Last week, Congress passed, and the president signed, the CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion emergency relief bill to help you and your families stay safe and secure during the COVID-19 pandemic. As our communities begin to receive this influx of federal aid, I want to update you on public health information and share some local resources you can access for help with issues you might be facing at this time.
Public Health and Testing
State and Local Public Health Orders
- Social distancing remains the most critical step most of us can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Governor DeSantis has issued a “Safer at Home” order for our area of Florida, requesting people only leave their homes for essentials. When outside, we must all be sure to keep six feet between ourselves and others to reduce the chance of exposure.
- Florida is rapidly expanding its testing capacity. You can visit this website at https://shalala.house.gov/coronavirus/testing.htm for a list of places you can get tested for COVID-19. We are updating this list regularly to ensure you have access to the most current information.
- The CARES Act allows for a dramatic expansion of telehealth capabilities. Medicare providers can now treat patients through e-visits—using video or over the phone—for the duration of this public health emergency.
Resources for You in the CARES Act
- The CARES Act provides payments of $1,200 per adult to all U.S. residents with adjusted gross income under $75,000 ($112,500 for head of household and $150,000 married) per year. People must not be a dependent of another taxpayer and have a work-eligible Social Security Number to receive the payment. They are also eligible for an additional $500 per child. A typical family of four is eligible for up to a $3,400 recovery rebate.
- The payment amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 that a taxpayer’s income exceeds the phase-out threshold. The amount is completely phased-out for single filers with adjusted gross incomes exceeding $99,000, $146,500 for head of household filers with one child, and $198,000 for joint filers with no children. For a family of four, the amount is completely phased out for those with adjusted gross incomes exceeding $218,000.
- The payments will be automatically paid, and most taxpayers will need to take no action. The payments are based on the last filed tax return (either 2018 or 2019) and will be going out in the next few weeks.
- The payments are available to people who do not file tax returns because they have no taxable income, such as many Social Security recipients. The IRS will work with other agencies to ensure non-filers received the payments due to them. Non-filers may need to fill out a brief form.
- The average worker will receive 100% of their full pay for four months under the CARES Act.
- The CARES Act provides an additional $600 on top of the weekly maximum unemployment benefit ($275 in Florida) for four months. It also adds 13 weeks to the maximum time workers can receive benefits through Florida’s unemployment insurance program; and extends unemployment insurance to cover self-employed workers, gig-economy workers, independent contractors, and those who were unable to start a new job or contract due to COVID-19.
- The CARES Act establishes Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides emergency unemployment assistance to workers who are excluded from regular state unemployment insurance or who have exhausted their state UI benefits, up to 39 weeks of PUA are available.
- The CARES Act also allows furloughed workers to stay on as employees and simultaneously receive Unemployment Insurance.
- The state of Florida’s unemployment systems is in the process of implementing many of these changes. The system is currently backlogged, and you may need to check back on their website.
- You can apply for unemployment insurance benefits here. You can also find Frequently Asked Questions from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity here.
- The CARES Act provides $350 billion in loan forgiveness grants to small businesses and nonprofits with under 500 employees to help pay for expenses like payroll, rent, mortgage, and utilities. An estimated $18 billion will become available to the more than 450,000 small businesses in Florida who employ over 8.3 million workers.
- The CARES Act allows small businesses to pause payment of payroll taxes, which will grant businesses relief so they have more cash to keep employees on their payrolls.
- If you are in the restaurant, hotel, or hospitality business and each of your locations has 500 employees or fewer, you are eligible for these benefits. If you are an independent contractor, sole proprietor, or self-employed individual, you also qualify.
- You can call your bank or find SBA-approved lenders in your area through SBA’s online Lender Match tool.
- The CARES Act provides $30 billion in emergency education funding. Florida’s state universities will gain nearly $249 million to offset lost revenue, fund new technology and help students with housing, food and other emergency needs.
- Those with federal student loans can defer payments, principal, and interest until October 1 without penalty.
- Federal student loan payments that have been paused will count toward loan forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) teacher loan forgiveness, loan forgiveness for service in AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps and Volunteers in Service to America, loan forgiveness for military service, loan forgiveness for certain health professions, loan forgiveness for federal government employees and the 20/25-year loan forgiveness at the end of an income-driven repayment plans.
- The bill includes provision to exclude up to $5,250 in qualifying student loan repayments paid by employers on behalf of their employees from income for income tax purposes.
- You can find more information on available student aid here.