Support for Working Families
On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to address the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The CARES Act is the third pandemic response package so far, and it provides approximately $2 Trillion of funding in four main areas:
- Cash assistance to individuals and families
- Relief funding for impacted industries
- Major cash infusion for hospitals
- Social services
The FUTURES policy team in Washington D.C. helped secure direct support for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and for children who experience trauma and abuse, and for the nonprofit advocates who support them, including:
- $45 million in Family Violence Prevention and Services grants that prevent and respond to family and domestic violence, and
- $2 million for the National Domestic Violence Hotline
- $45 million in Child Welfare Services, for grants to states to support child welfare needs, and to help keep families together during this crisis
- $750 million for grants to all Head Start programs to help them support additional needs of children and families, including lost learning time during this crisis.
FUTURES also worked to ensure that local domestic violence and community-based agencies were made eligible for small business loans and grants to help address the economic impacts of the pandemic.
In addition, we know that the provisions to help people take care of their basic needs in the midst of massive job losses and health threats will also be a great benefit to survivors.
Here are some resources that the CARES Act can provide for you:
If you have a Social Security Number and have filed a tax return in the last two years, you will receive up to $1200 as an individual, $2400 for married couples, and $500 per child (age 18 and under) in a one-time direct payment to your bank account or check if make less than $99,000 a year as an individual or less than $198,000 combined as a married couple. Individuals making up to $75,000 and married partners earning up to $150,000 collectively, should receive the full amount. Cash payments will scale down as income increases.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will calculate your cash payment using your 2019 or 2018 tax return, or if you did not file those years, your Social Security statement. To ensure you receive your stimulus check as quickly as possible, you may want to file an extension with the IRS to submit your 2019 tax returns. For additional information, consult the IRS website here: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus?mod=article_inline
If you are unemployed, and file or have filed for compensation, your benefits will be increased by $600 a week for four months. If you continue to be unemployed beyond that time, your state can extend your benefits by an additional 13 weeks. For the average workers, the $600 increase and unemployment benefits should equal full wage replacement. Some changes to note:
- Gig workers and freelancers can now claim unemployment benefits.
- In addition, if the pandemic rendered you unable to start a new job, or to work on a new contract, you may be eligible to claim unemployment compensation.
Since gig workers, freelancers, and those who are unable to start work due to the pandemic are new categories of individuals eligible for unemployment benefits, these workers may want to wait a couple of weeks (from the date the law was passed, March 27, 2020) to apply for unemployment benefits, in order to give state agencies time to comply with the new law, and be able to correctly process these new claims.
Benefits will be paid retroactively.
How to apply for benefits:
Apply online or call your local unemployment office by looking up the information associated with your location: https://www.dol.gov/general/location. Be aware that getting through can take time, so be persistent. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor’s website: https://www.careeronestop.org/.
STUDENT LOAN RELIEF
If you have a federal student loan owned by the U.S. Department of Education, you will not have to make any payments for six months (through September 30, 2020), although you will still have to pay back the loan later. Interest during the six- month period will be waived entirely. No action is required.
Involuntary collection of defaulted student loans is also suspended. For more information, see: http://freestudentloanadvice.org/
If you own a small business of fewer than 500 employees, you can receive the following flexibilities and assistance:
- Deferred loans of up to $10 million from February 15, 2020 to June 30, 2020, which can be used to cover rent/mortgage, utilities, interest, and employee compensation for annual salaries of up to $100,000. The loans’ interest rate cannot exceed 4 percent, and the loans can be forgiven if the employer maintains employment between March 1 and June 30.
- Emergency grants of up to $10,000 for immediate relief of operating costs
FREE PREVENTATIVE SERVICES AND VACCINE FOR COVID-19
There are currently neither a vaccine nor preventative services available for COVID-19, but when a COVID-19 vaccine or preventative services becomes available, they will be cost-free to the public.
If you are looking for more details about the benefits contained in new packages passed by Congress, The Raben Group has prepared this helpful summary of the combined federal legislative response to COVID-19.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act goes into effect on April 2, 2020 and terminates on December 31, 2020. Here is information on what the law does and does not provide:
PAID SICK LEAVE (PSL)
Some full or part-time employees who are unable to work or telework may be eligible for up to 80 hours of paid leave, if any of these circumstances apply:
- You have Coronavirus, or are caring for someone who has it
- You are subject to federal, state, or local quarantine or shelter-in-place or doctor’s orders related to COVID-19 and your position does not allow you to telework
- You are experiencing symptoms and are seeking a medical diagnosis
- You are caring for a child under the age of 18 years because their school or childcare is closed, or your childcare provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions
Contact your employer to find out if you are eligible for PSL or the labor department in your state for more information. If you are experiencing issues obtaining PSL and believe you are entitled to receive it, you can contact a legal aid office in your state or Legal Aid at Work at 866-864-8208 (toll-free).
PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE (PFML)
If you have worked for an employer for at least 30 days before you are requesting leave, you may be eligible for paid family and medical leave, in the event you are unable to work or telework, due to the need to care for your child under the age of 18 years whose school or childcare is closed, or whose childcare provider is unavailable because of COVID-19.
It is important to note the following
- The first 10 days of PFML are unpaid, and if you are eligible for paid leave, you are allowed to use any accrued leave you have, in order to be compensated during this initial 10-day period that is unpaid. PFML under the new law provides up to 12 weeks of leave.
- PFML under the new law provides partial pay, rather than full pay while on leave.
Contact your employer to find out if you are eligible for PFML under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and how much you will be compensated while on PFML. You can also contact the labor department in your state for more information. If you are experiencing issues obtaining PFML, and believe you are entitled to receive it, you can contact a legal aid office in your state or Legal Aid at Work at 866-864-8208 (toll-free).
FREE TESTING FOR COVID-19
The Families First CoronaVirus Response Act provides that people can get their tests fully paid for by insurers or Medicaid, but it’s important to call a health care provider to share your symptoms, before you go in for a test. Your doctor or health care provider may say you don’t need the test, or at least not at the moment, since testing availability varies. Also, it’s important to know that treatment isn’t likely to be free. People without health insurance or those with limited coverage may find treatment for COVID-19 is not covered.
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP) BENEFITS
The law strengthens SNAP and other programs that provide nutritious meals to those in need, specifically:
- $500 million for WIC to provide nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children, should they lose their jobs due to the COVID-19 emergency.
- Allowing the Department of Agriculture to approve state plans for providing emergency SNAP assistance to families with children who would have received free or reduced-price school meals from schools closed due to the COVID-19 emergency.
- Allows the Department of Agriculture to issue nationwide school meal waivers, eliminating paperwork for states and increasing flexibility for schools.
- Allowing child and adult care centers to operate as feeding sites, and waiving certain meal requirements if there is a disruption to the food supply due to COVID-19.
- Special waivers for SNAP emergency benefits, removing all work and work-training requirements previously part of SNAP.
You can learn more about SNAP and apply for benefits here: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
For more information on unemployment insurance, Medicaid, and getting relief on student loan payments, rent, mortgages and utilities, the New York Times has compiled this helpful guide: