There are a number of programs available to Americans to help assist them throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Stimulus Checks & Financial Assistance
Stimulus checks for American families:
Stimulus checks to help ease the economic strain caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis will be sent to the vast majority of Americans in the coming days and weeks. Most Americans will not need to do anything in order to receive their checks while some will be required to update their information before getting a check.
Federal tax-filing deadline extended:
The tax-filing deadline was extended to July 15, 2020 so if you owe the IRS money you can wait until then to file your taxes without penalty. Otherwise, do your taxes now so you get a refund sooner.
401k and IRA early withdraw penalty suspended:
People under 59 1/2 years old can temporarily withdraw up to $100,000 from their 401k retirement plan without a 10% penalty if they can show they have experienced financial hardship due to the coronavirus. If the amount withdrawn is paid back within three years then no taxes will owed on the amount borrowed from your account.
Seniors 72 and older do not have to take a required minimum distribution from their retirement accounts for the remainder of 2020 with the exception of Roth IRAs.
Student loan payments and interest suspended:
Federal student loan and PLUS loan payments and interest have been automatically suspended for six months until September 30, 2020. Interest on loans will again start to accrue after the six-month freeze.
Borrowers currently in default will have no action taken against them, including garnishment of wages or tax refunds withheld, until further notice.
Expanded Unemployment Assistance
There have been a number of emergency changes to unemployment insurance to help ease the burden of COVID-19 related layoffs and economic uncertainty.
Additional $600/week unemployment benefit:
Every eligible person who qualifies for unemployment benefits will receive an additional $600 per week on top of whatever benefit they would normally receive. The additional $600 per week will be retroactive to claims filed starting March 29 and will end nationwide July 31.
So, for example, if an individual is supposed to receive the national average of $340/week in unemployment benefits they will now be receiving up to $940/week until July 31, 2020.
Additional thirteen weeks of unemployment insurance:
People nearing the end of unemployment insurance will be able to continue to receive benefits for an additional thirteen weeks. This additional time will be available for both people already on unemployment and new filers.
The time frame for the additional $600/week and general unemployment insurance may overlap, meaning you will still be eligible to receive unemployment benefits, but not the additional $600/week after July 31, 2020.
Furloughed workers are eligible to receive unemployment benefits and an additional $600/week for four months, meaning they will be able to file for unemployment while simultaneously being able to keep their health insurance (if their employer is able to continue providing coverage).
Freelancers and "gig economy" workers:
Private contractors and "gig economy" workers are eligible to receive unemployment benefits and an additional $600/week for four months. In order to qualify individuals must apply for unemployment benefits in their state and report they are a private contractor.
Food & Nutrition Assistance
Food and nutrition assistance during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak may be available in a variety of ways, with the most popular form of assistance being the Food Stamp program.
You can apply for Food Stamps online or over the phone. For those who have never applied for Food Stamps before, you will need to gather some basic information about your family's finances before beginning the application.
A number of changes to the Food Stamp Program have been enacted to help address the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. These include:
- Ensuring children who would receive free or reduced price meals at their schools will receive additional financial assistance at home.
- The suspension of work requirements for able-bodied adults.
- An extension of the benefit period and flexibility for states to adjust deadlines for participants to re-enroll in Food Stamps.
Housing & Rental Assistance
Housing Assistance Programs & Emergency Regulations:
Section 8 vouchers provide participating private landlords with direct financial reimbursement in exchange for them charging a tenant a reduced monthly rent. The number of vouchers available varies widely by city and state, with many localities having a long waiting period and lottery system in place. Other rental assistance programs include public housing and privately-owned subsidized housing.
Emergency legislation passed to address the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic also temporarily halts evictions until July 25, 2020 and foreclosures until August 24, 2020 on anyone living in buildings with federally backed loans or people living in low-income housing, receiving rural housing vouchers, and other federal renter assistance, including people receiving Section 8 housing vouchers.
Landlords who manage these covered properties may not charge late fees, penalties, or other charges for paying rent late during this period, but the temporary eviction moratorium does not relieve tenants of their obligation to pay rent. It only states that landlords can't evict tenants during that period due to failure to pay rent.
Many states and localities have also issued their own emergency regulations that go even further than the Federal regulations.
Medicare, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and a special enrollment period for Obamacare are all available (depending on your age, income, and other factors) to help ensure individuals and families are able to receive health coverage throughout the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Medicare is federal health insurance for people age 65 or older, people who have received disability benefits for 24 months or longer, and those with ALS or kidney failure. Most people need to signup for Medicare and receive confirmation of enrollment before they can begin receiving benefits.
For those already enrolled in Medicare, the government has guaranteed the following benefits related to diagnosing and treating Coronavirus (COVID-19):
Medicaid and CHIP:
Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is health insurance for low-income individuals, families, and young children who qualify. You must apply for coverage and be accepted before you can receive benefits.
Medicaid and CHIP will cover many of the same testing and treatment benefits that are provided to Medicare recipients. This includes:
- Lab tests for COVID-19.
- Telehealth services for diagnosing and treating COVID-19, regular office visits, mental health counseling, and preventive health screenings.
- All medically necessary hospitalizations will be covered.
- Any future vaccine may be covered. (Individual states will have the option to provide any future vaccine with or without a co-pay under current rules.)
People who were receiving health insurance through their employer and were laid off due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are eligible to take advantage of a Special Enrollment Period to receive health insurance under Obamacare.
Small Business Assistance
The Paycheck Protection Program helps small businesses maintain their payroll costs for eight weeks, retain their employees, and rehire those that were laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.