According to the American Psychological Association, money is a top cause of stress in the U.S. – and this was prior to the current COVID-19 pandemic. With much of the country affected by stay-at-home orders and the closure of non-essential businesses in recent weeks, millions of workers have felt the impact of reduced or no work hours. While many construction workers have still been able to work, some have not, and it’s likely their spouses or other household members were also affected. As of April 17, 22 million Americans had filed for unemployment.
“Beyond the health impacts, the financial fallout of the ongoing pandemic is putting a strain on millions of families across the U.S. and Canada,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “Fortunately, there are some consumer protections in place that people should be aware of, and steps that can be taken to reduce or limit financial hardships.”
The CARES Act and Recovery Rebates
The economic relief legislation known as the CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion stimulus package for individuals and businesses, aimed to lessen the financial impact of COVID-19. Eligible individuals will receive a recovery rebate for the 2020 tax year of $1,200 for an individual return ($2,400 for a joint return), with an additional $500 per qualified dependent child. However, recovery rebates are limited based on adjusted gross income and begin to phase out above certain thresholds.
The rebate amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 that a taxpayer’s income exceeds $75,000 ($112,500 for heads of household, $150,000 for joint returns). The amount is completely phased-out for single filers with incomes exceeding $99,000 ($146,500 for head of household filers with one child and $198,000 for joint filers with no children). You can track the status of your stimulus check here: www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment.
This may be a good time to perform some financial housekeeping. Our February 2020 article, “Financial Health Literacy: Determining Needs vs. Wants,” provides more information on necessary vs. discretionary spending.
Available Consumer Protection Options
If you’re unable to pay your bills on time, including your mortgage or car loan(s), contact the lender or service provider to let them know about your financial situation. Many lenders and companies are allowing consumers to delay, adjust or skip payments due to the ongoing pandemic.
If you have difficulty paying your federal taxes:
The filing deadline has been extended to July 15, 2020. State tax deadlines may vary, so check with your state for exact deadline dates.
If you have difficulty paying your student loans:
All student loan and interest payments are deferred through September 30, 2020, without penalty to the borrower for all federally owned student loans. Contact your lender if you’re having difficulty paying privately owned student loans. Many lenders are allowing borrowers to delay, adjust or skip payments due to the ongoing pandemic.
If you have difficulty paying for prescription drugs:
For information on accessing affordable prescription medications, see our April 2020 article, “Inside Rx: Prescription Drug Discount Card Program for the Uninsured and Underinsured”.
If your work hours are reduced or cut altogether, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits in your state. Learn how to file for unemployment benefits in your state.
Eligible individuals who are collecting certain unemployment insurance will also receive an additional $600 in federal benefits for weeks of unemployment ending on or before July 31, 2020.
For more information on guidance for employers and workers, household preparation, dealing with mental health impacts and other topics related to this ongoing pandemic, visit the Fund’s Coronavirus & COVID-19 Resources page at www.lhsfna.org/index.cfm/coronavirus. For specific questions not covered above, contact the Fund at 202-628-5465 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the coronavirus and your finances, visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at www.consumerfinance.gov/coronavirus.
[Matthew Brown is the Fund’s Health & Welfare Specialist.]