Today the emergency relief bill, now known as The CARES ( Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, was passed to help bolster the U.S. economy as the country battles the coronavirus. The new law covers a broad cross-section of the economy—including the freelance sector. Of particular note, the relief package gives jobless workers bigger unemployment checks over a longer period of time, including freelancers and the self-employed who are typically excluded from collecting these benefits.
Here’s what else freelancers can expect to receive in terms of financial relief under this new law:
• All self-employed workers, contractors, government employees, individuals seeking part-time work, and workers who quit their job or can’t reach their place of work as a result of COVID-19 are among those eligible for unemployment benefits.
• The law allows for individuals to claim unemployment benefits for an extended period of time (up to four months) and waives the typical one-week waiting period to start receiving benefits.
• Weekly unemployment benefit payouts are increased by $600.
• The law also revives the “Emergency Unemployment Compensation” program for 13 additional weeks on top of states’ standard programs, meaning that if your state’s total benefit period for unemployment payments is 26-weeks you could receive up to 39 weeks with this federally-funded extension.
• On an individual basis, freelancers are also eligible to receive the direct cash payments to lower- and middle-income Americans of $1,200 for each adult (up to $2,400 for couples), as well as $500 for each child if they meet the stated income. People with no federal tax liability will receive only $600. It is anticipated that checks will be cut April 6.
• The individual check totals start to phase out from $75,000 to $99,000 ($150,000 to $198,000 for couples filing jointly) in adjusted gross income based (AGI) on 2019 income tax returns. 2018 returns will be used to calculate your AGI if the more recent information is not available). Ultimately, the package will be “reconciled after the fact” with your 2020 earnings, meaning if you earn more or less this year, you may have to pay back some of the relief money or get a bigger rebate next year.
• The law also allows corporations to delay estimated tax payments until October 15, 2020. Self-employed people can also delay payroll taxes.
• In addition, The Department of Education is suspending student loan payments until September 30, 2020 without penalty.
• Last week, the federal government also extended FMLA coverage to freelancers and the self-employed who get ill from the coronavirus or who must care for a family member or a child who is not in school due to the pandemic. You can read our previous blog for details on these benefits.
The Paycheck Protection Program May Help Freelance Businesses
Another element of the CARE Act is the Paycheck Protection Program. Under this program, the Small Business Administration (SBA) will distribute $350 billion in small business loans that can be partially forgiven if companies meet certain requirements. The objective of the program is to provide up to eight weeks of cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally guaranteed loans.
Here are the key points about the Paycheck Protection Program:
Jonathan Medows is a certified public accountant licensed in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. He is also a recognized expert in taxation for freelancers and the self-employed—often tapped for his expert knowledge and perspective on self-employment taxation by national and regional publications such as The New York Post, BusinessWeek, Forbes taxation blog, WebCPA, CPA Practice Advisor, and others. You can read some of Jonathan’s press coverage here.
©2021 MEDOWS CPA, PLLC