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 is the third Economic Impact Payment?

Those eligible will automatically receive an Economic Impact Payment of up to $1,400 for individuals or $2,800 for married couples, plus $1,400 for each dependent. Unlike EIP1 and EIP2, families will get a payment for all their dependents claimed on a tax return, not just their qualifying children under 17. Normally, a taxpayer will qualify for the full amount if they have an adjusted gross income of up to $75,000 for singles and married persons filing a separate return, up to $112,500 for heads of household and up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns and surviving spouses. Payment amounts are reduced for filers with incomes above those levels.

Who is eligible for the third Economic Impact Payment and what incomes qualify?

Generally, if you are a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident alien, you are eligible for the full amount of the third Economic Impact Payment if you (and your spouse if filing a joint return) are not a dependent of another taxpayer and have a valid Social Security number (see exception when married filing jointly) and your adjusted gross income (AGI) on their tax return does not exceed:

  • $150,000 if married and filing a joint return or if filing as a qualifying widow or widower
  • $112,500 if filing as head of household or
  • $75,000 for eligible individuals using any other filing statuses, such as single filers and married people filing separate returns.

Payments will be phased out – or reduced — above those AGI amounts. This means taxpayers will not receive a third payment if their AGI exceeds:

  • $160,000 if married and filing a joint return or if filing as a qualifying widow or widower
  • $120,000 if filing as head of household or
  • $80,000 for eligible individuals using other filing statuses, such as single filers and married people filing separate returns.

For example, a single person with no dependents and an AGI of $77,500 will normally get a $700 payment (half the full amount). A married couple with two dependents and an AGI of $155,000 will generally get a payment of $2,800 (again, half the full amount). Filers with incomes of at least $80,000 (single and married filing separately), $120,000 (head of household) and $160,000 (married filing joint and surviving spouse) will get no payment based on the law.

Determining eligibility for the third Economic Impact Payment

Most eligible people will get the third Economic Impact Payment automatically and won’t need to take additional action. The IRS will use available information to determine eligibility and issue the third payment to eligible people who:

  • Filed a 2020 tax return.
  • Filed a 2019 tax return if the 2020 return has not been submitted or processed yet.
  • Did not file a 2020 or 2019 tax return but registered for the first Economic Impact Payment using the special Non-Filers portal last year.
  • Are federal benefit recipients as of December 31, 2020, who do not usually file a tax return and received Social Security and Railroad Retirement Board benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Veteran benefit recipients in 2020. The IRS is working with these agencies to get updated information for 2021 to assist with stimulus payments at a date to be determined. IRS.gov will have more details.

How do I find out if the IRS is sending me a payment?

Beginning Monday, people can check the status of their third payment by using the Get My Payment tool, available in English and Spanish only on IRS.gov. The tool is being updated with new information, and the IRS anticipates that updated information will be available soon.

How will the IRS know where to send my payment? What if I changed bank accounts?

The IRS will use data already in its systems to send the third stimulus payments. Taxpayers with direct deposit information on file will receive the payment that way. Those without current direct deposit information on file will receive the payment as a check or debit card in the mail.

Will people receive a paper check or a debit card?

The IRS encourages people to check Get My Payment for additional information; the tool on IRS.gov will be updated on a regular basis starting Monday, March 15. People who don’t receive a direct deposit should watch their mail for either a paper check or a debit card. To speed delivery of the payments to reach as many people as soon as possible, some payments will be sent in the mail as a debit card. The form of payment for the third stimulus payment may differ from the first two.

People should watch their mail carefully. The Economic Impact Payment Card, or EIP Card, will come in a white envelope prominently displaying the U.S. Department of the Treasury seal. It has the Visa name on the front of the Card and the issuing bank, MetaBank®, N.A. on the back of the card. Information included with the card will explain that this is an Economic Impact Payment. More information about these cards is available at EIPcard.com.

How are married couples affected, if only one spouse has a Social Security number?

As with EIP2, joint filers where only one spouse has a Social Security number (SSN) will normally get the third payment. This means that these families will now get a payment covering any family member who has a work-eligible SSN.

For taxpayers who file jointly with their spouse and only one individual has a valid SSN, the spouse with a valid SSN will receive up to a $1,400 third payment and up to $1,400 for each qualifying dependent claimed on the 2020 tax return.

Active Military: If either spouse is an active member of the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the taxable year, only one spouse needs to have a valid SSN for the couple to receive up to $2,800 for themselves in the third stimulus payment.

Is any action needed by Social Security beneficiaries, railroad retirees and those receiving veterans’ benefits who are not typically required to file a tax return?

Most Social Security retirement and disability beneficiaries, railroad retirees and those received veterans’ benefits in 2020 should not need to take any action to receive a payment. As with the first two stimulus payments, the IRS is to send out the new payments the same way benefits are normally paid. The IRS is working directly with other federal agencies to obtain updated 2021 information for recipients.

Some people who will receive an automatic third payment based on their federal benefits information may need to file a 2020 tax return even if they don’t usually file. If your third payment does not include a payment for your qualified dependent who did not receive a third payment, you must file a 2020 tax return to be considered for an additional third payment even if you don’t normally file.

If you’re eligible and didn’t get a first or second Economic Impact Payment or got less than the full amounts, you may be eligible for the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit but you’ll need to file a 2020 tax return. See the special section on IRS.gov: Claiming the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit if you aren’t required to file a tax return.

I didn’t file a 2019 or 2020 tax return and didn’t register with the IRS.gov non-filers tool last year. Am I eligible for a payment?

Yes, if you meet the eligibility requirements. While you won’t receive an automatic payment now, you can still get all three payments. File a 2020 return and claim the Recovery Rebate Credit.

The IRS urges people who don’t normally file a tax return and haven’t received any stimulus payments to look into their filing options. The IRS will continue reaching out to non-filers so that as many eligible people as possible receive the stimulus payments they’re entitled to.

The IRS encourages people to file electronically, and the tax software will help figure the correct stimulus amount, which is called the Recovery Rebate Credit on 2020 tax forms. Visit IRS.gov/filing for details about IRS Free FileFree File Fillable Formsfree VITA or TCE tax preparation sites in the community or finding a trusted tax professional.

Will people who receive a payment get a notice from the IRS?

Yes. As with EIP1 and EIP2, people will receive an IRS notice, or letter, after they receive a payment telling them the amount of the payment. They should keep this for their tax records.

Where can I get more information?

For more information about Economic Impact Payments, visit IRS.gov/eip. Check the payment status at IRS.gov/getmypayment. For other COVID-19-related tax relief, visit IRS.gov/coronavirus.

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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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