The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has caused a rapid change in how you live your everyday life. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, ten million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in March 2020. Many found themselves and their businesses in financially uncertain situations. At Benefits.gov, our mission is to help you find government resources for your needs, faster – during the pandemic, this mission is more critical than ever. In response to the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, new unemployment and business loan resources have become available to help you, your family, and your business through this difficult time.
Many people are facing an uncertain financial future due to business closures as a result of social distancing rules. New government programs and guidance are being developed to ensure citizens can care for themselves and their families throughout the pandemic.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
The U.S. Department of Labor recently issued information on the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, set to be implemented within the coming months. Under PUA, individuals who do not qualify for regular unemployment compensation and are unable to continue working as a result of the coronavirus, such as self-employed workers, independent contractors, and gig workers, are eligible for PUA benefits.
PUA provides up to 39 weeks of benefits to qualifying individuals. Payments under PUA are retroactive, for weeks of unemployment, partial employment, or inability to work due to COVID-19 reasons starting on or after January 27, 2020.
Individuals who are eligible for PUA include:
PUA is administered through state unemployment agencies, so workers seeking PUA should apply through their relevant office.
To learn more about other coronavirus resources the Department of Labor administers, visit their coronavirus resources webpage. For the latest information on the coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coronavirus website or Coronavirus.gov.
Pandemic Unemployment Compensation
The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) provides additional financial support to recipients of PUA or traditional unemployment, through an extra $600 per week of unemployment until July 31, 2020.
While the timeline for when these payments will start varies by state, the benefit payments under FPUC can begin as soon as the week after the execution of a signed agreement between the Department of Labor and each state. As states begin providing this payment, eligible individuals will receive retroactive payments back to their date of eligibility or the signing of the state agreement, whichever came later. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) specifies that FPUC benefit payments will end after payments for the last week of unemployment before July 31, 2020.
Economic Impact Payments
The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service will distribute economic impact payments beginning in April. These payments will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most people; however, some taxpayers who typically do not file returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive the economic impact payment.
Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 will automatically receive an economic impact payment of up to $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for married couples, and up to $500 for each qualifying child. For filers with incomes above $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples, the payment will be reduced by $5 for each $100 above the threshold. Calculate your impact payment using Intuit’s free tool.
The Treasury plans to develop a web-based portal for individuals to provide their banking information to the IRS online to receive payments via direct deposit.
To learn more and stay up to date regarding economic impact payments, visit the coronavirus tax relief page on IRS.gov.
Paid Leave Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
The U.S. Department of Labor announced how American workers and employers can benefit from the protections and relief offered by the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, both part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
The program will help the country combat the workplace impacts of the coronavirus by reimbursing employers with fewer than 500 employees with tax credits. FFCRA will ensure that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus, while at the same time reimbursing businesses. FFCRA will be administered by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.
FFCRA is a temporary measure and will be effective from April 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020.
Being a business owner and navigating the strain that the coronavirus pandemic has put on your livelihood can be difficult. Recently, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of Labor issued new guidance to help you, your business, and your employees throughout the pandemic.
Small Business Loan Resources
SBA has many loan resources, including Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). Disaster loans are the primary form of federal assistance for the repair and rebuilding of non-farm, private sector disaster losses. The disaster loan program is the only form of SBA assistance not limited to small businesses.
EIDL can be awarded to small businesses or private, nonprofit organizations that suffer substantial economic injury as a result of a declared disaster, regardless of whether the applicant has sustained physical damage. It provides relief from economic injury caused directly by the disaster and allows you to maintain a reasonable working capital position during the period affected by the disaster. EIDLs do not replace lost sales or revenue.
To check your eligibility for this program, use the questionnaire at the bottom of the EIDL program page. For more programs managed by the SBA that could help your business, browse the SBA category on Benefits.gov.
The SBA has also announced the Paycheck Protection Program, an SBA loan that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the coronavirus crisis. The Paycheck Protection Program is designed to encourage small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll by forgiving loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. Businesses may apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, or Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Interested small businesses should speak with a local lender as to whether it is participating in the program.
The SBA works with many local partners to counsel, mentor, and train small businesses. When faced with a business need, use the SBA’s Local Assistance Directory to locate the office nearest you.
Benefits.gov is here to help you, your family, and your business navigate these difficult times and will continuously update our resources as information becomes available. We encourage you to use the Benefit Finder to explore over 1,000 government benefits and assistance programs and check out our other article on finding the right help during the coronavirus outbreak.