As we begin a new year, the pandemic continues as do relief efforts. On December 27, 2020, another COVID-relief package–the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) of 2021–was signed into law to provide fast and direct economic assistance for American workers, families, and small businesses. The $900 billion package includes direct economic relief via stimulus checks and the expansion of other benefits including unemployment and housing. The second wave of stimulus payments for millions of Americans include:
- $600 for individuals who make up to $75,000 per year.
- $1,200 for couples who make up to $150,000.
- An extra $600 for dependent children under 17 years old.
- Similar income limits to the CARES Act will apply, reducing the payments by 5% for individuals with adjusted gross incomes (AGIs) of more than $75,000. Filers with an AGI greater than $87,000 (or $174,000 if filed jointly) won’t receive a payment.
There’s no requirement to register for the stimulus payment, however, most information is based on 2019 tax records. Recipients of social security or other federal benefits will receive a stimulus check even if they haven’t filed tax returns recently. The federal government indicates that checks will be rolled out as soon as possible. For up-to-date information on your stimulus payment, visit IRS Get My Payment tool.
The CRRSAA includes additional funds and extended benefits of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program:
- Unemployment payments will increase by $300 per week.
- Benefits are extended until March 14, 2021.
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for self-employed, freelancer, and side gig workers will continue to be offered.
- An additional $100 per week for wage and self-employment workers whose unemployment insurance benefit calculation doesn’t account for their self-employment.
It’s still up to the states to process applications. If you’ve experienced a loss of income or employment due to the pandemic, visit your state’s unemployment website as soon as possible for more information about applying.
Housing and Utilities
The current CDC eviction moratorium has been extended and $25 billion has been added to emergency rental assistance. Additional benefits include:
- Eviction moratorium extension until March 31, 2021.
- Eligible renters will receive assistance to pay for rent, utility payments, and any unpaid rent and/or unpaid utility bills.
- Households may receive up to 12 months of assistance with an additional three months added if necessary, to ensure the family remains housed.
If your property is not federally-backed, you should contact your landlord or mortgage company to find out what assistance is available to you.
Many utility providers, as well as some internet and cell phone service providers, have suspended shutoffs of service for non-payment. However, each provider will differ on when shutoffs may resume, as well as how long a customer has to pay back any overdue charges. If you have not been making utility payments, you should contact your utility provider as soon as possible to avoid future discontinuation of services.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been reopened so more businesses can apply for the first time and other companies can apply for a “second-draw.” The bill expands the types of expenses that can be paid for with PPP funds and makes forgiveness easier to obtain for businesses that took out loans for less than $150,000. Applications for new and second-draw PPP loans are open until March 31, 2021, or until funds are exhausted.
Under the CRRSAA, PPP loans are non-taxable and ensure the majority of business expenses paid for with PPP loans aren’t taxable. The legislation also makes businesses eligible to receive both PPP loans and the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC), which they weren’t eligible for under the original CARES Act.
Credit Card Payments And Reporting
Many credit card companies are offering some form of financial relief to customers. To take advantage of any of the relief programs, you need to contact your provider to formally request financial assistance. Since they’re experiencing longer-than-normal wait times on the phone, visit their websites. Be prepared to provide documentation about your current situation if you’ve lost income due to the pandemic.
Some of the most common forms of assistance that credit card companies are offering include:
- Waiving or refunding late fees
- Lowering or deferring monthly minimum payments
- Reducing interest rates
- Establishing payment plans to pay off existing balances
Accessing your credit is important, so make sure to stay on top of your credit report during this time. The three major credit reporting bureaus are offering free weekly online credit reports through April 2021 by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
The Department of Education continues to suspend federal student loan forbearance and collections through at least January 31, 2021. If you’re a federal student loan borrower, you aren’t expected to make payments through the end of January, although you are able to do so and benefit from the 0% interest rate as you pay down your principal.
If you have private student loans, contact your lender for options and more information. Be prepared to provide information about hardship and expenses during the pandemic.
As the pandemic continues, relief efforts may be extended or otherwise modified. The attached COVID-19 Relief Snapshot is a quick reference guide. The document shows an overview of what assistance is available through the CARES and CRRSAA Acts, for how long the assistance will be available and where one can go to find out more information on a particular topic. (Please keep in mind that the protections listed are a high-level Federal overview and there may be additional protections by state.