Category: COVID-19

F.A.Q. on Stimulus Checks, Unemployment and the Coronavirus Bill

The Senate relief bill would send money to Americans and greatly expand unemployment coverage.

The Senate unanimously passed a $2 trillion economic rescue plan on Wednesday that will offer assistance to tens of millions of American households affected by the coronavirus. Its components include stimulus payments to individuals, expanded unemployment coverage, student loan changes, different retirement account rules and more.

The House of Representatives was expected to quickly take up the bill and pass it, sending it to President Trump for his signature.

Here are the answers to common questions about what’s in the bill. We’ll update this article as we have more answers or if the plan changes as it moves through the legislative process. More information on getting assistance can be found at our Hub for Help.

How large would the payments be?

Most adults would get $1,200, although some would get less. For every qualifying child age 16 or under, the payment would be an additional $500.

How many payments would there be?

Just one. Future bills could order up additional payments, though.

How do I know if I will get the full amount?

It depends on your income. Single adults with Social Security numbers who are United States residents and have an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less would get the full amount. Married couples with no children earning $150,000 or less would receive a total of $2,400. And taxpayers filing as head of household would get the full payment if they earned $112,500 or less.

Above those income figures, the payment decreases until it stops altogether for single people earning $99,000 or married people who have no children and earn $198,000. According to the Senate Finance Committee, a family with two children would no longer be eligible for any payments if its income surpassed $218,000.

You can’t get a payment if someone claims you as a dependent, even if you’re an adult. In any given family and in most instances, everyone must have a valid Social Security number in order to be eligible. There is an exception for members of the military.

You can find your adjusted gross income on Line 8b of the 2019 1040 federal tax return.

Do college students get anything?

Not if anyone claims them as a dependent on a tax return. Usually, students under age 24 are dependents in the eyes of the taxing authorities if a parent pays for at least half of their expenses.

What year’s income should I be looking at?

2019. If you haven’t prepared a tax return yet, you can use your 2018 return. If you haven’t filed that yet, you can use a 2019 Social Security statement showing your income to see what an employer reported to the I.R.S.

What if my recent income made me ineligible, but I anticipate being eligible because of a loss of income in 2020? Do I get a payment?

The bill does not help people in that circumstance now, but you may benefit once you file your 2020 taxes. That’s because the payment is technically an advance on a tax credit that is available for the entire year. So it will depend on how much you earn.

Meanwhile, there are many other provisions in the legislation. You may be able to file for unemployment or for one of the new loans for small-business owners or sole proprietors.

Would I have to apply to receive a payment?

No. If the Internal Revenue Service already has your bank account information, it would transfer the money to you via direct deposit based on the recent income-tax figures it already has.

When would the payment arrive?

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he expected most people to get their payments within three weeks.

If my payment doesn’t come soon, how can I be sure that it wasn’t misdirected?

According to the bill, you would get a paper notice in the mail no later than a few weeks after your payment had been disbursed. That notice would contain information about where the payment ended up and in what form it was made. If you couldn’t locate the payment at that point, it would be time to contact the I.R.S. using the information on the notice.

What if I haven’t filed tax returns recently? Would that affect my ability to receive a payment?

It could. File a return immediately, at least for 2018, according to the I.R.S. website. “Those without 2018 tax filings on record could potentially affect mailings of stimulus checks,” the site says.

If you’re worried about money that you owe that you cannot pay, the I.R.S. recommends consulting a tax professional who can help you request an alternative payment plan or some other resolution.

Would most people who are receiving Social Security retirement and disability payments each month also get a stimulus payment?

Yes.

Would eligible unemployed people get these stimulus payments? Veterans?

Yes and yes.

Do I have to pay income taxes on the amount of my payment?

No.

If my income tax refunds are currently being garnished because of a student loan default, would this payment be garnished as well?

No. In fact, the bill temporarily suspends nearly all efforts to garnish tax refunds to repay debts, including those to the I.R.S. itself. But this waiver may not apply to people who are behind on child support.

Who would be covered by the expanded program?

The new bill would wrap in far more workers than are usually eligible for unemployment benefits, including self-employed people and part-time workers. The bottom-line: Those who are unemployed, are partly unemployed or cannot work for a wide variety of coronavirus-related reasons would be more likely to receive benefits.

How much would I receive?

It depends on your state.

Benefits would be expanded in a bid to replace the average worker’s paycheck, explained Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a public policy research group. The average worker earns about $1,000 a week, and unemployment benefits often replace roughly 40 to 45 percent of that. The expansion would pay an extra amount to fill the gap.

Under the plan, eligible workers would get an extra $600 per week on top of their state benefit. But some states are more generous than others. According to the Century Foundation, the maximum weekly benefit in Alabama is $275, but it’s $450 in California and $713 in New Jersey.

So let’s say a worker was making $1,100 per week in New York; she’d be eligible for the maximum state unemployment benefit of $504 per week. Under the new program, she gets an additional $600 of federal pandemic unemployment compensation, for a total of $1,104, essentially replacing her original paycheck.

States have the option of providing the entire amount in one payment, or sending the extra portion separately. But it must all be done on the same weekly basis.

Are gig workers, freelancers and independent contractors covered in the bill?

Yes, self-employed people would be newly eligible for unemployment benefits.

Benefit amounts would be calculated based on previous income, using a formula from the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program, according to a congressional aide.

Self-employed workers would also be eligible for the additional $600 weekly benefit provided by the federal government.

What if I’m a part-time worker who lost my job because of a coronavirus reason, but my state doesn’t cover part-time workers? Would I still be eligible?

Yes. Part-time workers would be eligible for benefits, but the benefit amount and how long benefits would last depend on your state. They would also be eligible for the additional $600 weekly benefit.

What if I have Covid-19 or need to care for a family member who has it?

If you’ve received a diagnosis, are experiencing symptoms or are seeking a diagnosis — and you’re unemployed, are partly unemployed or cannot work as a result — you would be covered. The same goes if you must care for a member of your family or household who has received a diagnosis.

What if my child’s school or day care shut down?

If you rely on a school, a day care or another facility to care for a child, elderly parent or another household member so that you can work — and that facility has been shut down because of coronavirus — you would be eligible.

What if I’ve been advised by a health care provider to quarantine myself because of exposure to coronavirusAnd what about broader orders to stay home?

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-stimulus-package-questions-answers.html?referringSource=articleShare

Coronavirus Impact: How a Crisis Is Changing the U.S. Image

The coronavirus is changing how we live our daily lives. Taking a look at how the global pandemic has affected various aspects of life in the United States reveals the unique nature of this crisis.

Workers in the tourism industry are worrying about their livelihoods as governments across the world close borders, prohibit large gatherings and implement strict quarantines on entire regions and countries.

We spoke with several travel and hospitality workers. Each had their own story, but echoed similar concerns about the uncertainty about their future. In looking at an unprecedented worldwide coronavirus outbreak, they turned to the past: how their tourism industry had survived devastating hurricanes and destructive civil wars. They will survive this, too, they said.

A selection of their remarks is below. These interviews, conducted by telephone and email, have been edited and condensed for clarity.

TRANSPORTATION

Carlos Tamarit, 62, has worked as a driver for EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services in New Jersey for more than five years. He was laid off on Sunday.

With your family’s health concerns, are you worried about being exposed to the coronavirus?

As drivers we’re putting ourselves at risk. If coronavirus is coming from other countries, it’s coming from the airports, and who’s going to the airports? We do. Everyone who gets into the car is potentially a carrier. But in our position it’s either work and eat, or don’t work and don’t eat.

TOUR GUIDES

Jacob Knapp, 39, a tour guide working for Bespoke Lifestyle Management and living in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, has been out of work since Monday. On Sunday, the territory issued one of the most restrictive lockdowns in the United States.

You’ve not been able to give a tour since Sunday. How does it feel to be out of work?

I have a lot of worries. I have two boys — 2 and 4 years old, and one is diabetic and I have to be sure there’s always money for insulin — so I always have to provide. I just can’t not provide.

Something I learned with Hurricane Maria is you have to have a Plan B in life, and it has to be a complete opposite of your Plan A. After the disaster, the whole infrastructure was down and the only people who worked were those who worked with their hands — so I got certified as an electrician. I’m worried right now but, down the line, I have many doors open.

AIRLINES

A Chicago-based flight attendant for United Airlines, Maria Alpogianis, 51, has worked in the field for 25 years.

What is the physical and psychological toll?

I don’t feel I have a sense of job security. I really don’t. I’m flying with several very junior flight attendants who are terrified of losing their jobs and their insurance. I’ve been flying for 25 years and I, too, am afraid that I’m going to be furloughed.

When I leave somewhere I become concerned about not being able to get home because of the border closures. When we land we cringe because we don’t know what’s changed during the time we’ve been in flight.

Stranger than Fiction: Writing a Contagion Novel during COVID-19

By guest columnist, Emily McGowan.

“I don’t know how, but I guess she carried it home. At first, she stole the telephone and shut herself in her room. That was stupid, I told myself, because it might be nothing—just a cold, the flu, anything else.”— [The Dresden Protocol, chapter 23]

I never asked for COVID-19. 

Like most of us, I learned about coronavirus in the final hours of 2019. Dozens of patients had fallen ill in Wuhan, China; by January 11th, the World Health Organization had identified a new disease which we now know as COVID-19. Fever, a dry cough, shortness of breath — the early symptoms looked innocent, but within weeks, all hell had broken loose. 4,296 dead. 119,179 infected, though these numbers grow by the minute. Italy has closed its borders, and in America, hand sanitizer is practically worth its weight in gold. Every day, coronavirus creeps one step closer to my hometown of Savannah, Georgia. Rumor has it that we may have our first patient already.

In the early days, I wasn’t too concerned. Disease is not a staple of my first world lifestyle, and last I checked, my name isn’t Nostradamus.”Come writers and critics,” Dylan sang, “Who prophesize with your pen/And keep your eyes wide/The chance won’t come again.”


I write speculative fiction. This genre isn’t magic, but it certainly isn’t science either. When I sit down to type, I’m perfectly content to tell stories about what people want, why they want them, and what outlandish thing stands in their way. I deal in fallen heroes and folklore. It feels like the most important job in the world, but at the end of the day, I’m selling you words. And behind the safety of my computer, I told myself that this threat—a real live virus—could never land on the shores of my quiet little life.

Unfortunately, that’s not how pandemics work. In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 has spread to and within America, infecting hundreds of patients from sea to shining sea. 267 cases in Washington. 176 in New York. Half a dozen cases were reported in my state — and all across Savannah, people are scrubbing their hands raw. Mothers wear masks in the grocery store. Locals look at Chinese students askance. The virus is spreading exponentially, and though it’s all we talk about, nobody knows quite what to expect. Not even the writers. 
Compared to genres like romance or nonfiction, I believe that speculative fiction is somewhat unique in the wide world of literature. Its stories are founded on the premise of “what if.” What if time travel existed? What if men had handmaids? What if post-apocalyptic teenagers fell in love during a battle royale? At their best, these what-ifs are not attempts to escape our problems but to face or even solve them with a fresh perspective. In order to be effective, speculative fiction often blends this ‘what if’ with tangible details, something solid that grounds the reader in the harsh realities that our world desperately needs.

Except reality is the last thing many of us want. With every day that passes, the morbid headlines bog us down — and when given the choice between denial and a COVID-induced anxiety attack, we’d happily pick the first. It’s overblown, we tell ourselves. Any day now, the virus is going to die out and everyone who stockpiled toilet paper and Lysol will see that we were right. At best, this veers into tone-policing, and at worst, I fear that it is leading to some very reckless behavior — and not the type you might think. It’s become popular to mock people for being over-cautious, but what do we say about the people who don’t wash their hands? The ones who bring their “cold” into a crowded movie theatre? The ones who force their employees to come to work? 
SOURCE:
https://www.theeastbywest.com/home/stranger-than-fiction-writing-a-contagion-novel-during-covid-19

How the World’s Richest Country Ran Out of a 75-Cent Face Mask

A very American story about capitalism consuming our national preparedness and resiliency.

Why is the United States running out of face masks for medical workers? How does the world’s wealthiest country find itself in such a tragic and avoidable mess? And how long will it take to get enough protective gear, if that’s even possible now?

I’ve spent the last few days digging into these questions, because the shortages of protective gear, particularly face masks, has struck me as one of the more disturbing absurdities in America’s response to this pandemic.

Yes, it would have been nice to have had early, widespread testing for the coronavirus, the strategy South Korea used to contain its outbreak. It would be amazing if we can avoid running out of ventilators and hospital space, the catastrophe that has befallen parts of Italy. But neither matters much — in fact, no significant intervention is possible — if health care workers cannot even come into contact with coronavirus patients without getting sick themselves.

That’s where cheap, disposable face masks, eye protection, gloves and gowns come in. That we failed to procure enough safety gear for medical workers — not to mention for sick people and for the public, as some health experts might have recommended if masks were not in such low supply — seems astoundingly negligent.

What a small, shameful way for a strong nation to falter: For want of a 75-cent face mask, the kingdom was lost.

I am sorry to say that digging into the mask shortage does little to assuage one’s sense of outrage. The answer to why we’re running out of protective gear involves a very American set of capitalist pathologies — the rise and inevitable lure of low-cost overseas manufacturing, and a strategic failure, at the national level and in the health care industry, to consider seriously the cascading vulnerabilities that flowed from the incentives to reduce costs.

Perhaps the only way to address the shortfall now is to recognize that the market is broken, and to have the government step in to immediately spur global and domestic production. President Trump, bizarrely, has so far resisted ordering companies to produce more supplies and equipment. In the case of masks, manufacturers say they are moving mountains to ramp up production, and some large companies are donating millions of masks from their own reserves.

But given the vast global need for masks — in the United States alone, fighting the coronavirus will consume 3.5 billion face masks, according to an estimate by the Department of Health and Human Services — corporate generosity will fall short. People in the mask business say it will take a few months, at a minimum, to significantly expand production.

“We are at full capacity today, and increased production by building another factory or extending further will take anywhere between three to four months,” said Guillaume Laverdure, the chief operating officer of Medicom, a Canadian company that makes masks and other protective equipment in factories around the world.

And though some nontraditional manufacturers like T-shirt factories and other apparel makers have announced plans to rush-produce masks, it’s unclear that they will be able to meet required safety standards or shift over production in time to answer demand.

Few in the protective equipment industry are surprised by the shortages, because they’ve been predicted for years. In 2005, the George W. Bush administration called for the coordination of domestic production and stockpiling of protective gear in preparation for pandemic influenza. In 2006, Congress approved funds to add protective gear to a national strategic stockpile — among other things, the stockpile collected 52 million surgical face masks and 104 million N95 respirator masks.

But about 100 million masks in the stockpile were deployed in 2009 in the fight against the H1N1 flu pandemic, and the government never bothered to replace them. This month, Alex Azar, secretary of health and human services, testified that there are only about 40 million masks in the stockpile — around 1 percent of the projected national need.

As the coronavirus began to spread in China early this year, a global shortage of protective equipment began to look inevitable. But by then it was too late for the American government to do much about the problem. Two decades ago, most hospital protective gear was made domestically. But like much of the rest of the apparel and consumer products business, face mask manufacturing has since shifted nearly entirely overseas. “China is a producer of 80 percent of masks worldwide,” Laverdure said.

Hospitals began to run out of masks for the same reason that supermarkets ran out of toilet paper — because their “just-in-time” supply chains, which call for holding as little inventory as possible to meet demand, are built to optimize efficiency, not resiliency.

“You’re talking about a commodity item,” said Michael J. Alkire, president of Premier, a company that purchases medical supplies for hospitals and health systems. In the supply chain, he said, “by definition, there’s not going to be a lot of redundancy, because everyone wants the low cost.”

In January, the brittle supply chain began to crack under pressure. To deal with its own outbreak, China began to restrict exports of protective equipment. Then other countries did as well — Taiwan, Germany, France and India took steps to stop exports of medical equipment. That left American hospitals to seek more and more masks from fewer and fewer producers.