Q&A: How could the historic $2 trillion coronavirus economic recovery package benefit you?

Michael Collins, USA TODAY

President Trump has signed the $2 trillion economic recovery package into law, triggering help for Americans suffering as the coronavirus sweeps across the country.

While his signature on the largest stimulus in U.S. history ended the legislative effort on Capitol Hill, it marked a beginning to the government’s work managing the crisis. Now the Trump administration must rapidly pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy.

The stimulus will provide $1,200 checks to many Americans – and more for families – while making available hundreds of billions of dollars for companies to maintain payroll through the crisis. It significantly expands the nation’s unemployment safety net and it directs a huge infusion of cash to hospitals and other medical facilities on the front line of fighting the pandemic.

Here are some answers to how the relief package might benefit you.

Will I get a stimulus check?

The law provides for direct payments of up to $1,200 for most individuals and $2,400 for most married couples filing jointly with an extra $500 for each qualifying child under age 17. 

When will my check arrive?

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said it could be as soon as three weeks, though that timeline could evolve during the appropriations process in Congress.

Where will my check come?

If you have a direct deposit account with the IRS (think: How do you receive your tax refund?), look for your "check" there. That electronic method could also mean a faster turnaround.

If you don't have direct deposit, keep an eye on the mailbox.

How much money can I expect?

It depends on your income.

If you are a single adult with an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less, you will be eligible for up to $1,200. If you're married and filing jointly with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000, you're eligible for $2,400

Payments start to phase out above those income levels.

Stimulus check: Calculate how much money you could get

Do I have to earn a minimum amount to get the full stimulus check?

All low-income individuals are eligible for the full $1,200 ($2,400 for joint returns).

But there is a catch.

To qualify, you must have filed tax returns in either 2018 or 2019 or receive Social Security or veterans’ benefits so the Internal Revenue Service can calculate their rebate, said Garrett Watson of the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based think tank.

“People are desperate for relief right now,” said David Certner, legislative policy director for the AARP. “This is a crisis that is really hitting people across the board.”

I've lost my job because of the economic slowdown. Now what?

The relief package expands unemployment insurance benefits.

If you've lost your job because of the outbreak, you will seek your weekly state insurance benefits – which average about $400 – increased by $600 for four months.

And if you are still unemployed after state benefits end, you could get an additional 13 weeks of help.

Economic hit: Unemployment claims surge to record 3.3M as coronavirus takes toll

But my job wasn't with a traditional workplace, and I was part time. Does that matter?

No. The expanded unemployment benefits are available to workers who are part-time, self-employed or part of the gig economy.

I am a small business owner. Is there help for me?

The package gives small businesses access to a nearly $350 billion loan program to cover monthly expenses like payroll, rent and utilities.

The loans would not have to be repaid if businesses maintained their workforce. 

I'm worried about my student loans. Is there any help for me?

Maybe.

If you have a federal loan, you can suspend payments until October.

The federal government also is no longer withholding portions of tax returns and Social Security payments for those who are behind on payments.

And if you are a student receiving a Pell grant who has to drop out because of coronavirus, you won't be penalized.

Do I have to take money out of my 401(k) when it's lost value?

Not this year.

Minimum distributions from retirement plans such as your 401(k) won't be mandatory amid all the economic uncertainty that is battering stocks and shrinking their value.

Those who are diagnosed with the virus, who have a spouse or child who’s been infected, or who have lost a job or work  hours because of COVID-19 can also take out up to $100,000 from their retirement plan without incurring a penalty.

If I donate to charity to help victims of the virus, do I get a write off?

Yes. Up to a point. 

Those who want to help those struggling because of the pandemic can deduct up to $300 in donations. But the write off is for those who don’t itemize their deductions and must be made to a qualified organization.

Will my credit report take a negative hit if I accept help?

It shouldn’t.

People who were impacted by COVID-19 and take advantage of payment modifications like student loan suspension shouldn’t face penalties for doing so, according to the bill.

Lenders are to mark your accounts as “current” during pandemic starting on Jan. 31. After the crisis is over, you’ll have 120 days to make good on any delinquencies present on your credit report, otherwise, those black marks will remain active.  

I'm falling behind on my mortgage payments because of COVID-19. Will this aid package help me?

It could.

Homeowners with federally-backed mortgages are protected from foreclosures for as long as 180 days.

But what if I’m a renter?

The stimulus package doesn't include relief designated solely for renters, many of whom may have a hard time paying bills starting April 1.

Still, the $1,200 check to many taxpaying adults can be used to pay landlords as lodging is the highest monthly expense for most families. Also, many states including California and New York have temporarily halted evictions for 30 to 90 days to take some of the pressure off of renters.

Fact check: What's true and what's false about coronavirus?

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Contributing: Charisse Jones, Dalvin Brown, Kristen DelGuzzi, Maureen Groppe, Ledyard King, Paul Davidson, Chris Quintana

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus stimulus package: Q&A on checks, unemployment, loan help