Havent gotten your stimulus check? Your coronavirus money questions, answered
It’s hard out there. And, in this time of uncertainty, USA TODAY is working to find answers to your money questions – anything from stimulus checks or unemployment benefits to your 401(k) or retirement plans. You can submit your questions here and read earlier answers below.
We will be updating the Q&A, so check back often. But, also look to these places:
I haven’t gotten my stimulus check. Can I still get one?
The first thing to check is if you qualify to receive a stimulus check under the CARES Act guidelines. If you do, it’s important to remember that the government is sending out the payments in installments.
Payments were prioritized in order from lowest income to highest income.
For those with direct deposit information on file with the IRS, payments began going out on April 10. And last week to Social Security beneficiaries, railroad retirees and veterans who aren’t required to file a tax return, which will continue through May.
While the IRS started mailing checks in late April to those who qualify but do not have direct deposit information, that process might take several months.
— Sarah Skidmore
What do I do if I get an error message wen tracking my stimulus check?
The IRS updated its “Get My Payment” tool to fix some headaches. But some people continue to get error messages in some cases.
The IRS advises that you go back and check your most recent tax return or consider whether there is a different way to enter your street address (for example, 123 N Main St vs 123 North Main St).
“You may also verify how your address is formatted with the U.S. Postal Service by entering your address in the USPS ZIP Lookup tool, and then enter your address into Get My Payment exactly as it appears on file with USPS,” the IRS said.
What is being discussed for the unemployed keeping heath care at a reasonable price?
If you had health coverage through your employer and lost your job, or if you received coverage as the dependent of someone who lost their job due to the pandemic, you could qualify for a special enrollment period to access the Affordable Care Act’s health exchange. If your lack of coverage is not related to the virus, then you have to wait until the fall to access the exchange. Regardless, anyone is eligible to receive a free COVID-19 test even if they’re not insured.
What if I did paper return. How does that affect my stimulus?
Electronic filers are generally getting their money before those who mailed in their latest tax return because it’s easy to transfer the money to bank accounts they have on record. Regardless of how you filed, you can track your expected payment using the IRS Get My Payment tool. The timing of checks for those who filed paper returns last year is being complicated by the IRS’ decision to stop processing paper returns due to COVID-19. That means there’s a delay not only in issuing checks but in determining how much you’re eligible to receive.
My husband was laid off for two and a half weeks due to COVID-19 and he did get his unemployment. Will he receive the extra $600 for the time he was off?
… We live in New York. He went back to work the last two days of last week.
Depending on when states entered an agreement with the federal government, the additional $600 benefit could be retroactive back to March 28. And so yes, he should be able to get the extra $600 payment.
I was on vacation when the pandemic started. I’m unable to return home. Can I file for unemployment?
… I have an autoimmune disease. My employer is considered essential, but they have reduced hours for others.
Situations like this will likely be handled on a case by case basis. Employers have, of course, the right to protest a claim. But states are encouraging employers to make accommodations for individuals with health risks, whether it’s allowing them to work from home or in a safe work environment. If that’s not possible, then such individuals could be eligible for unemployment insurance.
My husband is in the national guard and might get called to active duty. If he gets called and I have to stay home with our child, do I still qualify for unemployment?
… I wont lose my job because I’m an essential employee, but I will have to step away or lose hours due to our child being out of school.
The CARES Act allows people who must stay home because their child’s school or day has been closed due to the coronavirus to receive some financial assistance. You can apply for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for your state.
My boss is hiring people to replace those of us who were laid off. He also ordered existing employees hours to be reduced by half! Is that legal?
… How can we find out if he applied for the paycheck loan? He said he was but we don’t trust him.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) does not require businesses to rehire the same people that were laid off. It only requires that the loan will be forgiven if at least 75% of the total amount is spent on personnel with the remainder on work-related costs, such as rent, mortgage or utilities. If you believe your boss has acted improperly or illegally, you could contact your local or state labor agency to file a complaint.
Can still receive unemployment if I owe an over payment of unemployment?
Different states may handle this situation differently. But it’s generally not the state’s desire to be punitive. In Kentucky, for example, the state is offering individuals who find themselves in this situation the opportunity to negotiate the amount that is withheld from their current benefits until the debt is paid back.
I’m a new immigrant who got here at the end of 2019 and have not found a job yet. I haven’t filed my 2019 taxes, am I eligible for the stimulus check?
If you are a U.S. citizen, a permanent resident or a qualified resident alien, you are eligible for the payment. You do not need to have a job or other income to qualify. However, you first must provide the IRS with some payment information. You can do that by filling out the form for non-filers here.
Would I be eligible for unemployment if I haven’t had a job in 7 months? I had to quit to care for my mother. I’m currently looking for work.
How unemployment benefits are calculated varies by state, but even those who don’t qualify for unemployment are automatically considered for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that was created as part of the CARES Act. PUA aids people who are unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic but do not qualify for traditional unemployment insurance. The PUA benefit rate is based on recent earnings, with recipients also getting the additional $600 per week.
I am the director of a small business whose employees were furloughed. With the extra $600 a week plus state unemployment benefits, several people will be earning more on unemployment than working.
Bringing staff back at their regular wage through the Paycheck Protection Program will result in them earning less than they are getting on unemployment. This doesn’t seem right. Why would they return?
Several Republican senators brought up the very same issue during the debate on the first stimulus bill passed in March, saying it would encourage some people to collect unemployment rather than work. But both the Trump administration and most Democrats argued the $600 boost was necessary because unemployment benefits alone in many states would not restore their full pay before the crisis. They don’t believe most workers, such as front-line health care responders, would choose staying home over staying on the job.
If you did not qualify for unemployment in your state because you haven’t worked long enough, can you still get the $600?
Yes, the federal government has created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. It aids people who are unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic but do not qualify for traditional unemployment insurance. People who don’t qualify for unemployment are automatically considered for PUA. The PUA benefit rate is based on recent earnings, with recipients also getting the additional $600 per week.
Will parents of college students get the $500 in stimulus money?
No, people aged 17 and older who can be claimed as someone else’s dependent are left out of the plan. In other words, many college students won’t receive the $1,200 and their status won’t entitle their parents to receive an additional $500.
No. Stimulus checks aren’t taxable income. The checks are refundable tax credits, according to the Tax Foundation, a tax policy think tank. The credits will be applied to 2020 tax returns, but are advanced to taxpayers now based on their 2019 or 2018 adjusted gross income.
My stimulus check was sent to an account I don’t recognize. Where’s my stimulus check?
While many people received their stimulus deposit, other payments may have gotten inadvertently sent to temporary accounts created during the tax filing process. The IRS said it is moving to provide additional information and resolve any issues as soon as possible.
After you file your taxes with a tax professional, transfer banks such as MetaBank, Republic Bank and Santa Barbara Tax Product Group set up temporary accounts for taxpayers who want a refund advance or to deduct tax preparation fees from a refund.
“Those last four digits on the Get My Payment portal match the transfer provider’s information that has been submitted to the IRS,” said Natalie Parchment, a tax preparation consultant.
Will the additional $600 unemployment payment be taxable?
Yes. Unemployment benefits are considered taxable income, according to the IRS. Those benefits typically last for 26 weeks, but Congress added 13 additional weeks on top of that for a total of 39 weeks. Unemployed workers will get an extra $600 per week of unemployment benefits on top of their unemployment checks, which will be paid retroactively to March 29 or when you became unemployed.
If my income is higher in 2020, will I have to pay back my stimulus check?
No. If the amount of the credit a taxpayer qualifies for in 2020 is less than it was based on their 2019 return, it doesn’t have to be paid back, according to the Tax Foundation.
If your income is less in 2020, you will receive the difference of the credit if it is in your favor. If your income drops this year, for instance, you’ll be eligible for any remaining credit that you weren’t able to claim using your 2019 or 2018 return.
Will I get a stimulus check if I defaulted on my student loans?
Under the CARES Act, the government won’t withhold the money you owe for defaulted federal student loans out of your payment. It blocks the IRS from garnishing your tax refund for those late loan payments. Also, the government won’t ding your wages or withhold social security payments for six months under the relief package.
… What if my tax refund was already garnished?
If your tax refund was withheld because you defaulted on a federal student loan on or after March 13, which was the day President Donald Trump declared a national emergency, it will be returned to you, according to the Department of Education. That also applies to garnished wages and withheld Social Security benefits.
… Does it apply to private loans?
No. Private debt collectors could still garnish student loan debts.
If you have trouble paying, contact your lender for options.
Will my stimulus check be affected if I owe taxes?
… or child support?
… or overdue on student loan payments?
While the CARES Act suspends debts like overdue student loans or back taxes that typically lead to the garnishment of tax refunds, it doesn’t apply to delinquent child support payments. That means the government’s relief checks will still be garnished if you’re overdue. And some spouses who are filing joint tax returns with their late-paying partners are upset their stimulus money is being trimmed or withheld, even if they typically qualify for relief in situations like tax refunds.
Even if your spouse is solely responsible for the debt, a shared tax refund or stimulus check could be at risk.
…. If I owe child support, does the stimulus money go to my ex?
The stimulus payment that is reduced or withheld by the child support owed will go to the appropriate collecting office for the taxpayer’s state. From there, that collecting office will issue the money to the custodial parent, the person due the child support.
The Internal Revenue Service is expected to launch an online tool as soon as Wednesday to get a better clue on when you’ll see your Economic Impact Payment via IRS.gov/eip. The IRS said the tool will let you go online to check the status of a payment, including the date it’s scheduled to be deposited or mailed.
If you do not see the money in your bank account in two weeks, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said you can go to IRS.gov to see “Get My Payment.” If you filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return and did not receive a stimulus payment, he said, make sure to have your tax return information available to use at the “Get My Payment” tool later this week.
Taxpayers are telling their friends, and yes, posting news on social media, that they’re already seeing stimulus cash arrive in their bank accounts.
Some consumers spotted the first direct deposits as early as Saturday; others started seeing more information as of Monday. The IRS even tweeted Saturday evening that the agency deposited the first Economic Impact Payments into bank accounts on Saturday.
Some people in Michigan who checked their bank accounts online in the past few days spotted that $1,200 or more will be available in their bank accounts as of April 15.
Interestingly: The wording being used is “IRS Treas 310” (cut-in Michigan) so don’t expect to see words like “stimulus checks” or “recovery rebate” or “economic impact payment” on your bank statement.
As long as your adjusted gross income in 2019 was no more than $99,000 (if you file separately) or $198,000 (if you file jointly), you will receive some money. The law does not make a distinction between those who are working and those who are retired.
One of my workers is asking if they can go on unemployment and not work because he is living with two elderly people. Can he do this?
… We have work for him, however, he does not want to work due to the chances of infection towards his elderly roommates.
If your employee has a specific reason to worry he may have been exposed to the virus and needs to stop work, he could be eligible for benefits. If not, quitting and filing for such benefits without cause can be deemed fraud by federal officials.
I just started my job and have not received any commission. How do I file for unemployment with no proof of income?
You may qualify for state benefits if the reason you haven’t been able to get your new business off the ground is because of the coronavirus crisis, such as a government-ordered shut down or the need to care for a child whose school has closed, says Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow with the Century Foundation, a nonprofit think tank. She can apply for relief under the CARES Act and should prepare to demonstrate what she did in regard to her business and how COVID-19 affected it.
How do I apply for the new small business loan to pay my rent and my employees?
Small businesses (those with 500 and fewer employees) can apply for a loan under the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program that will cover eight weeks of operations and be fully forgiven if at least 75% of the money is used for payroll and the rest is for other other business-related expenses (such as rent/mortgage and utilities). You’ll have to download this form and then find an eligible lender, such as an SBA-certified local bank or commercial lender. You can still borrow the money if you don’t meet the 75% payroll requirement but you’ll have to pay it back with 1% interest within two years.
If I am afraid to go to work but haven’t been laid off due to coronavirus, can I quit and collect unemployment?
No. Not unless you can show you were possibly exposed to the virus. Guidance in regard to the federal relief act specifically states that quitting a job without cause to get benefits would be deemed fraud.
Thinking about a small business loan to pay our employees, could that impact their unemployment claims?
At least 75% of the Paycheck Protection Program loan must be spent on payroll in order for it to be completely forgiven. If workers file for unemployment, that could compromise the small business or nonprofit organization’s ability to meet the requirement.
I got unemployment but my employer now wants to cover our salaries with the CARE stimulus, do I have to cancel unemployment?
If you are getting your full pay, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits. Typically, you have to check in every week to let the state know you remain unemployed in order to continue getting assistance.
Pulling funds from retirement accounts out of fear isn’t the best immediate course of action, wealth advisors say. It’s a case-by-case basis. Do you have emergency savings? Are there opportunities to refinance student loan debt, mortgage or car payments? Investors should take advantage of lower rates first before they tap into their retirement funds, experts say.
I was furloughed and after applying for unemployment benefits, got two part-time temporary jobs. Am I now disqualified from any benefits?
You are not automatically disqualified from receiving benefits. However, the amount you would receive will be reduced due to the part-time income, and in some states, you may be earning too much, according to Andrew Stettner with The Century Foundation. You need to check with your state. And a word of caution: You cannot quit working without cause to boost your benefits. You would lose your financial assistance, and could be determined to have committed fraud.
The CARES Act gives homeowners with federally backed loans two types of relief. First, it prevents lenders from beginning foreclosure proceedings on federally backed loans for at least 60 days after March 18. Second, homeowners who experienced financial hardship from the pandemic can request a forbearance for up to 180 days, which may be extended for an additional period of up to six months if borrowers are still under financial duress.
… How can I postpone my mortgage payments?
To receive forbearance through the CARES Act, you must contact your loan servicer. There won’t be any additional fees, penalties or interest added to your account through this deferment, but regular interest will still accrue.
Can I apply for unemployment benefits for a second, part-time job?
Losing a second job makes you eligible for partial unemployment insurance. States have different rules regarding part-time positions, but the federal CARES Act does say part-time workers who are affected by the ramifications of COVID-19 can get assistance. Check with your state, but you should be able to get some aid.
… I work 2 part time jobs, one of which I had my hours cut way back. I am still working about 20 hours a week in one job. Can I collect unemployment insurance on a part time job?
It depends on the state whether part-time workers can receive unemployment benefits. California for instance does pay out such funds. The federal CARES Act also says part-time workers are entitled to assistance if their hours are cut for reasons out of their control. So you may be able to get the $600 federal benefit as well, but again, it’s best to check with your state unemployment office
My unemployment expired already. Will I be eligible for any benefits now?
Yes. If you are still out of work, you should be eligible for the 13 weeks of unemployment benefits that the federal government will pay, along with the extra $600 federal payment per week.
… I’ve recently exhausted my unemployment about a month ago, but I’m not able to file online due to my initial claim.
A lot of websites are unfortunately still catching up with the additional benefits offered by the CARES Act. Reach out to your phone company to tell them your situation. You may be able to get a reprieve on your payment. And continue to call. The log jam will hopefully lessen as more staff is brought in.
What is unemployment insurance and how do I get it?
Unemployment insurance is a joint program between the federal government and the states set up to provide some money to people who are trying to get a job but can’t find one. The benefit has been expanded by a $2.2 trillion relief package – called the CARES Act – passed by the federal government last week to help soften the blow of the coronavirus pandemic, which shutting down businesses across the country and forcing layoffs of millions of people.
“Every one of the 50 states has an online application system,” says Michele Evermore, senior researcher and policy analyst for the National Employment Law Project.
The maximum weekly benefit varies by state. For instance, in Florida, it tops out at $275, while in New York the maximum is $504. But under the federal relief law, everyone will get an additional $600 a week until July 31.
Some states offer fewer weeks of benefits than others. But with unemployment now expanded, anyone who is still out of work when their state benefit period runs out will be able to get payments for an additional 13 weeks from the federal government.
Those who worked in states like Florida where the initial period is only 12 weeks, would be eligible for the unemployment insurance specifically pegged to the pandemic which tacks on another 14 weeks.
Through these various steps, all those who are out of work will be able to get assistance for up to 39 weeks.
If you’ve already filed your 2019 taxes, the Internal Revenue Service will use those returns to determine your payment. If not, your 2018 returns will be used to calculate your check.
Individuals with an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less will be eligible for a one-time payment of up to $1,200 ($2,400 for joint tax returns) and $500 for each qualifying child. Those with little or no tax liability also will get $1,200 ($2,400 for joint returns).
The payments will start to phase out for Americans who earn more than $75,000, or $150,000 for a joint return. The amount you receive will be decreased by 5% of the amount your income exceeds $75,000.