Many questions remain about the $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package that will inject billions of dollars into an economy that’s stalled as consumers stay home to protect themselves and others and as businesses shutter or lay off workers.
Here are answers to some of the top questions submitted by MassLive readers.
Who will receive stimulus checks, how much and when?
Single taxpayers: All single taxpayers earning up to $75,000 will receive $1,200. For each qualifying child, a single taxpayer will receive $500. Employed, unemployed and self-employed taxpayers can qualify, so long as you filed your taxes in 2018 or 2019.
Married taxpayers: Married taxpayers filing jointly and earning up to $150,000 will receive $2,400, with qualifying children adding $500 each to the total.
Salary caps: According to Forbes, the checks decrease incrementally, at 5%, or $5 for every additional $100 in income, above the thresholds. The decreases begin at $75,000 for single filers; $112,500 for heads of household and $150,000 for married couples filing jointly. The checks phase out entirely for single taxpayers who earn $99,000 and have no children and $198,000 for married couples with no children.
When: Trump administration officials have said the checks could be issued by early April, but it remains to be seen whether taxpayers will have the option of receiving checks through the mail or direct deposit.
Will the checks count as taxable income?
It’s possible the funds will be repaid through a reduction of a future tax refund, or be considered a gift and therefore taxable income. Though it’s also possible the money will come tax-free, CNBC reported.
What about Social Security or Social Security Disability Insurance?
A previous Senate proposal said taxpayers who rely on Social Security as part of their retirement can have their Social Security Administration data used directly, as opposed to filing tax forms. According to Vox, beneficiaries of Supplemental Security Income, which helps elderly or disabled people in poverty, are not included in the latest proposal. But Democrats are pushing for the stimulus funds to be allowed to be sent through EBT cards or added to Supplemental Security Income checks, Vox reported.
What unemployment benefits are expanded in the package?
Lawmakers agreed to provide a $367 billion program to help small businesses make payroll while workers must stay home.
Small businesses that retain workers will receive cash-flow assistance structured as federally guaranteed loans, and if the employer paid workers throughout the coronavirus crisis, the loans will be forgiven, The New York Times reported.
The package allows furloughed workers to receive their salaries for four months; The Associated Press reported the workers would receive whatever amount states typically provide for unemployment, plus a $600 per week add-on. Gig workers, such as Uber drivers, freelancers and those who do not have full- or part-time employment, are covered by the package.
When can I begin to apply for the salary replacement for furloughed workers?
While it remains unclear how quickly workers can apply for the funds, the Senate is looking to pass the historic legislation by Wednesday. The House, which is not in session, is pushing for unanimous support to pass the bill without a recorded vote, The Times reported.
Both Republican and Democratic leaders are advising House lawmakers to get on board and push the needed stimulus through without objection to the non-recorded vote. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, has said President Donald Trump would “absolutely” sign the package into law once it’s passed by Congress, paving the way for many of its provisions to go into effect within days.
“Congress must approve the deal, without all of the nonsense, today,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “The longer it takes, the harder it will be to start up our economy. Our workers will be hurt!”
How much will the stimulus package provide for health care facilities and equipment?
Sen. Chuck Schumer on Wednesday called the package a “Marshall Plan” for health care facilities, referencing the U.S. aid program to Europe in the aftermath of World War II.
Newsweek reported that about $130 billion would be available for hospitals in low-interest loans, while about $150 billion would go to community health centers, nursing homes and other health care facilities and providers.
Those funds can go toward much-needed equipment including ventilators, hospital beds, gloves, masks and other personal protective equipment for front line health care workers and emergency responders. The Washington Post reported that the package will boost Medicare payments and also provide testing supplies and new construction to house patients.
Vice President Mike Pence last week said after lawmakers compromised on liability insurance for manufacturers, 3M and Honeywell would soon begin selling industrial masks directly to health care facilities.
The Post reported that hospitals have about 93,000 intensive care unit beds, about 3.6 per 10,000 people 16 and older. While that figure is higher than in most other countries, experts still worry that the fast-spreading coronavirus will overwhelm facilities. The virus has infected more than 60,000 Americans and killed more than 800, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Eleven people have died and more than 1,100 have contracted the disease in Massachusetts.
How much will state and local governments receive?
The stimulus package steers $150 billion to state and local governments struggling to combat the virus. Eight billion dollars will be made available to tribal governments.
Lawmakers note that towns, cities and states have seen their tax revenues crawl to a halt amid businesses shuttering across the country. Governors have been asking for an influx of cash and equipment from the federal government and for the president to invoke the Defense Production Act to more rapidly manufacture required medical gear.
State-by-state breakdowns were not yet available, but the federal government will likely allocate much more to Massachusetts, one of several hotspots along with New York and Washington, on top of the $12 million approved in a response package earlier this month.
Schumer noted that the package also includes $30 billion in emergency education funding and $25 billion in emergency transportation funding.
In Greater Boston, ridership on the MBTA continues to decrease due to Gov. Charlie Baker’s recent stay-at-home advisory and cuts to the transportation service’s operating schedule.
How much will large corporations receive and how will they be held accountable?
A quarter of the overall proposal sparked the biggest fight during negotiations, with Democrats pushing for tougher restrictions on a new $500 billion fund to bail out businesses drastically impacted by the virus.
“After days of intense discussions, the Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said early Wednesday morning. “It will rush new resources onto the front lines of our nation’s health care fight. And it will inject trillions of dollars of cash into the economy as fast as possible to help Americans workers, families, small businesses and industries make it through this disruption and emerge on the other side ready to soar."
About $425 billion will let the Federal Reserve provide loans for distressed companies and $75 billion would go to airlines and other industries that COVID-19 has directly impacted as consumers stay in their homes and forego travel.
The companies cannot buy back stocks while receiving the assistance, not for a year afterward, lawmakers said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Schumer say they successfully pushed for more transparency on the loans to corporations. Loan documents will be made available to Congress within seven days, and to the public within 14 days of any agreement between the Treasury Department and companies.
Neither Trump’s companies, nor any company in which a major government figure or their families have majority control, can receive grants or loans through the package.
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