On Wednesday, the United States Senate passed a massive $2.2 trillion stimulus package to save the U.S. economy from the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, offering up tens of billions of dollars in new spending to help American workers and industry.
But what does that mean for you?
As the American economy is rocked by record-high increases in unemployment, the federal government has sought to reduce the burden on bureaucracy as much as possible, allocating billions of dollars to provide workers with increased unemployment benefits, tax breaks, and even get $1,200 or more deposited directly into their checking accounts.
Here’s what you stand to gain:
A one-time paycheck from the federal government
Contained in Congress’ stimulus package is a provision allowing for most American workers to receive a one-time, lump sum payment from the federal government ranging between $1,200 to potentially more than $3,000 for families.
To be eligible, recipients must:
- have a valid Social Security number (meaning undocumented immigrants are not eligible) and must have filed a tax return within the last two years;
- have an annual income at or below $75,000 ($112,500 for heads of household). If you’re filing jointly, couples must have an income at or below $150,000.
How much you receive varies as well. Individual filers who meet the eligibility requirements are set to receive $1,200 and couples will receive $2,400. An extra $500 will be added for every dependent child listed on your tax returns. For those making more than the above criteria, checks will be docked $5 for each $100 their income exceeds the above income limits. (i.e. an individual filer without children making $99,000 or more, for example, will not receive a check.)
An estimated $688 million of Wyoming's $1.25 billion share will go to the state while the rest will go to local governments, according to a Federal Funds Information For States readout obtained by the Star-Tribune.
Deposits will be made directly to an electronic account previously authorized by the taxpayer – likely through direct deposit. However, specifics are not yet available on the plan, according to the IRS website.
Benefits for the unemployed
The stimulus bill contains language expanding the scope of federal unemployment insurance, backed by an infusion of $260 billion into the system. According to a high-level summary of the legislation compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures, provisions for workers include:
- an expansion of unemployment insurance from three to four months with compensation set at $600 per week in addition to regular state and federal UI benefits.
- language allowing part-time, self-employed and gig economy workers to access UI benefits.
Other language in the bill waives a 10 percent penalty to withdraw from one’s retirement savings to pay for COVID-19 related expenses – a provision similar to language seen in other disaster-relief legislation – while waiving requirements for minimum distributions under certain plans.
To apply for unemployment insurance, visit the Wyoming Department of Workforce Service’s website, where they have an online portal for new users.
Help on your taxes
While the deadline to file your taxes had already been extended to July 15, the stimulus bill contains a number of items to help individuals and businesses with their tax bills. Some highlights:
- employers will now be able to receive an advance tax credit from the Treasury Department for unemployment insurance claims instead of having to be reimbursed on the back end.
- A deferral of payroll taxes for businesses and the self-employed until at least Dec. 31, 2021.
Check with your accountant to find out what solutions work best for you.
What didn’t happen
An obscure benefit contained in new legislation from Congress is funding for a program that allows workers who have had their hours cut by their employers to receive some unemployment benefits to allow them to make up for lost income.
Called Short Term Compensation, the program has been touted by some economists as a way to avert large-scale bottlenecks in large-scale unemployment events by allowing workers to apply for some benefits while remaining employed, giving firms the flexibility they need to retain employees and stay open.
Wyoming, however, does not have such a program, which is currently up and running in 27 states across the U.S.
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