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Five Key Benefits of the CARES Act

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    By now you know that Congress has passed a $2 trillion relief bill to help keep individuals and businesses afloat during these difficult times. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act contains many provisions. Here are five that may benefit you or your business.

    1. Recovery Rebates

    Many Americans will receive a one-time cash payment of $1,200. Each U.S. resident or citizen with an adjusted gross income (AGI) under $75,000 ($112,500 for heads of household and $150,000 for married couples filing a joint return) who is not the dependent of another taxpayer and has a work-eligible Social Security number, may receive the full rebate. Parents may also receive an additional $500 per dependent child under the age of 17.

    The $1,200 rebate amount will decrease by $5 for every $100 in excess of the AGI thresholds until it completely phases out. For example, the $1,200 rebate completely phases out at an AGI of $99,000 for an individual taxpayer and the $2,400 rebate phases out at $198,000 for a married couple filing a joint return.

    Rebate payments will be based on 2019 income tax returns (2018 if no 2019 return was filed) and will be sent by the IRS via direct deposit or mail. Eligible individuals who receive Social Security benefits but don’t file tax returns will also receive these payments, based on information provided by the Social Security Administration.

    The rebate is not taxable. Because the rebate is actually an advance on a refundable tax credit against 2020 taxes, someone who didn’t qualify for the rebate based on 2018 or 2019 income might still receive a full or partial rebate when filing a 2020 tax return.

    2. Extra Unemployment Benefits

    The federal government will provide $600 per week to those who are eligible for unemployment benefits as a result of COVID-19, on top of any state unemployment benefits an individual receives. Unemployed individuals may qualify for this additional benefit for up to four months (through July 31.) The federal government will also fund up to an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits for those who have exhausted their state benefits (up to 39 weeks of benefits) through the end of 2020.

    The CARES Act also provides assistance to workers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic but who normally wouldn’t be eligible for unemployment benefits, including self-employed individuals, part-time workers, freelancers, independent contractors, and gig workers. Individuals who have to leave work for coronavirus-related reasons are also potentially eligible for benefits.

    3. Federal Student Loan Deferrals

    For all borrowers of federal student loans, payments of principal and interest will be automatically suspended for six months, through September 30, without penalty to the borrower. Federal student loans include Direct Loans (which includes PLUS Loans), as well as Federal Perkins Loans and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans held by the Department of Education. Private student loans are not eligible.

    4. IRA & Retirement Plan Distributions

    Required minimum distributions from IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans will not apply for the 2020 calendar year. In addition, the 10% premature distribution penalty tax that would normally apply for distributions made prior to age 59½ (unless an exception applied) is waived for coronavirus-related retirement plan distributions of up to $100,000. The tax obligation may be spread over three years, with up to three years to reinvest the money.

    5. Help for Businesses

    The CARES Act includes several provisions designed to help self-employed individuals and small businesses weather the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

    Self-employed individuals and small businesses with fewer than 500 employees may apply for a Paycheck Protection Loan through a Small Business Association (SBA) lender. Businesses may borrow up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll costs, up to $10 million. This loan may be forgiven if an employer continues paying employees during the eight weeks following the origination of the loan and uses the money for payroll costs (including health benefits), rent or mortgage interest, and utility costs.

    Also available are emergency grants of up to $10,000 (that do not need to be repaid if certain conditions are met), SBA disaster loans, and relief for business owners with existing SBA loans.

    Businesses of all sizes may qualify for a refundable payroll tax credit of 50% of wages paid to employees during the crisis, up to $10,000 per employee. The credit is applied against the employer’s share of Social Security payroll taxes.

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