Help is finally on the way.
On Friday, President Trump signed into law a $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that will provide direct payments to lower- and middle-income Americans, as well as hundreds of billions of dollars in assistance to corporations, small businesses, and hospitals and health care providers.
Unsurprisingly, the direct payments portion of the package has garnered the most attention. The coronavirus outbreak has devastated the U.S. economy, and with millions of Americans losing their jobs and hurting financially, all eyes had been on Washington to see how lawmakers would help alleviate the burden.
Here’s what we know about the coronavirus stimulus checks and how they will work.
Who qualifies for stimulus checks?
Virtually all tax-filing American adults earning up to $99,000 annually will be eligible for some form of direct assistance from the government. Married couples and joint filers who earn up to $198,000 are also eligible, as are heads of household who earn up to $136,500.
How much will the stimulus checks be worth?
Individuals who make up to $75,000 per year and heads of household who earn up to $112,500 will receive a $1,200 rebate from the federal government, while couples who earn up to $150,000 annually will receive $2,400. For those who exceed those income levels, the benefits are gradually reduced at a rate of $5 for every $100 of additional income, and are eventually capped at $99,000 for individuals, $136,500 for heads of household, and $198,000 for couples. Additionally, parents are eligible for a $500 rebate per child.
When will the stimulus checks be sent out?
This is where it gets tricky. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said that he’d like to see Americans start receiving direct assistance in as little as two or three weeks after the stimulus package is signed into law—but that seems exceedingly optimistic. As Erica York of the Tax Foundation think tank notes, the quickest time frame in which the federal government has previously been able to issue stimulus checks has been six weeks.
“Historical precedent, plus the unprecedented crisis we’re in, leads me to believe May is the earliest the [Internal Revenue Service] would be able to start sending any checks,” York says.
How will I get my stimulus check? Will it be delivered through direct deposit?
For the roughly 70 million Americans who have already provided their direct-deposit bank account information to the IRS, rebates should be pouring into those accounts within weeks of the bill’s passage, Senate aides told the New York Times on Wednesday. But those who haven’t provided such information may have to wait up to four months for their checks to arrive—a time frame that surely works against the bill’s intention of providing financial assistance to struggling Americans as soon as possible.
Is the stimulus check a loan—and will I have to pay it back?
No. As a direct payment designed to assist Americans through difficult economic times, the stimulus checks are yours to keep.
Are the stimulus checks taxable?
No. However, for Americans who have yet to file their 2019 income taxes, the rebates will need to be based on their 2018 income levels. That means that they could be subject to adjustment once people finally file 2019 taxes that indicate their most recent income levels.
Will retirees and Social Security beneficiaries get stimulus checks?
Yes. The bill allows Americans receiving Social Security—many of whom are retired and don’t file taxes—to obtain direct financial assistance through the coronavirus stimulus package. In such cases, the government would access their data through the Social Security Administration to determine their rebate.
Update, March 27, 2020: This article has been updated to reflect the passage of the CARES Act into law.
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