For many Americans, the current state of the economy is creating real financial challenges and concerns. However, the federal government’s recently enacted CARES Act is intended to provide some financial relief to families and business owners who may be struggling to manage their finances, using cash disbursements, expanded unemployment benefits, and different loans and tax credits.
In addition to reading up on CARES Act programs, experts say there are several ways to make sure you get as much financial support from the bill as possible. Here are three things to think about:
• Estimate the value of your economic impact check and plan how you will use the money. The Internal Revenue Service may send up to $1,200 to individual taxpayers and $2,400 to married couples, plus another $500 for each qualifying child. Tools such as The Washington Post’s stimulus check calculator can help you determine the amount you may receive. Then you can decide what to do with your check: e.g., pay your bills, buy essential goods, save it or even invest it.
• Check your eligibility for unemployment benefits. The CARES Act created a new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program to provide benefits to people who lost their jobs, had their hours reduced or are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. You may qualify for these benefits even if you are self-employed or an independent contractor. Unemployment benefits have also been increased by $600 a week and extended to up to 39 weeks of coverage. The Department of Labor’s website (www.dol.gov/coronavirus) has more information on these changes, as well as guidance on applying for unemployment.
• If you own a small business, consider applying for a federal loan. The CARES Act set aside hundreds of billions of dollars for the Small Business Administration and the Treasury Department to provide financial relief to business owners and their employees. Loan options include the Paycheck Protection Program to help businesses keep workers on their payrolls and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan to help cover a temporary dip in revenue. Visit the SBA’s website (www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options) to learn more and apply.
A Certified Financial Planner (CFP) professional can help you understand these programs and make sound decisions about how to use your stimulus funds. A CFP professional can also provide competent, ethical advice on maintaining your financial well-being during this period of uncertainty. And, this advice can be provided remotely via phone calls, emails and video conferencing technology. To find a CFP professional near you, visit www.letsmakeaplan.org.
With thoughtful planning, you can make the most of these and other financial resources to weather the economic storm.