Every day there's new information from your home state and the federal government during the COVID_19/Coronavirus crisis. Since it's the beginning of the month, we want to explain the current status of rent payments (and mortgage payments) and dispel any misinformation.
1. Do I have to pay rent during Coronavirus? The short answer is yes. This is in every state. Unless your landlord has told you you can skip a month(s), you have to pay your rent. The same is true for your mortgage. Unless you've been granted a forbearance of deferment for your rent or mortgage, or if your landlord has offered rent forgiveness, you must pay.
2. But, what if you can't afford it? Pay what you can. Most states, including Washington and Idaho, have put a moratorium on eviction (renting) and foreclosure (mortgages). That means you can't be removed from your rental home or the house you own during the current shelter-in-place rules if you cannot pay because of the Coronavirus and your finances. It does not mean you cannot get kicked out for rules violations of other varieties. For example, Idaho has made clear that if you are using illegal drugs (including recreational marijuana), you can still be evicted. But, to be as clear as possible, it does not mean that you will not owe the rent or mortgage amounts you did not pay during the COVID_19 crisis. Those payments will be due at some point, and as of right now, there's no clarity if they will all be due immediately upon people being able to return to work and/or a lifting of any shelter-in-place/stay at home orders.
3. So, what should I do? If you can pay your rent or mortgage, pay it. If you can't or don't think you can pay it in full, pay as much as you can, as it may be due later.
4. If there is a rent or mortgage forgiveness order made by your state or the federal government, we will update this post. But, neither Washington nor Idaho nor the federal government have made any rule or law about rent or mortgage forgiveness.
If you have more questions, contact us (for WA & ID). Stay safe!
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.
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.