Late last week, a bipartisan stimulus package was passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law. Here's what you need to know from the 800+ pages of the bill's actual text:
1. Are we getting paid by the federal government? Every American with an income below $75,000 (or $150,000 for a couple) will receive a one-time payment of $1,200 ($2,400 for married couples). If your income is above $75,000 and below $99,000 (up to $198,000 for a couple), you will still receive a payment, but it will be less. Above $99,000 ($198,000 couple), you will not receive a check. Parents will also get $500 per child under 17.
2. How does the government know my income for the payment? It is based on your 2018 or 2019 tax return. If you have not yet filed, file asap. If you can file by eFile, your return will get processed sooner. If you need help filing, contact an accountant or tax professional. The IRS may be providing a streamlined filing option for 2018 & 2019 returns in the near future.
3. How do I get paid? If you have received a tax refund in 2018 or 2019, and you used direct deposit for your refund, your refund will be paid to that account. If you did not get a refund or use direct deposit, you may get a paper check. The IRS is considering creating an online portal to provide your direct deposit information, but that is not up and running yet.
4. When will I get paid? That is a good question. Those who received a refund in 2018 or 2019 and received a direct deposit should get paid in the next few weeks. Those who did not receive a refund or use direct deposit may need to wait longer.
5. How many times will I get paid? Once for now. This bill passed only provides for a one-time payment.
6. What about unemployment? I heard the bill provided changes. It did in a number of ways. Unemployment compensation is offered from state run programs, but the new bill will provide $600 extra dollars per week for up to four (4) weeks from the federal government.
7. How do I get unemployment? You need to apply with your state agency. In Washington, that is the Employment Security Department (ESD). Apply here: ttps://esd.wa.gov/unemployment. For Idaho, unemployment is handled by the Department of Labor. Apply here: https:.//www2.labor.idaho.gov/ClaimantPortal/Login.
8. What if I am a gig worker, a part-time employee, or self-employed and my business has been shut or I can't work ? Can I get unemployment? In the past, the answer to that is no. But, the new bill passed federally has a pandemic provision that will expand unemployment benefits during the crisis to those people traditionally excluded from unemployment. However, each state needs to update its structure and programs already in place to handle these newly-expanded claims. In Washington and Idaho where claims are handled electronically, this should be quicker, but be prepared to wait.
9. If I am a small business owner, is it true I will get loan forgiveness for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan? It depends on a couple of factors. First, you must have employees and you must be paying your employees during this crisis. If that is true, then you may be able to get forgiveness for loan monies used for payroll, mortgage, rent and utilities. Your business must have existed as of February 15, 2020 and forgiveness will run for provable coronavirus-based losses through June 2020.
10. How do I get an SBA loan for my small business? You still must qualify and apply through an SBA-approved lender. There are a number of exceptions to your ability to obtain a loan. More information can be found here: https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/top-priorities/cares-act/assistance-for-small-businesses.
Need more help for your business or personal employment/job situation? Contact us for a consult.
On Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a shelter in place order, but what does that mean? Simply, it means do your part to STAY AT HOME as much as possible during this outbreak of the coronavirus in our state and throughout the world. This does not mean that you cannot leave your house to walk, run, bike, or otherwise exercise outside. However, if you do that, you must stay AT LEAST SIX FEET away from any other people outside.
You can also leave your house for essential activities: grocery shopping, trips to the pharmacy, gas stations, take out only food (but delivery is also an option), and seeing a doctor or medical professional.
Public and private gatherings (parties, concerts, churches) are strictly prohibited. This includes in your own home or backyard.
If you are working in a non-essential job, and you can work at home, do it. In fact, you have to stay home and work at home if you can. If you've been laid off, see our previous blog post on financial resources for those out of work during the crisis: https://www.giantlegal.net/blog/coronavirus-financial-relief-washington-state.
But, what is an essential job? Each category contains examples only (the categories have many jobs listed):
So what if I'm a business owner, and I don't fit an essential category? This is tricky. If you can work at home, do it. If you can go to a delivery model, do that. I've seen small retailers use social media and the internet to sell clothing, art, and jewelry online. That is all allowed. If you are doing that, customers should not meet you to pick up items - they must be delivered, and you must limit the number of employees in your business or warehouse to handle online and phone traffic, as well as mailing to only those that are essential.
Gyms and fitness professionals can offer free or paid training through YouTube or Zoom or members' only portions of websites. Artists and writers can use Patreon or subscription based options, and writers especially can freelance.
If you are working at home, you may want to forward your business mail to your residence. You are still currently allowed to pick up mail at your business while following social distancing rules.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, IF YOU ARE SICK, FEEL SICK, OR HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO THE CORONAVIRUS, STAY HOME.
For more information contact us or see the Washington State coronavirus resource website: https://coronavirus.wa.gov/whats-open-and-closed.
Due to the extreme measures being put into place to contain the COVID-19/Novel Coronavirus, Courts are not operating as they normally are. If you are an active client, we will update you directly. We'll try to keep updating this list as things change.
Note that just because hearings are delayed or courts are closed, other litigation and case deadlines have not changed at this point. Discovery (written questions and document production, depositions) and related deadlines remind. Statutes of limitation to file a case have not changed. You can still open new cases and file motions.
Idaho Federal Courts (Federal District & Bankruptcy): These courts are almost exclusively electronic (or eFile). Hearings will be telephonic or moved. The Courts have posted limitations to who can enter the physical buildings. If you are sick or have been exposed to someone who is and/or if you have been traveling abroad, you cannot enter the physical courthouses.
Washington Federal Courts (Federal District & Bankruptcy): Like Idaho, these courts are primarily electronic (or eFile). Most hearings are already telephonic, so that will not change. Bankruptcy meetings of creditors may be postponed. If you are sick, do not physically enter the courthouse. No travel restrictions have been posted.
Idaho State Courts: All civil & family law hearings may be held telephonically or postponed based on the Judge's sole discretion. You will be notified by the Court. Hearings for domestic violence, child custody, and other emergencies shall be held telephonically, if possible. Eviction hearings are postponed. Lawyers must eFile and pro se (parties without lawyers) litigants can register to eFile or use special dropboxes. You cannot enter the Court if you are sick or have recently traveled to certain places. These changes are in place until at least April 10, 2020. More info can be found here: https://isc.idaho.gov/files/COVID-19-Order.pdf.
Washington State Courts: Changes vary greatly across the 39 Counties. All counties have asked people who are sick to stay home or reschedule your hearing date. For Spokane County Superior Court specifically, the following changes are in place:
Other Washington County info can be found here: http://www.courts.wa.gov/index.cfm?fa=home.courtClosures
Appellate courts (Washington & Idaho): Divisions 1-3, Supreme Courts, and the 9th Circuit have not changed any deadlines. Oral arguments on motions may be moved or delayed.
We are here to answer your questions and will update this as things change.
It's a scary time, but we are here to help. This post contains resources for Washington State residents needing financial relief with closures of schools and businesses. We will continue to update this post as we receive new information. Below are some options:
1. Washington State Paid Sick Leave. This has been mandatory for employers since January 2018. As an employee, you earn one hour of paid leave for each 40 hour period you work. This kicks in after your 90th day of employment. Your employer cannot penalize you or threaten your job if you take or use paid leave. We have blogged about this before, so here's what you need to know specifically about sick leave and Coronavirus.
If your place of business has been closed by a government official you can use Washington State Paid Sick Leave. So, if Gov. Inslee, for example, closed your employer's business, you can use paid sick leave if you are not being paid during this time.
If your child's school or day care has been closed for Coronavirus, you can use paid sick leave to stay home and provide care to your child.
An employer cannot require you to work from home if you've requested to use your paid sick leave. But, if you choose to work from home, you cannot use paid leave.
An employer that voluntarily chooses to close its business does not have to, but can offer, paid leave.
An employer cannot force you to use paid sick leave if you do not want to do so, but an employer can send you home if you exhibit symptoms of Coronavirus
If you have Coronavirus or any other illness, you can use paid sick leave.
Your employer may offer broader paid time off or sick leave beyond the Washington state program. Check with your employer for more details. Paid sick leave is run by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). More info is here: https://lni.wa.gov/workers-rights/leave/paid-sick-leave/index.
2. Paid Family & Medical Leave. This is a companion to the L&I program that is run by the Employment Security Department. You may know this agency as unemployment. This leave is available for Washington employees who have worked 820 hours during the past year in Washington. Self-employed people can opt-in to the program. but do not receive it automatically. Generally you can receive 12 paid weeks, but may be eligible for up to 18 weeks paid.
You can use it if you or a family member have a serious illness. You must apply: https://paidleave.wa.gov/.
3. Unemployment. This is always offered through ESD/Unemployment Office. You must have worked at least 680 hours (during the last 12-18 months) with part of those hours in Washington to receive unemployment in Washington State. If you have been laid off by your employer during this Coronavirus outbreak, you are likely eligible for paid, weekly benefits. You have to be an employee (not an independent contractor or self-employed person), but you can happily here: https://secure.esd.wa.gov/home/. Note that unemployment is not for people who are sick - it is for people who are mentally and physically able to work but currently cannot and cannot find a job at this time.
4. Other Paid Leave Programs. Your employer may offer options and some counties like King offer additional paid leave programs. Info for King County is here: https://www.kingcounty.gov/audience/employees/pay-benefits/WA-paid-family-medical-leave.aspx.
Remember, these options apply to employees only. How do you know if you are an employee? One quick way is to look at your paycheck. Do you have taxes deducted and does your employer give you a W-2 each year? You're an employee. If you are self-employed, you may have opted in to the Paid Family & Medical Leave program. Some options for you:
5. Food Stamps or Basic Food. Food stamps are called Basic Food in Washington State. Benefits are based on family size and family income. You need to apply. More information here: https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/community-services-offices/basic-food.
6. Welfare or TANF. Washington state operates a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). TANF provides temporary, supplemental income for families in need. You have to apply, and you must be eligible. Eligibilty includes having family resources of less than $6,000. The amount you receive depends on the size of your family, the income you earn, and any other benefits you are already receiving (like unemployment). Apply here: https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/community-services-offices/tanf-and-support-services.
All blog posts are written by members of the GIANTlegal team, unless otherwise indicated. Information contained in our blog does not constitute legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.