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How does the federal stimulus package (CARES ACT) help me or my business? How do I get my economic impact payment?

Last Updated: 01/14/2021

CONTINUED ASSISTANCE FOR UNEMPLOYED WORKERS ACT OF 2020

On December 27, 2020, the federal Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act (Continued Assistance Act) of 2020 was signed into law. It extends some assistance from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability (CARES) Act, signed March 27, 2020.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provides up to 50 weeks of benefits, up until March 13, 2021, to individuals who are typically ineligible for unemployment benefits, for example independent contractors, self-employed, and "gig" workers; those who do not have enough earnings to qualify for regular unemployment; and eligible individuals who are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work due to a covered COVID-19 reason.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) was extended through March 13, 2021. PEUC now provides up to 24 weeks of additional benefits to those who exhaust 26 weeks of state unemployment for a maximum of 50 weeks. Individuals who exhaust these benefits may be eligible for an additional 20 weeks of state unemployment extended benefits.

Those collecting unemployment insurance or PUA may be eligible for Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides an additional $300 per week from January through March 13, 2021.

The law also extended employer tax credits for federal paid sick and childcare leave. Employers are not required to provide this leave after December 31, 2020, but may voluntarily do so and receive a tax credit. Learn more at dol.gov and irs.gov/coronavirus/new-employer-tax-credits

New Jersey along with other states continues to await further federal guidance for other aspects of the program including how to execute and distribute these new benefits to the record number of workers sidelined by the pandemic.

Additional details will be posted as more information becomes available.

2020 CARES ACT

The Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), signed into law on March 27, 2020 contains provisions that support individuals and small businesses in a number of ways.

Increased Unemployment Insurance Payments, Duration, and Eligibility

Until July 25, 2020, Unemployment Insurance provided an additional $600 per week, on top of regular and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits (known as "Pandemic Unemployment Compensation"). Benefits were issued for any eligible weeks, April 4, 2020 through July 25, 2020.

In addition, under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, individuals typically not eligible for unemployment compensation, such as independent contractors, self-employed workers, or those with limited employment history, will be able to receive unemployment benefits.

Through the Continued Assistance Act, eligible claimants can now receive up to 50 weeks of unemployment benefits. Individuals who exhaust these benefits may be eligible for an additional 20 weeks of state unemployment extended benefits.

Approved claimants must certify for these benefits online each week. The certification schedule -- based on Social Security number -- can be found at myunemployment.nj.gov.

Additionally, workers who left their job to provide coronavirus-related care to themselves, their family, or other relatives, will be eligible for unemployment benefits.

For more information and to learn how to apply for PUA, see the NJDOL's April 29, 2020 press release.

Direct Payments to Individuals and Households

Economic impact payments have been distributed automatically, with no action required for most people.

Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 automatically received an economic impact payment of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples. Parents also receive $500 for each qualifying child.

Those who meet the requirements will receive a second stimulus check of $600 from the Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act, signed into law December 27, 2020.

You can check the status of your payment on the IRS's Economic Impact Payment webpage.

Federal Student Loan Forbearance

Student loan payment suspension extended through at least September 30, 2021.

To provide relief to student loan borrowers during the COVID-19 national emergency, under the CARES ACT, federal student loan borrowers were automatically placed in an administrative forbearance, which allows you to temporarily stop making your monthly loan payment.

Payments were automatically stopped from March 13, 2020 through September 30, 2020. These emergency relief measures, which included suspending loan payments, stopping collections on defaulted loans, and waiving interest rates on federal Education Department-held student loans, were extended to September 30, 2021.

To determine if your loans are eligible, contact your loan servicer online or by phone. Your servicer is the entity to which you make your monthly payment. If you do not know who your servicer is or how to contact them, visit StudentAid.gov/login or call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243; TTY for the deaf or hearing-impaired 1-800-730-8913) for assistance.

For more information, please refer to this frequently asked questions page from the United States Department of Education.

Retirement Accounts

The usual 10% penalty on early distributions of IRA and defined contributions plans (like 401(k) plans) has been waived for coronavirus-eligible distributions up to $100,000.

Small Business Support and Workforce Development

On October 21, 2020 Governor Murphy announced $14 million in additional CARES Act funding for workforce development programs. The programs are designed to help businesses impacted by COVID-19 replenish their workforce and help jobless residents learn new skills that lead to successful reemployment.

The CARES Act funding will be implemented by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development and has been divided as follows:

  1. Relief Employment ($4 million grant) – This funding will provide dislocated workers and the long-term unemployed the opportunity to perform temporary jobs related to the state's recovery from the pandemic. The first sector targeted for these jobs will be long-term care.
  2. Customized and On-the-Job Training ($3 million grant) – This funding will cover up to 50 percent of training costs of a new employee if an employer commits to hiring that employee upon completion of the training. Essential and struggling industries such as retail, grocery, hospitality, tourism, health care, transportation, and logistics will be targeted.
  3. Employment and Training Services ($7 million grant) – This funding will expand career support services supported by the Workforce Investment Boards throughout the State. The services include outreach, intake, assessment screening, resume critiques, virtual job referrals, and referrals for short-term training, which can be provided remotely.

Additional support for small businesses include:

Emergency grants: Under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, eligible businesses may pursue grants of up to $10,000 to cover immediate operating costs.

Forgivable loans: Businesses with less than 500 employees may be eligible for loans up to $10 million. Costs associated with payroll, mortgage interest, utilities, and rent are forgivable.

Tax Credits: Employers who have partly or entirely shut down may be eligible for a tax credit of a percentage of wages paid to employees during the coronavirus public health emergency.

Manufacturing Extension Program: Eligible small and medium sized manufacturers may receive funding to support cost reduction, workforce development, product development, and growth initiatives.

Source: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/3548/text; https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/economic-impact-payments-what-you-need-to-know; https://blog.ssa.gov/commissioner-of-social-security-shares-update-about-covid-19-economic-impact-payments-for-beneficiaries/; https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payments; https://www.nj.gov/labor/lwdhome/press/2020/20200429_puapayments.shtml; https://www.nj.gov/labor/lwdhome/press/2020/20200701_20weekextension.shtml