Coping with COVID: New Stimulus Funds and Unemployment Benefit Update

By now, some of you may have received $600 stimulus payments as a result of the economic relief package recently passed by our government. Let’s take a closer look at the impact of this bill on individuals and families.

Stimulus Payments

  • If you have an adjusted gross income on your 2019 tax returns of less than $75,000 (single person) you will receive a $600 stimulus payment.
  • If you are a couple with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000 on your 2019 tax returns you will receive a $1200 stimulus payment.
  • If you have children, you will also receive $600 for each child up to 16 years old.
    • If you are 17 or older, file your own taxes, no one claims you as a dependent, and make less than $75,000 you would be eligible for a payment.
  • If you file as head of household, you are allowed to have an adjusted gross income of $112,500. You will receive the $600 stimulus payment plus the additional funds for each child up to age 16.
  • If you are a single filer and made more than $75,000 (but not more than $87,000) in 2019, you may get a partial payment. This payment subtracts $5 for every $100 over $75,000 in income. For more information on income limits see CNET’s Second Stimulus Check Calculator: What you Need to Know about Your $600 Payment.
  • But wait, I lost my job in 2020 and made A LOT less than I did in 2019! Can I get help? Yes, when you file your taxes for 2020, you will be able to claim this money in the form of a refundable tax credit. Ask your tax preparation specialist for help.
  • If you are getting SSI or SSDI and don’t file taxes, you may still be eligible for a $600 stimulus check. The IRS is responsible to get income information from the Social Security Administration. For more information, see 10 Things Social Security Recipients Need to Know About Their Second Stimulus Check.
  • Payments have already begun to be deposited if you previously received direct deposits of your tax refunds. Paper checks should also begin to be mailed soon—however, it could take some time before all who are eligible receive their stimulus payments.

Unemployment Benefits

  • The new bill extends how long you can collect unemployment benefits. The limit is now about 50 weeks. This is STATE dependent.
  • It also provides an extra FEDERAL benefit that is added to the state benefits you receive. (Remember unemployment programs are run by each state. Rules for filing and eligibility can vary, so be sure to check with your state’s unemployment office about rules and regulations). This extra payment will be $300 per week through March 14th.
  • A 16-week extension is also available to those who were eligible for unemployment as a result of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. These are gig workers (for example Uber drivers), individuals who work part-time, or others who might not otherwise be eligible for unemployment benefits. 
  • Previously if you earned income in a job where you received a W-2 and also were self-employed, you had to choose if you wanted to apply for unemployment as a W-2 worker or as a self-employed worker. You could not get unemployment benefits from both work settings. The new bill creates the “mixed earner unemployment compensation (MEUC)” benefit. Under this benefit, if you earned at least $5000 in self-employed income when you last filed taxes you will get a $100 per week additional in your benefits. HOWEVER, this is NOT REQUIRED for states to offer so be sure to check with your state’s unemployment office about this program.
  • If your workplace has reopened but you have a compromised immune system, and your healthcare provider has directed you to self-quarantine due to concerns about exposure to COVID-19 (i.e. you are in active cancer treatment), you are likely eligible for unemployment benefits if you meet all eligibility requirements.
  • Find your state’s unemployment office here.

What else is in the new bill?

  • Rental assistance-$25 billion dollars to help pay rent.
  • Extension of eviction moratorium until January 31, 2021.
  • $13 billion dollars for the SNAP (food stamps) program.
  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for small businesses, including $15 billion directed to live venues, independent movie theaters and some cultural institutions.
  • $10 billion for Child Care centers.
  • $68 billion to purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
  • $45 billion for transportation (airlines, mass transit, highways and trains).
  • $82 billion to assist schools and universities to reopen.

It is likely that benefits will continue to change as the Pandemic continues. OncoLink will continue to keep you up to date on all benefit changes. If you need help accessing services like unemployment, SNAP and rental assistance/eviction avoidance, ask for help from your social worker.

Christina is a clinical oncology social worker and the Psychosocial Content Editor at OncoLink. Christina blogs about resources available to the cancer community, as well as general information about coping with cancer practically, emotionally, and spiritually. Christina is also an instructor at the Penn School of Social Policy and Practice. In her spare time, she loves to knit and volunteer with her therapy dogs, Linus and Huckleberry. She also loves to travel, cook and is an avid Philly sports fan.

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