NYC has managed to push forward and is currently in Phase 2 of reopening despite having been the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic not too long ago. Although we have progressed greatly, many of our communities have faced and continue to face immense financial hardship due to loss of jobs or hours of work. Due to this it is especially important that during these moments, our communities are informed about available resources that provide assistance with expenses for our community members.
On Tuesday, June 23rd, we had a Zoom workshop focused on several aspects of the CARES Act, specifically on economic impact payments, tax assistance, pandemic EBT and unemployment insurance. We were joined by guest speakers Brenda Stuart-Luke, Georgia Thomas, and Gita Hecht from the Communication & Liaison Outreach (C&L) Field Operations in the IRS. Also in their team, Frank Agostino from the New York County Lawyers Association and Darol Tucker from the National Taxpayer Advocate. From the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance we had Tom Hedderman and Allegra L. Fishel from the Gender Equality Law Center.
Click here to watch the full workshop.
The following are highlights shared about each aspect of the CARES Act addressed in our Zoom workshop:
CARES Act Overview:
- The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed by the President on March 27, 2020.
ECONOMIC IMPACT PAYMENTS (STIMULUS CHECKS):
- What are economic impact payments? The CARES Act provides significant financial relief in the form of tax credits for recovery rebates for 2020 to individuals and families during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act further authorizes the IRS to make advance refunds of the recovery rebate credits in calendar year 2020. The advance payments are now referred to as “Economic Impact Payments”.
- How much are the payments? Under the CARES Act, each eligible individual will receive $1,200 in economic impact payment and an additional $500 for each qualifying child the individual claims on the income tax return or $2,400 for married couples filing a joint return.
- When will these payments be provided? These payments began mid-April and will continue until the end of 2020.
- What do I need to do to receive this payment? For most taxpayers, no action will be needed to receive these payments/rebates. As long as a 2018 or 2019 tax return is filed under a valid SSN, individuals can receive the payment. Eligible retirees and those receiving survivor benefits can automatically get payment because information is available through social security benefits.
- Are the payments taxable? The payments are not taxable. They are not income and recipients will not owe Federal income tax on it. A Payment is an advance credit payment and, therefore, will not reduce your refund or increase the amount you owe when you file your 2020 tax return next year. Payments will not affect an individual’s income for government assistance or benefit programs.
- Is there a minimum income for these payments? Eligible individuals don’t need a minimum income for the Payment. However, for higher income individuals, the Payment amount is reduced by 5% of the amount that your adjusted gross income exceeds $75,000 ($112,500 for taxpayers filing as head of household or $150,000 for taxpayers filing a joint return), until it is $0.
- Who is not eligible for these payments?
- An individual who can be claimed as a dependent on another taxpayer’s return. For example, a college student who can be claimed on a parent’s return or an elderly parent who can be claimed on a child’s return.
- An individual who is a nonresident alien.
- An individual who files Form 1040-NR or Form 1040NR-EZ, Form 1040-PR or Form 1040-SS for 2019.
Tools for Economic Impact Payments
Two tools available on www.irs.gov:Non-Filers Tool and Get My Payment Tool
- If they have not filed their taxes yet and are not required to file taxes due to low income or no income, you should provide necessary information through the non-filer tool in order to receive your payment.
- If you are not required to file taxes and you receive federal benefits for social security retirement, disability, supplemental security income, or survivor benefits you don’t need to use non-filers tool. The IRS will automatically direct deposit or mail your Economic Impact Payment to where you normally receive your benefit.
- Used for tracking purposes and to input bank information for direct deposit of economic impact payment
- Direct deposit is the best and quickest way to receive your payment.
- If payment is pending or being processed, you cannot change bank account information at that time
- For some individuals who the tool indicated are receiving a check, the payment may come as a debit card. A limited number of cards have been issued. They arrive in a plain envelope with sender information under Money Network Cardholder Services. Some people have reported that they may have disposed of the envelope containing the payment debit card, if you are one of these individuals, it is important that you contact the IRS immediately.
- As a tax attorney for the New York County Lawyers Association, Frank Agostino assists low income taxpayers with difficulty navigating IRS procedures. His office also provides translated FAQs in commonly spoken languages. Multicultural and multilingual volunteers also assist with calls in different language and assist with the internet tools that IRS has provided
- $258 billion of the $300 billion allocated for economic payments have been distributed to 152 million taxpayers. In NY, taxpayers have received $15 billion of that money.
- However, 12 million taxpayers may not have received their payment because they are low income taxpayers, on SNAP or Medicaid and may not file taxes. 9 million of 12 million who have not received economic impact payments do not file taxes.
- Other groups who need to be identified as non-filers and that may not have claimed money that they are entitled to include individuals who may have children, those with lower education and homeless individuals
- New York County Lawyers Association assists taxpayers in three different ways: by calling and contacting individuals, through volunteer activities and through organization and immigrant community assistance.
Taxpayer Advocate Service
- An independent organization within the IRS that provides free service to eligible taxpayers
- Helps individuals, businesses, and exempt organizations where a system or procedure has either failed to operate as intended or efforts have failed to resolve the problem or dispute within the IRS.
- Your local advocate’s number is in your local directory and at: www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/contact-us
- Call the NTA Case Intake Line: 1-877-777-4778
- The Family First Cares Act authorized payment of pandemic EBT to households of students who are 16 years of age or under and would have received free school lunches had schools not been closed due to the pandemic.
- Based on the National School Lunch Formula eligible households are entitled to $5.75 per day per child. Since schools in New York State were closed for a total of 74 days, households eligible for the entire period are entitled to $420 in P-EBT benefits.
- Any child who received free school lunches or would have received free school lunches is eligible. There are no exceptions or qualifications; this includes students who may be undocumented.
- These payments are issued automatically. You do not need to apply for this benefit.
- Eligible households are broken down into 3 groups to determine when they will be receiving these benefits. These categories were determined based on ease of distribution, prioritizing families that already had a card to load benefits to:
- Households receiving SNAP or cash assistance during March 2020.
- 710,000 households of 2.1 million children have already received the payment directly onto their EBT/SNAP cards in June 2020.
- Children directly certified for eligibility in national school lunch program based on receipt of Medicaid (below a certain income level)
- Office is still putting files together for 600-630,000 children and will issue benefits in the next two weeks and in July
- Children not known to public programs
- The office still needs to collect rosters from all the districts and find out who are all the children that receive free school school lunches in both public and non-public schools. Payments will go out in July.
- Households receiving SNAP or cash assistance during March 2020.
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE UNDER THE CARES ACT
- Provides enhanced unemployment insurance benefits to workers displaced, fired or unable to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Who is not covered? Undocumented workers, people who can work at home (“telework”), individuals receiving other payments (i.e. paid sick or family leave), employer offers job back (as New York reopens) and the employee refuses to return (may depend on the circumstances)
Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC)
- Through July 31, 2020, all regular UI and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claimants will receive their usual calculated benefit plus an additional $600 per week in compensation.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
- This provision provides an additional 13 weeks of state UI benefits, which will become available after someone exhausts all their regular state UI benefits. In New York, the current number of weeks a UI recipient is eligible to collect benefits before being eligible for PEUC is 26 weeks.
Reasons for job separation are more broadly construed under the CARES Act
- Employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms of it and are seeking diagnosis;
- A member of their household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
- They are providing care for someone diagnosed with COVID-19;
- They are quarantined or have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;
- They were scheduled to start employment and do not have a job or cannot reach their workplace of employment as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak;
- They had to quit their job as a direct result of COVID-19;
- Their place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19; or
- They meet other criteria established by the Secretary of Labor.
Best method to file for unemployment is online at: https://dol.ny.gov/unemployment/unemployment-insurance-assistance
For additional questions or for legal assistance, contact Gender Equality Law Center:
- Confidential Hotline: 1-888-833-4363 or
- Confidential Hotline: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We invite you to join our next Zoom workshop on June 30th, 2020, which will focus on Coping with COVID-19 as an Immigrant!