in New York the week of 4/7, then to New Jersey the following week and to Connecticut the week after. Even with individual states, they are coming in phases. The first phase prioritizes lower-income recipients. Paper checks trailed direct deposits. There was also a glitch that slowed deposits to prepaid cards.
How can I find out the status of my payment? The IRS has set up a website where you can check the status here. 
The IRS “get my payment” site says my information can’t be found. Or that the status is “can’t be processed”. The IRS says that message generally means one of two things:
1. You may have filed for 2019, but it hasn't processed yet.
2. You may have “incorrectly” entered your information, meaning it did not exactly match the information in the IRS records. This could be something as simple as a missing or added middle initial. It often has something to do with your address. For example, the IRS may not accept "St." as an abbreviation for Street or "N" as an abbreviation for North. It may see a Zip +4 as different than a five-digit zip code.
What if I’ve moved or changed by direct deposit info since my last tax refund? You’ll need to file a change of information on the IRS website.
Is my stimulus payment a loan that has to be repaid? No.
Will the stimulus payment cause my taxes to go up? No.
But I read someplace that the stimulus payment is taxable. Is it taxable or non-taxable? Technically it’s taxable. But you get a tax credit in the same amount. Say your adjusted gross income would have been $50,000. You get a $1,200 stimulus payment, so your AGI is now $51,200. You claim the $1,200 tax credit and now your AGI goes back down to $50,000.
I owe back taxes. If I meet the other criteria, will I still get a check? Yes.
I’m delinquent on a student loan. If I meet the other criteria, will I still get a check? Yes.
I owe back child support. If I meet the other criteria, will I still get a check? No. The offset for back child support still applies.
I am on Social Security (SSI). If I meet the other criteria, will I still get a check? Yes.
I am on Social Security Disability (SSD). If I meet the other criteria, will I still get a check? Yes.
I am a non-citizen. Can I still get a stimulus payment? Yes, as long as you file a tax return with a valid Social Security Number. For a joint return, your spouse and all eligible children will also need SSNs.
I pay my taxes with an Individual Taxpayer TD Number (ITIN). Can I still get a stimulus payment? No.
I am a citizen and so are my children. But I've been told none of us will get stimulus payments because of my spouse’s immigration status. Is that right? Is it legal? It’s the subject of multiple class-action lawsuits so legality is to be determined. But yes. Just as a family of four non-citizens can get a stimulus payment, as long as all four have SSNs, if a couple files a joint return, both they and their eligible children must have SSNs. If any one does not, everyone will be denied, even US citizens,
My child is 17 but I claim them as a dependent. Will I get a $500 credit for them? No. Credits are for children 16 and under.
How about a college student? Do they qualify? Only if they are not listed as a dependent on someone else’s return.
How about an elderly parent I take care of? If you list them as a dependent, they will not get a check. If you do not list them as a dependent, they will.
My income is too high in 2018-2019 for me to qualify, but I'm out of work now. Is there anything I can do? Not right now. But since the stimulus payment is offset by an equal tax credit (that’s how it has no impact on your taxes), if you don’t qualify for a payment based on your income in 2018 or 2019, but you would have based on your income in 2020, then you will at least get the tax credit, which will lower the taxes you pay.
I have a small business. is there help for me? Small business owners are eligible for $10,000 grants and low-interest loans. In many cases, the loans do not have to be repaid.
How do I apply for small business assistance? You can apply for several programs on the Small Business Administration website at
What programs are there? The Paycheck Protection Program allows you to get a forgivable loan of up to $10 million if you don't fire employees or hire back employees you've fired.  The Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program offers two options. You can get a grant of up to $10,000 that does not have to be repaid. Or you can apply for a loan of up to $2 million. The loan will have to be repaid, but it’ more flexible in how the money can be used.
I heard small business funding ran out. Is that true? The first round ran out quickly. Congress approved a second round of funding on April 23rd. It’s not clear how long this second round will last.
I'm not able to pay my mortgage. Is help available? Yes. The stimulus package allows homeowners hurt by the COVID-19 crisis to postpone mortgage payments by up to 12 months if their mortgage is federally backed (meaning it’s underwritten by an agency such as FNMA, FRMC, HUD, VA, USDA, FHA or others).
How do I apply? Call your mortgage company and tell them you are unable to pay your mortgage because of financial problems caused by COVID-19. Tell them you are requesting a forbearance under the CARES Act.
Do I have to provide proof of financial hardship? You do not have to provide proof of hardship to get the forbearance. You may need to provide proof to get the best repayment terms.
I have a federally backed mortgage. But my mortgage company only offered me a forbearance for 90 days. How can they do that? The CARES Act says you are entitled to a year if you need it, but the bank does not have to give you the full year all at once. After all, you might be back at work and able to pay your mortgage again prior to that. As a result, some banks are granting forbearances 90 days at a time. That’s legal, if they grant an extension if you need one.
I have a private mortgage that’s government-backed. Is my mortgage company required to give me a forbearance? No. Many are. But usually only for 90 days.

What if I rent instead of own? Can I skip paying my rent? There's no provision quite like that. But there is a six-month moratorium on evictions for any landlord who has a mortgage that is either backed or owned by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or any other federal mortgage agencies. Your landlord also cannot charge you late fees or penalties for missed payments. The idea is that between that and enhanced unemployment benefits, renters should be able to back on their feet and able to catch up.
Can I get help with my student loan? Yes. If you have a federal student loan, the federal government has waived six months of payments, interest-free. If you choose to keep paying, then 100% of your payments will go toward principal.
How about if I have a private student loan? It’s just like private mortgages. The government cannot force them to grant you a forbearance. And if they grant you one, it does not have to be interest-free.
How about if I have a Parent PLUS Loan? As with federal student loans, most parent loans have six months of interest waived. But there are exceptions if your child left college more than 10 years ago, or if you are still paying for your own college debt.
What if I'm trying to make consecutive on-time payments in order to get loan forgiveness or a lower interest rate? That cannot be held against you. The loan is just frozen.
What if my wages are being garnished because of student loan payments? Those must be suspended for the next six months too.
I have a consumer loan, car loan or credit card. What kind of help is available for me? Many banks are offering concessions to borrowers. The American Banking Association maintains a list of programs its member institutions offer. You can check that out HERE - or contact your lender directly.
What changes are there to retirement account rules? You will not be forced to take a required minimum distribution in 2020 for any IRA, 401(k) or other retirement savings plan. In other words, if you don't need to take that money no one will force you to sell any of those investments at a fraction of what they were worth a couple of months ago. You'll have at least a year to have them regain some value.
What if I need to take money out of my retirement account and I have not reached retirement age? On the other hand, if you do need to access retirement funds right now, the stimulus makes it legal for you to withdraw up to $100,000 without penalty. You will have to certify that the withdrawal is necessary due to economic stress caused by the coronavirus. You can also spread out the income on that withdrawal over 5 years for tax purposes.
Can I take out a loan against my 401(k) and repay myself? Yes. And you can now borrow up to $100,000, rather than the usual $50,000. You also have an extra year to repay any existing 401(k) loans.
I called to make an early withdrawal from my 401(k) and my employer is refusing. Isn't that illegal? Unfortunately, it is not. The stimulus plan makes those penalty-free distributions legal. It does not force your company's 401(k) plan sponsor to allow them. The sponsor gets to decide whether to allow early withdrawals and to set the criteria for them. I don’t know why lawmakers wrote the law that way or even whether all of them knew that’s what the law said when they were voting on it.
Am I guaranteed sick time? Under a law previously passed by Congress, most workers are guaranteed two-weeks of paid time off if they are ill or quarantined due to COVID-19.
Will I get full pay? Payments are capped at $511/day. So, unless you make more than $133,000 a year, you will get full pay.
Are all employers required to provide this sick time?  No. Large employers with more than 500 employees are exempt. The assumption is that they should be providing at least two weeks of PTO anyway.
What if I need time off due to COVID-19 but I'm not personally sick? Under a law previously passed by Congress, most workers can get two weeks of paid leave if a family member is ill with COVID-19 or to care for children whose schools are closed.
Will I get full pay? No. In this case, payments are capped at two-thirds of your annual salary, with a maximum of $200 a day
Are all employers required to provide this paid leave No. If you are a health care worker or emergency responder, your employer is exempt from this requirement. in addition, as with the guaranteed sick time, large employers with more than 500 employees are exempt.

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