WASHINGTON D.C. — On Friday, March 27, President Donald Trump signed into law the much-anticipated coronavirus economic relief bill in an unprecedented attempt to keep Americans financially stable while the country deals with effects of COVID-19.
The $2 trillion economic stimulus comes as government action to stop the spread of the virus has limited economic mobility and caused a massive wave of unemployment claims across the nation. As of March 26, 3.28 million Americans have filed for unemployment, a dramatic increase compared to the 282,000 claims that were filed as of the last reporting date on March 14, according to the Department of Labor.
The economic stimulus will potentially affect Avery County residents in three areas: individual payments, unemployment benefits and small business loans that will be forgivable.
“Businesses, employees, employers, it’s going to be a tough time to come back from. Whether that’s a result of the need for capital or a loss of employees due to the coronavirus. It’s going to be a tough road to haul,” Avery County Economic Advisory Committee Director Ken Walter said. “But I’ve been delighted with some of the announcements that are going to impact Avery County. Mountain Bizworks and Golden Leaf [are other resources] where there are going to be funds available to help people financially get their businesses back up and running. I think that’s terrific.”
Individual checksAs part of the economic stimulus, most Americans will receive individual one-time payments as long as they are a legal resident, are not eligible to be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax returns and as long as they do not earn too much.
Individual taxpayers will receive $1,200 if their income is less than $75,000 annually, married couples filing jointly will receive $2,400 for combined income less than $150,000. Those with dependents will see an additional $500 for each dependent under the age of 17 if their income is less than $112,500. Eligibility is based on 2019 tax filings or the previous year’s taxes if last year’s filings have not been completed yet.
Those who receive Social Security retirement or disability benefits will also receive a check if they earn too little to have to file returns.
Checks are expected to be sent out in the next three weeks through direct bank deposits, but those who file their taxes through mail may have to wait longer.
Unemployment benefits“Providing some help to those who will not be able to afford rent, utility, car payments will be a huge help as long as we can get these people back to work, hopefully in the next month or two,” Walter said.
The stimulus package will also boost unemployment benefits with additional federal payments in conjunction with regular benefits. For example, an extra $600 per week will be paid to individuals for up to four months. State unemployment benefits have also been expanded to last a total of 39 weeks.
People who have been directly impacted by COVID-19 are also eligible. Benefits are available for those who have contracted COVID-19, are awaiting a diagnosis, had a family member diagnosed and also individuals who were scheduled to start a job but could not due to their workplace being shut down because of coronavirus-related concerns.
The seven-day waiting period to receive benefits, which is a common policy in many states, has also been waived.
Additionally, the stimulus package includes family benefits, where workers can get up to 12 weeks of paid family leave if they need to watch their children, as well as 80 hours of paid sick leave in the case a worker needs to quarantine, mortgage and rental relief if these loans are backed by the federal government, temporary student loan forgiveness and retirement plan changes.
Relief for small businessesThe package includes a $349 billion relief fund for small businesses, or businesses with less than 500 employees. These businesses are eligible for federally guaranteed, forgivable loans to navigate through the current uncertain times.
Self-employed, independent contractors and sole proprietors are also eligible for these loans, which are tax free, interest free and are deferred for one year.
Priority will be given to businesses that are in rural markets, less than two years old and are in underserved areas.
The maximum loan that can be given to a single business is $10 million. The loan is forgivable during an eight-week period between Feb. 15, 2020, and June 30, 2020. The loan will also be reduced if the business was forced to cut back at least half of its workforce or was forced to cut salaries.
Loans will be approved based off of a “good faith certification,” where a business will agree that it is asking for the loan due to COVID-19-related effects.
Additional ResourcesOther organizations in the state are also offering emergency relief to these small businesses.
“I fall back on some of our other local organizations such as Mountain Bizworks and Golden Leaf to help our entrepreneurs get back on their feet and get back in business when all this is over,” Walter said.
North Carolina Rapid Recovery is offering recovery loan options to help businesses to stay open during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. These recovery options include NC COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Lending Program and Small Business Association Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
The Avery County Economic Development Commission also lists a resource directory for small businesses on its website. To view these resources, click to averycountync.gov/economic_development.