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Friday, March 27, 2020

US coronavirus stimulus checks: are you eligible and how much will you get?

US coronavirus stimulus checks: are you eligible and how much will you get?

Most taxpayers will get a check from the $2tn economic package, the largest in US history

US Senate leaders reach deal on $2tn coronavirus aid – video

The US has agreed on a $2tn stimulus package, the largest economic stimulus in US history, in response to the economic impacts of Covid-19. While corporations will be the biggest recipients of the bailout, some of that money will be paid directly to Americans hit by the pandemic.

Most taxpayers will get a check in the mail, while those directly impacted by the economic effects of Covid-19 are slated to receive robust government support. 

Here’s what we know so far about how the new stimulus package will directly affect Americans in the coming weeks:

Who’s eligible for a check from the government?

Congress will spend about $250bn for checks up to $1,200 per person that will go directly to taxpayers.

To be eligible for the full amount, a person’s most recently filed tax return must show that they made $75,000 or under. For couples, who can receive a maximum of $2,400, the cutoff is $150,000.

If a person makes more than $75,000, the amount given goes down incrementally by $5 for every $100 increase in salary. So a person who makes $85,000 would get $700 while a person who makes $95,000 would get $200.

If a person makes above $99,000, or a couple makes above $198,000, no check will be given.

The Tax Foundation, a DC-based thinktank, estimates that 93.6% of Americans will be eligible for a check coming from the stimulus package.

What about parents?

Taxpayers will be given $500 per child listed as a dependent on their latest tax return.

When will I get this money?

That is still unclear. Experts say that Americans will likely not get the money until May, given how long it takes the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to send out checks. Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said the White House wants the checks out in two weeks but the logistics of sending them will likely make the wait a bit longer.

This is not the first time the government has sent checks to Americans. The federal government gave up to $300 in 2001 and $600 in 2008 to taxpayers who met a certain income bracket to similarly stimulate the economy.

Does the package help unemployed workers?

Yes, specifically the bill will increase unemployment insurance by $600 for 13 weeks – about four months – for every person, added to the existing unemployment compensation a person gets from their state’s program. 

The length and amount of compensation varies from state to state. A majority of states providing a maximum of 26 weeks of compensation, while average weekly compensation ranges from 20% of a person’s wage to just over 50%.

What about freelance and gig workers?

While unemployment insurance typically does not cover people who are self-employed – freelancers, contractors and gig workers – the bill comes with a “pandemic unemployment assistance” measure that will extend insurance to those workers.

'The universe is collapsing': Bernie Sanders mocks Republicans over coronavirus aid – video

Has there been any changes to paid leave?

Not in this bill. Earlier last week, Donald Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a bill worth about $100bn meant to expand paid sick leave and emergency paid leave, but it came with major loopholes. Companies with over 500 employees were not mentioned in the bill, while companies with under 50 employees can apply for exemptions.

The bill mandates 10 days of fully paid sick leave for employees of companies with 500 employees or less. Parents of those companies affected by their children’s school closing and those leaving for medical reasons can get 12 weeks of pay at 67% of their salary.

Will there be anything to offset healthcare costs related to Covid-19?

Again, not in this bill. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act included a measure that mandated all Covid-19 testing is free, but treatment for any symptoms (there is currently no cure for the illness) still comes at a cost. A few states have reopened enrollment for their health insurance programs to allow those concerned about costs to enroll, but there are still stories of people getting bills for as much as $34,000 to cover treatment of the virus’ symptoms.

When the virus becomes political...

... journalism that is rooted in empirical data and science matters. It may even save lives. This administration has cleared out science and scientists across all departments. Donald Trump's daily coronavirus press briefings have become political rallies. He frequently spreads, at best, misinformation and, at worst, lies. But the Guardian is working tirelessly to filter out misinformation and separate fact from fiction.

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