Opportunities for Government Financial Relief

Here is a list of financial relief opportunities from the government and from organizations available for individuals as well as small businesses. Please note that the generous unemployment benefits explained below can help employees as well as self-employed individuals.  As new programs open up we will continue to update this list accordingly.

Reminder – Step Up For Students Scholarship :

The application portal for Step Up For Students is now open but funds are limited. Income-eligible students entering kindergarten through 12th Grade can receive significant scholarships from the State of Florida to help defray the cost of tuition for the 2020-21 school year.  If you have not yet applied, begin your application as soon as possible; especially if your income is reduced at this current time. Please note that due to new regulations, once you are approved for SUFS, you are automatically approved for life and do not have to recertify each year, even if your income increases. If your income has been reduced due to the coronavirus, even if only temporarily, take advantage and apply for SUFS now at  stepupforstudents.org/logins/income-based-scholarship-login/. Please be in touch with Mrs. Ruchie Berger at rberger@ytcte.org with any questions or to see if you are eligible.

NEW PROGRAMS

Interest-Free Loans from the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Miami:

This program from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation is providing interest-free loans of up to $3,000 to qualified borrowers in need in Miami-Dade to help with expenses related to the pandemic, such as lost wages, childcare costs, and medical expenses. Call 305-692-7555 to request an application or click here.Completed applications should be emailed to info@hebrewloan.org.

Free Internet Service:

Some service providers are offering temporary free internet service due to the pandemic, including Xfinity (internetessentials.com/), Charter Spectrum (1-844-488-8395 ) and Altice Internet (866-200-9522). In addition, the government Lifeline program offers reduced-cost options for low-income households (https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/lifeline-support-affordable-communications).

Free Lunch Program for Children from Teach Florida:

Teach Florida is working to provide 12,000 free kosher lunches to children aged 2-18. We will update this page once we have more detailed information on this program.

Emergency Economic Injury Grants For Small Business:

This grant provides an emergency advance of up to $10,000(Up to $1000 per employee you have) to small businesses and even sole proprietorships harmed by COVID-19 within three days of for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) being processed. To access the advance, you first apply for an EIDL and then request the advance. The advance does not need to be repaid under any circumstance and may be used to keep employees on payroll, pay for sick leave, meet increased production costs due to supply chain disruptions, or pay business obligations, including debts, rent and mortgage payments. https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/

  1. Guidance for Individuals:

Stimulus Payments:

The CARES Act will provide one-time non-taxable cash payments to most Americans. Most adults will receive $1,200 for themselves and an additional $500 for every child, age 16 and under. The payment decreases for individuals with an adjusted gross income above $75,000, and fully phases out for individuals with no children if their adjusted gross income is $99,000 or above. Couples filing jointly are eligible for the full stimulus payment if they make less than $150,000 annually; it fully phases out for families with no children at $198,000.

Payments will be based on your 2019 tax return, or if you have not yet filed this year, your 2018 tax return. You do not need to apply for the payment as long as the IRS already has your bank account information. It will be a direct-deposit to your account. If the IRS does not have your direct deposit information, you will be able to provide it to them at a later date. Alternatively, they will mail you a check.

Unemployment:

The CARES Act creates a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program through December 31, 2020, to provide payment to those not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits, (This includes people who are self-employed, independent contractors, those with limited work history, and others) who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency.

Specifically, the CARES Act provides that a “covered individual” includes anyone who self-certifies that they are able and available to work but is unemployed or partially unemployed due to any of the following:

  • The individual has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • A member of the individual’s household has been diagnosed with COVID-19; or
  • The individual is providing care for a family member or household member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19; or
  • The individual is the primary caregiver for a child or other person in the household who is unable to attend school or another facility as a direct result of COVID-19; or
  • The individual is unable to work because a health care provider has advised the individual to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns; or
  • The individual was scheduled to commence employment and does not have a job or is unable to reach the job as a direct result of COVID-19; or
  • The individual has to quit a job as a direct result of COVID-19; or
  • The individual’s place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19.

The law also applies to those who are self-employed (and independent contractors). Individuals are not eligible for benefits if they have the ability to telework with pay or are receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits. Part-time workers are also eligible for benefits, but the benefit amount and how long benefits will last vary from state to state. They are also eligible for the additional $600 weekly benefit.

Other key features of the new unemployment benefits include:

  • The amount of benefits includes the amount that would be calculated under state law plus $600 per week for up to four months.
  • Waiver of the usual one-week waiting period.

This unemployment counts as income and would affect other programs you may be on, except for CHIP and Medicaid. An employee who was already on unemployment and exhausted their benefits can still reapply and will be eligible for at least 13 weeks of the $600 increase.

Retirement accounts:

Individuals may also be able to tap into retirement accounts. The provision waives the 10% early withdrawal penalty for distributions up to $100,000 from qualified retirement accounts for coronavirus-related purposes made on or after January 1, 2020. In addition, income attributable to such distributions would be subject to tax over three years, and the taxpayer may recontribute the funds to an eligible retirement plan within three years without regard to that year’s cap on contributions. Further, the provision provides flexibility for loans from certain retirement plans for coronavirus-related relief.

Student Loans:

Until September 30th, all payments to government held student loans will be automatically suspended.

Mortgage Forbearance and Rent Relief:

The legislation provides relief for homeowners and renters, ensuring that Americans’ homes are not threatened by the coronavirus. It enables payment forbearance for federally backed mortgages, requires a foreclosure and eviction moratorium for homeowners with such mortgages, and imposes an eviction moratorium for renters in federally supported housing.

If your mortgage is owned by Fannie Mae, you can call their Disaster Response Network at 877-833-1746. You can look here if your mortgage is owned by Fannie Mae.

If your mortgage is owned by Freddie Mac, you can visit the consumer page here.

For assistance with this process, please call Agudath Israel’s Mortgage Assistance Hotline: 718-435-1300 extension 120. Leave a clear message as prompted, and an SBCO Counselor will return your call as soon as possible.

In addition, many banks and credit card companies are willing to temporarily suspend other loan payments. Please contact your lender.

The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act:

For a helpful Q & A, click here.

In summary, the act provides financial assistance to employees who are unable to work due to the closure of a child’s daycare or school due to a Public Health emergency (the child must be below 18 years old). The employee will receive 2/3 of their salary capped at $200 a day. The first ten days of leave is unpaid, but one may use sick leave or other paid time off (PTO). The employee cannot be forced to use PTO. The program lasts up to 12 weeks. If an organization has completely closed and there is no work for employees, they cannot go on family leave. If parts of the organization remained open, those employees who would otherwise still be working and who have work to do, but cannot due to the need to care for a child, are eligible for family leave. Employers will be completely reimbursed as a tax credit. This act does not apply to employers who have more than 500 employees.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act:

The same Q & A linked above also provides guidance on this here:

In summary, this act provides financial assistance to an employee (as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act) who is unable to work due to either:

  • being subject to a quarantine or self-isolation order due to COVID-19 (the order can come from government or medical advice to do so); or,
  • caring for a family member who is in quarantine or self-isolation; or
  • closure of a school or childcare due to COVID-19 concerns.

If the employee went on sick leave because he or she was quarantined/self-isolated they are capped at $511/day, and $5,110 total.

  1. Guidance for Small Businesses:

There are several programs in the CARES Act to help small businesses and nonprofits retain their workers:

The Payroll Protection Program (PPP):

This program allocates $350 billion to help small businesses retain their workers. It provides Small Business Administration (SBA) loans that may be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payrolls through the crisis or restore them afterward. These loans are potentially 100% forgivable if used to keep workers on payroll during the “covered period” of Feb. 15 – June 30, 2020. You must apply for forgiveness of your loan, and certain documentation will be required.

Your business may be eligible for a PPP loan if you have less than 500 employees. Sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals who regularly carry on a trade or business can also apply. The maximum “loan” you can apply for is 2.5 times the average monthly payroll costs in the 12 months prior to the loan origination date, up to $10 million. There are exclusions, including employee compensation that exceeds $100,000 annually. The loan may be used for operational expenses such as payroll, health benefits, paid leave, mortgage or lease payments, utilities, and interest on debt incurred prior to February 15, 2020.

Borrowers can qualify for loan forgiveness equal to the following costs incurred during the covered 8-week period:

  • Payroll costs (includes parsonage, health care benefits, paid time off (PTO), and retirement benefits),
  • Interest payments on covered loan obligations,
  • Covered rent and utility payments.

The following expenses are not included:

  • The amount of employee salaries that is above $100,000.

Forgiveness amounts will be decreased for any reductions in the number of employees or reductions in wages 25% or more when comparing the covered period of employment to that same period in 2019. The interest rate on the loan is 4%. Loans will be made by SBA-approved lenders, which include most major national banks. The SBA is setting the guidelines, and the banks will be processing loan applications. To apply, contact a bank that is an SBA approved lender AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/Paycheck-Protection-Program-Application-3-30-2020-v3.pdf

Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs):

EIDLs are low-interest SBA loans of up to $2 million that are being made available to small businesses that are suffering substantial economic injury due to COVID-19. The SBA is processing loan applications for small businesses and nonprofits. The application can be found here: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/. Additional assistance can be found here.

Taking out an EIDL may impact your eligibility for a PPP loan, thus it may be advisable to pursue a PPP loan first. Applying for an EIDL, however, has other advantages, such as the Emergency Economic Injury Grant (see next section).

Emergency Economic Injury Grants:

As mentioned above, these grants provide an emergency advance of up to $10,000 to small businesses and private non-profits harmed by COVID-19 within three days of applying for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). To access the advance, you first apply for an EIDL and then request the advance. The advance does not need to be repaid under any circumstance, and may be used to keep employees on payroll, to pay for sick leave, meet increased production costs due to supply chain disruptions, or pay business obligations, including debts, rent and mortgage payments.

Additional Assistance:

If you, like many small business owners, need a business counselor to help guide you through this uncertain time, you can turn to your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Women’s Business Center (WBC), or SCORE mentorship chapter. These resource partners, and the associations that represent them, will receive additional funds to expand their reach and better support small business owners with counseling and up-to-date information regarding COVID-19. There will soon be a joint platform that consolidates information and resources related to COVID-19 in order to provide consistent, timely information to small businesses. To find a local resource partner, visit https://www.sba.gov/local-assistance/find/

In addition, the Minority Business Development Agency’s Business Centers (MBDCs), which cater to minority business enterprises of all sizes, will also receive funding to hire staff and provide programming to help their clients respond to COVID-19. Not every state has an MBDC. To find out if there is one that services your area click here.

Employee retention credit for employers subject to closure due to COVID-19:

There is a refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of wages paid by employers to employees when the workplace is fully or partially closed due to COVID-19 or gross receipts declined by more than 50% when compared to the same quarter as last year. For employers of over 100 employees, the credit can apply to employees who are not providing services due to COVID-19; employers of under 100 employees can apply to all employees. The credit is capped at $10,000 per employee and applies to compensation and health benefits through the end of 2020.

Delay of payment of employer payroll taxes:

This allows employers to defer payment of the employer contribution to the Social Security tax over the next two years (first half is due December 31, 2021; second half is due December 31, 2022). This cannot be combined with forgiveness of the PPP loan.

The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act:

The act provides financial assistance to employees who are unable to work due to the closure of a child’s daycare or school due to a Public Health emergency (the child must be below 18 years old). The employee will receive 2/3 of their salary capped at $200 a day. The first ten days of leave is unpaid, but one may use paid sick leave or other paid time off (PTO). The employee cannot be forced to use PTO. The program lasts up to 12 weeks.

If a business or organization has completely closed and there is no work for employees, they cannot go on family leave. If parts of the business or organization remained open, those employees who would otherwise still be working and who have work to do, but cannot due to the need to care for a child, are eligible for family leave. Employers will be completely reimbursed as a tax credit. This act does not apply to employers who have more than 500 employees.

While we are not financial advisors, if you find any of this information confusing, or need further guidance, please feel free to reach out to us at haskotzky@ytcte.org, and we will try to direct you to the appropriate programs.

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