Answers to Your Questions about Coronavirus, CARES Act and Stimulus Payments

Stimulus payments
HealthCare & Seniors
401k withdrawals
Food Insecurity
Misc Questions
Unemployment & Stimulus

Stimulus Payments

How much will the 2nd stimulus check be?

People who earn less than $75,000, according to their 2019 tax returns, are eligible to receive at least $600. Couples who file jointly would need to earn less than $150,000 to receive $1,200. People and couples who file jointly could also receive $600 for dependents under the age of 17.

These payments will also go to people who receive Social Security retirement, survivor or disability benefits (SSDI), Railroad Retirement benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Veterans Affairs beneficiaries who didn’t file a tax return.

When will payments be sent out?

The Internal Revenue Service began sending payments on Dec. 29.

How can I get my direct payment?

Whether you get your stimulus check deposited directly into your bank account or mailed out in the form of a paper check or prepaid debit card largely depends on whether your bank information is on file with the IRS.

How do I know if IRS has my information to send the payment?

If an individual filed taxes during 2019, the IRS already has their information on file. The payment is expected to be delivered to their bank account in a matter of weeks.

If the IRS does not have your bank information on file, the agency will send checks via mail. This process could take up to five months.

Do I have to pay income tax on this payment?

No, this stimulus payment will not be taxed, and it won’t reduce your tax refund. You will be asked to report the amount you got on next year’s tax return to ensure your payment was correct.

What about state income taxes?

Varies from state to state. Individuals should check with their state government.

If I owe money to IRS, will my rebate payment be garnished?

No, unless you owe back child support.

What about the $2000 check that I’ve been hearing about?

The House of Representatives passed a bill that would provide a $2,000 check to many Americans, but the bill would still need to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president.

How can I verify that I am receiving a stimulus payment?

You can check the status of the second payment by using the Get My Payment tool, available on IRS.gov.

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Healthcare and Seniors

Can I stop wearing a mask after getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

No. For a couple reasons, masks and social distancing will still be recommended for some time after people are vaccinated.

To start, the first coronavirus vaccines require two shots; Pfizer’s second dose comes three weeks after the first and Moderna’s comes after four weeks. And the effect of vaccinations generally aren’t immediate.

People are expected to get some level of protection within a couple of weeks after the first shot. But full protection may not happen until a couple weeks after the second shot.

It’s also not yet known whether the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines protect people from infection entirely, or just from symptoms. That means vaccinated people might still be able to get infected and pass the virus on, although it would likely be at a much lower rate, according to one vaccine expert.

How can I tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19?

Influenza and COVID-19 are very similar in terms of symptoms. The only way to be certain is to get tested to know what’s you’ve got.

Body aches, sore throat, fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue and headaches are symptoms shared by the two. However, the flu typically causes people to feel sickest during the first week of illness. With COVID-19, people may feel the worst during the second or third week, and they may be sicker for a longer period.

Another difference: COVID-19 is more likely than the flu to cause a loss of taste or smell. But not everyone experiences that symptom, so it’s not a reliable way to tell the viruses apart.

Is it safe to go back to the dentist?

As of June 19, every state had allowed dentists’ offices to reopen for all procedures, according to the American Dental Association, which surveyed thousands of dentists earlier in June and found that patient volume is at nearly 60 percent of what it was before March 15, when dentists were told to shut down except for emergencies.

When calling to schedule an appointment, ask your dental office if they being clear about people not coming in if they have symptoms; Are they being strict about patients wearing masks? Are they making sure that the person who works on you is wearing a face shield and a mask; and what other measures are being taken to protect patients and staff from the spread of the virus?”

Many dentists are advising patients to wait outside or in their car until the dentist is ready to see them. They may take a patient’s temperature before allowing them to enter the office, they have removed magazines and toys from the waiting area, and have placed hand sanitizer throughout the office. They are also allowing more time between patients to sanitize rooms and surfaces.

What are the potential long-term effects of having COVID-19?

Because the coronavirus is still so new, scientists don’t know much about long-term effects. The best evidence comes from patients themselves, and some experience a variety of symptoms long after their infections have cleared.

Most people recover within a few weeks. For people who experience longer-term effects, the most common issues are bouts of exhaustion, headaches, anxiety and muscle aches that can last for at least several more weeks.

Patients who required intensive care, including those put on ventilators or kidney dialysis, can experience more serious issues.

Lung scarring can occur in people who developed pneumonia. Heart inflammation, irregular heartbeats, and worsening kidney and liver function have been reported as well. However, it’s too soon to know if those could be permanent problems.

Survivors who had long intensive-care stays sometimes need oxygen therapy or dialysis at home. Some also develop a condition called post-intensive care syndrome, which can include persistent muscle weakness and memory problems. That can happen after any critical illness and may be related to sedation and prolonged bed confinement during hospitalization.

Blood clots can also develop during and after COVID-19 infections, occasionally causing strokes. Even in less serious cases, blood thinners are prescribed and can require lifestyle changes to reduce risks of bleeding.

Most symptoms appear to eventually go away, said Dr. Thomas McGinn of the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research in New York, who was involved in one of the largest U.S. studies of COVID-19 patients.

“It’s just a matter of when. For some patients it may take longer than others,” McGinn said.

https://apnews.com/113bef255eb0c33570f77e33515a6ca6

Can I get COVID-19 through my eyes or ears?

It’s possible through the eyes, but not likely through the ears.

As with the nose and mouth, doctors say the eyes may be a route of infection if someone with the virus coughs or sneezes nearby. Infection is also possible when rubbing your eyes with hands that have been exposed to the virus.

Tears from an infected person could also spread the virus.

Frequent hand washing, social distancing and the use of facial coverings in public are ways to keep the virus from spreading, including through the eyes.

Glasses may also offer added protection, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Health care workers are advised to use safety goggles when treating potentially infected patients.

Ears, on the other hand, are not believed to be a route of COVID-19 infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Since I am sheltering in place, will phone calls to my doctor be covered under Medicare?

The CARES Act makes telehealth appointments more accessible to Medicare beneficiaries. This will allow seniors — who are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus — to avoid going to hospitals or doctors’ offices for routine care that can be provided virtually. The telehealth option will not replace in-person health care when more extensive work ups are needed for diagnosis, or for monitoring conditions, or when patients need in-office procedures, or surgery.

When a vaccine is developed, will Medicare cover the cost?

When a coronavirus vaccine is available, Medicare beneficiaries will pay nothing out of pocket for the injection under Medicare Part B.

I am afraid of running out of my prescriptions before being able to get out to my pharmacy again.

The CARES Act enables the Medicare Part D prescription drug program to provide Medicare beneficiaries with a three-month supply of their medications.

What can a COVID-19 antibody test tell me?

An antibody test might show if you had COVID-19 in the recent past, which most experts think gives people some protection from the virus. The tests are different from the nasal swab tests that determine if you’re currently sick.

But studies are still underway to determine what antibody level would be needed for immunity. It’s also not yet known how long any immunity might last. For now, the tests are most helpful for researchers trying to track how the virus spreads in communities.

Dozens of companies are making rapid antibody tests to help identify people who had the virus and may have developed some immunity to it.

How should I clean and store my face mask?

Cloth face masks worn during the coronavirus pandemic should be washed regularly, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public health experts recommend wearing a mask made from cotton fabric, such as T-shirts, or scarves and bandannas, when you are outside and unable to maintain social distancing from others.

The covering should be washed daily after use. It is best to clean your mask in a washing machine or with soap and hot water. The mask should be dried completely. Dry it in a hot dryer, if possible.

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401k Withdrawals

I may need to withdraw money from my 401k to pay my bills. Will I pay a penalty?

The CARES Act gives you the penalty-free option to take money out of your 401(k) plan or IRA before you are 59½.

It allows individuals to take a loan up to $100,000 from their 401(k). IRAs don’t permit loans.

(Individuals can take a coronavirus hardship distribution up to $100,000 from a 401(k) or IRA without a 10% early withdrawal penalty and will have up to 3 years to pay the taxes or replace the funds in the account.

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Food Insecurity and Seniors

How can homebound seniors get food assistance?

The CARES Act provided an additional $480 million in flexible congregate and home-delivered nutrition services for seniors; $20 million for Native American aging program nutrition services; and the bill relaxes dietary guidelines to ensure that local meal providers are able to accommodate the increasing demand while facing limitations in the food supply chain during the pandemic. 

Additionally, the new expands the definition of “homebound” to clarify that older adults who are self-isolating are eligible to receive services.

Seniors or their caregivers should contact their local depts of Aging for help.

Is there any other help for seniors in the CARES Act?

Yes – $50 million to maintain housing stability and services for low-income seniors; and

$900 million in grants to states to support immediate home energy assistance for low-income households affected by the coronavirus.

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Unemployment and Stimulus

Will additional unemployment benefits be subject to taxes?

Yes, all unemployment benefits are treated as taxable income for federal and state income tax purposes except for five states which exempt UE from their taxes (CA, PA, VA, NJ, OR)

Can you receive Social Security and Unemployment benefits at the same time?

Yes. Unemployment benefits are not counted as wages under the Social Security annual earnings test, so they won’t affect your Social Security benefits.

Some states used to reduce your unemployment benefit if you collected Social Security, but that is no longer the case. All states that had such policies have repealed them.

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Miscellaneous

Do I need to wear a mask if I’m 6 feet away from others?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says spread of the virus beyond 6 feet is uncommon but more likely in poorly ventilated spaces. Some health experts say the virus can spread more easily than the CDC indicates, and suggest wearing masks even in prolonged outdoor gatherings when people are more than 6 feet apart.

When people raise their voices or pant — such as when they sing, shout or exercise — they can expel more respiratory droplets or aerosols and send them traveling farther through the air. The longer you’re in a situation with potential for exposure to the virus, the greater your risk of infection.

Experts suggest wearing a mask whenever you leave your house, to eliminate any uncertainty.

Can mosquitoes spread the coronavirus?

No. Mosquitoes can spread some diseases, but not Coronavirus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it has no data to suggest the coronavirus is spread by either mosquitoes or ticks. COVID-19 is mainly spread from person to person through droplets people spray when they talk, cough or sneeze. The virus would have to infect the mosquito and multiply inside of it in order for the mosquito to pass it on to people. That failed to happen when researchers injected three species of mosquitoes with the virus.

Is it safe to stay in hotels as re-openings get underway?

Take precautions. Call ahead to the hotel to see how they are working to minimize the risk of COVID-19. For example, are the staff wearing face coverings? How have the hotel’s cleaning practices been increased?

Check on-lone before making reservations since many hotels post their prevention steps on their websites. These include hand sanitizer stations in lobbies, disinfecting surfaces like elevator buttons more frequently and removing extra items in rooms, such as pens and paper. Breakfast buffets may also be replaced with meals. Social distancing, avoiding crowded elevators, taking stairs when possible, avoid common areas and dining out are some measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

https://apnews.com/e80b138d877929fbfb4be24acd5e8aa2

Is it safe to open mail and packages during the pandemic?

There is no evidence that COVID-19 is spreading through mail or parcels, according to the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of it is spread from droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, which are inhaled by people nearby. Health experts say the risks are very low that COVID-19 will remain on envelopes or packages and infect anyone who handles them. It’s still a good idea to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly — and avoid touching your face — after handling deliveries.

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