The U.S. economy is still struggling due to COVID-19. As industries like retail, hospitality, and entertainment continue to suffer, the government is looking for a way to strengthen the economy.
For you, the consumer, that means you may see another check in the future. The HEROES Act, which is short for Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, aims to issue additional stimulus checks to millions of Americans, as well as extend unemployment benefits.
Although the $3 trillion bill is still in its early stages and needs to pass the Senate, I’ve put together some information so you’ll know what to expect if it does go through.
What is the HEROES Act?
Although you’re free to read the bill in its entirety, I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s a whopping 1,800 pages-plus in length and isn’t exactly fun reading. You’ll just need the basics to get an idea of how the bill can help you.
First, there’s the payment. The bill proposes another $1,200 to those who qualify. It also would extend the $600 weekly unemployment payout. This program, called the federal pandemic unemployment compensation (FPUC) booster, is set to expire July 31st.
The bill also helps out struggling local governments. The legislation calls for $500 billion in funding to be distributed to state governments, as well as an additional $375 billion to cities, counties, and other local municipalities. The National Governors Association approved of the amount in the bill, saying it’s necessary to keep states from having to make cuts to essential services.
Who qualifies for assistance?
With the first stimulus payout, issued under the CARES Act, individuals with an adjusted gross income of less than $99,000, or $198,000 if filing jointly, with no dependents were eligible for a stimulus check. The amount of that check was adjusted based on your income, topping out at $1,200 per adult in your household.
Unfortunately, the first round left out a portion of the population. The original round directed payments only to those with a Social Security number, but some found that if their spouses didn’t have a Social Security number they were left out. The HEROES Act would allow some taxpayers to receive a check in that situation.
The new act also helps parents whose children didn’t qualify them for the $500 dependent credit in the last round. Instead of using the age of dependents, it would issue the $500 check for each qualifying dependent, even if that dependent is over 16.
Assistance for frontline workers
Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, frontline workers have been hard at work, making sure quarantined employees had access to healthcare, groceries, delivery services, and other essential needs. The HEROES Act recognizes these workers, acknowledging the risks they’re taking in making sure the public stays safe and healthy.
The HEROES Act has gained the support of many of these frontline workers, including National Nurses United, the largest union of registered nurses. The act provides funds for a pay increase for these workers, offering a pay raise equivalent to $13 an hour until December 31, 2020.
The act also includes protections for these workers, including increased production of personal protective equipment (PPE) and support for the Every Worker Protection Act of 2020, which mandates Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) oversee worker safety during the pandemic.
The bill focuses heavily on medical personnel when mentioning front-line workers. However, it applies to all employers with employees performing essential work. Essential work is defined under the act as anyone who works from January 27, 2020 to 60 days after the last day of COVID-19, and conducts the work in person rather than through telework. The full list of included workers is on page 1,535 of the bill, but a partial list of front-line workers qualifying for the assistance follows.
- First responders, including police, fire, and emergency medical personnel.
- Healthcare workers who interact with patients.
- Pharmacy and medical laboratory workers.
- Social services workers.
- Grocery store workers.
- Restaurant workers, including carryout, drive-thru, or food delivery.
- Food production workers.
- Transportation and warehouse workers.
- News media workers.
- Laundry workers.
- Elections personnel.
- Postal workers.
What to do next
There’s no guarantee this bill will go through. In fact, members of the Senate have publicly stated that it’s highly unlikely to pass. That doesn’t mean some variation of it won’t eventually make its way through, though. While you wait, there are some things you can do to make sure you’re prepared.
First, use the Get My Payment tool if you want to switch to direct deposit. You may not be able to change it at this point, but it’s worth checking out. If you received your first payment in the mail, and you do nothing, any future payments will come that way, as well. If you can’t update it, chances are the IRS will open up the tool to let you update your information once a second stimulus payment becomes official.
You’ll also need to file your taxes if you haven’t already. With the first stimulus payment, the government went by your 2018 taxes if you hadn’t yet filed for 2019. But the updated July 15th filing deadline is rapidly approaching. There are more ways than ever to file your taxes online. As you file, make sure you choose the direct deposit option for your refund so the government will have your bank account information for future payments.
COVID-19 has made things tough for many Americans. A second stimulus payment could make a big difference, both to the lagging economy and the many workers who are struggling. You can read the full legislation here if you’re interested in dissecting the finer details. But keep an eye on the news in the coming days to see if the Senate makes changes or kills it altogether.