The federal government offers several programs to low-income households to help them support their livelihood. One such presentation is the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The LIHEAP helps qualified low-income families pay their heating and cooling energy costs (gas or electric utilities). But who qualifies for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program?
In this article, we will guide you through the eligibility criteria for LIHEAP. But before that, let us have a detailed look at the aspects of the program.
More About The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program has two provisions: Energy Crisis Intervention Program (ECIP) and Energy Assistance/Regular Heating (EA).
The Energy Assistance provides one-time payment assistance for paying the heating bills from November through March. The Energy Crisis Intervention Program, on the other hand, pays fuel bills when the energy is threatened to shut off, or is shut off.
The payment received will be based on the amount of money required to resolve the issue with the energy provider. The payment under ECIP is available during:
- Summer ECIP – This is available from June to September. The maximum amount paid under this program is $600.
- Winter ECIP – This is available November to May. The maximum amount paid under this program is $800.
LIHEAP mainly helps families who spend a major portion of their income on energy bills.
Eligibility requirements for the LIHEAP are based on household size, income, resources available, and responsibility for paying home energy costs. Some of the other requirements include:
- Should be a citizen of the U.S. or are legally admitted permanent U.S. resident
- Should be responsible for paying home cooling and heating costs
- The savings must not be more than $3,000 in retirement accounts, bank accounts, or other investments
- You or your family member must participate in any of the following programs:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Needs-Tested Veterans Benefits
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Note that the eligibility requirements may vary from one state to another.
How to Apply For The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program?
You may apply for LIHEAP online through your local provider’s website. Make sure you are applying through the appropriate agency for the country in which you are residing. Check if there is an online application so that you can complete and submit it through the mail without requiring to visit the office in-person. For information about local providers, you can visit https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ocs/liheap-state-and-territory-contact-listing. If you need some help with the application, you call toll-free number 1-866-674-6327.
- Due to the surge in the number of applications and queries, many times, the numbers of local agencies may remain busy. Be patient, and keep trying to reach them.
- Many local agencies receive calls only during specific operating hours. Therefore, make sure you call only those hours to avoid waiting to be answered.
- Local agencies receive applications, verify your eligibility, and directly make payments to energy firms on your behalf.
- Some LIHEAP local agencies require an appointment to assist with the application process. In such cases, you are required to schedule an appointment with the agency.
Required Documentation To Apply For LIHEAP
You are required to provide several documents while applying for LIHEAP. They include:
- Recent home energy bill
- Paychecks or other documents that show your gross income
- Utility termination notice
- Proof of citizenship or permanent residence
- Social security card
- Photo identification (including your household members)
Can You Appeal If Assistance Is Denied?
If your assistance is denied, you can file a LIHEAP appeal. To appeal, contact your local LIHEAP agency provider or your state’s Department of Community Services if any.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program can help you save huge amounts of money spent on paying gas or electric utility bills. If you qualify for this program but haven’t filed yet, then quickly apply as approvals for each month are limited.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), formerly known as the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program, is a federal program that provides free food assistance to low-income families. The program was established in 1983 and is administered by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) at the federal level. The program aims at reducing hunger.
Here, let’s have a detailed look at the Emergency Food Assistance Program.
More about The Emergency Food Assistance Program
Through the Emergency Food Assistance Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) purchases and makes nutritious and high-quality, USDA food available to state distributing agencies.
The amount of food the states receive will be based on the number of people with income below the state-defined poverty level and the number of unemployed persons. States will then distribute the food to agencies such as food banks. In turn, these entities will distribute the food to food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other local agencies that provide food directly to those in need.
The USDA foods can be used for household consumption as well as to serve meals in a congregate setting. TEFAP also provides states with funds to support the storage and distribution of USDA foods.
Who Qualifies For TEFAP?
Nonprofit private and public entities that distribute food for preparing meals to be served at congregate settings or household consumption can receive commodities under TEFAP.
Households may also be eligible for TEFAP food but only for home consumption. To receive the food, they must meet certain eligibility requirements, as mentioned below.
1. Total income of the household must be below or at 130% of the poverty level for the number of people living in the family
2. The household should qualify for any of the below-listed programs:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Aid to Needy Disabled (AND)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Medicaid Eligible Foster Children
Note – The “income” above refers to your gross income before any expenses, deductions, etc. The gross income includes wages, salaries, unemployment compensation, Social Security, pensions, public assistance or welfare payments, etc.
Recipients participating in a soup kitchen are not subjected to any test as it is assumed that those seeking a meal are needy.
Households should also meet income guidelines. The requirements may, however, vary from one state to another. For instance, the income eligibility in Michigan is as below.
|For each additional member add
In states like New York, anyone can qualify for TEFAP regardless of immigration status, income, etc.
How To Apply For TEFAP?
To apply for TEFAP, contact the state distribution agency in your state. You can find information about the agencies at https://www.fns.usda.gov/contacts?f%5B0%5D=program%3A27.
Note – When you collect the food, you are required to submit documents like a utility bill.
What Types Of Food Are Available?
Under TEFAP program, you can receive various types of food such as fruits, canned vegetables, pasta, beans, nonfat dry milk, rice, egg, and grain products. It may also include peanut butter, meat, and tuna. Usually, you can collect food any number of times, but the guidelines may vary with state.
TEFAP Program During COVID-19
To make sure that more families have access to healthy food during the pandemic, states like Wisconsin increased the income limit to collect food through TEFAP program. In states like Pennsylvania, the unemployed, service workers, and hourly wages, employees can receive food from local food banks or food pantries.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program provides nutritious USDA food to the needy and ensures they live a healthy life. The program does not discriminate based on color, race, gender, age, or disability. However, if you have been denied food due to the listed factors, you can write a letter to the USDA.
The Coronavirus pandemic has taken the states by storm. To curb the pandemic, states have implemented various measures such as social distancing, travel ban, self-isolation, etc. Though these measures helped in containing the pandemic to an extent, they caused businesses to shut down leading to an increase in the unemployment rate, one such being the state of Idaho.
As per the Labor Force statistics, the unemployment rate in Idaho rose to 11.5% and non-farm payrolls lost about 79,500 jobs in April.
To help the unemployed to meet their financial needs, the state provides enhanced unemployment benefits under the CARES Act which is set to expire in July, forcing Idahons to return to work.
However, despite businesses reopening, people are not comfortable returning to their work due to the fear of exposure to the Coronavirus. To encourage people to return, Governor Brad Little is looking to offer a return-to-work bonus.
More About Return-To-Work Bonus
Return-To-Work bonus is given to the workers to encourage them to take up their work while ensuring their safety. The Idaho Gov. Brad Little wishes to give a one-time cash bonus of $1,500 to workers returning to their full-time work, and $750 to those returning to their part-time work.
The bonus will be given on the basis of first-come, first-served for eligible applicants only after they return to their work.
Who Qualifies For Return-To-Work Bonus?
To qualify for return-to-work bonus employees must meet several eligibility criteria. Some of them include:
- Employees must return to work by July 1, 2020
- Employees must work for 4 consecutive weeks
- Wages of the employee is $75,000 or less annually
- The employee is the resident of Idaho
- The employee has worked for an employer in Idaho
How To Apply For Return-To-Work Bonus?
Employers must provide details on the workers for whom they are expecting a return-to-work bonus. This is required because of the existing relationship between the Tax commission and employers.
The qualified employer applicants must establish a secure Taxpayer Access Point (TAP) account to safeguard their business and personal information entered on the applications.
Steps to be followed while applying for return-to-work bonus include:
Step 1: Log in to the TAP account
Step 2 : Go to step 3 for employers who are not a third party filing on behalf of an authorized person. For third parties, choose client from the client list
Step 3 : Go to “I Want To” section and click the ‘Return To Work’ option
Step 4 : Fill the details and submit the application
- Applications for employees who returned to work between May 1 and June 14 will be accepted by July 13
- Applications for employees who returned to work between May 1 and July 1 will be accepted on July 20
How To Create A TAP Account?
To apply for a return-to-work bonus the applicants must first create a Taxpayer Access Point account. Follow the below mentioned steps to establish a TAP account.
- Visit the TAP home page and click “Don’t have a logon? Register here”
- Select “No” when asked if you have received TAP registration code. Then click “Next”
- Enter the details asked for
- For the “You Are” field, choose:
a. Business if you are an employer or owner (but not the sole owner) of a business
b. 3rd party tax professional if you are an accountant managing client’s taxes or a tax preparer
- Next click “Submit”
- After the submission, the Tax Commission will send you a letter with a registration code
- Once you receive the registration code, go back to the home page and login to your account
- Click “Yes” when asked if you have a registration code
- Click “Next”
- Go to the “Verify” page and:
- Enter the registration code (it is case sensitive)
- Choose the appropriate option under “You Are”
- Enter the SSN or EIN used during the pre-registration
- Click “Next”
- Enter the details asked for
- Click “Submit”
Return-to-work bonus not only encourages people to return to work but also helps state to improve the economy. To know more about this program, visit
Millions of Americans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus-induced economic shutdown. As tough it is to lose a job, people are now finding it difficult to collect their deserved severance package. While some workers are receiving severance pay for fewer weeks than expected, many others are getting the payment based on their base wage and not the total income.
Here, we will walk through what an employee can do if he/she does not get the expected pay. But before that, let’s have a quick look at what a severance package and how it works.
What Is A Severance Package?
Severance pay is a kind of payment or series of payments given to an employee when he/she is laid off or fired. The payment may also include the continuation of the health-care benefits for a certain period.
Who Can Get Severance Pay?
Employees who have quit their job voluntarily do not qualify for a severance package but are given to those who have been fired. However, there are certain exceptions. If an employee is underperforming and the employer prefer to lay off, then the employee may not qualify for the severance package, provided the employee was given sufficient chances to improve the performance.
The law does not require severance pay unless the employee has an employment contract that requires the payment. However, under the federal Worker Adjustment and Training Notification (W.A.R.N) act, employees may get some protection.
If the company has 100+ employees and is preparing to fire many people, the employer, as per the law, is required to give the workers a 60 days notice of a large departmental closing or company closing. If the employer fails to give the notice, then the employees are legally entitled to a severance package.
Can You Negotiate Severance Package?
Employees can usually negotiate severance pay. However, when negotiating for more, it is a must for employees to consider the factors that may sway the organization in their favor.
For instance, if the manager caused the employee to turn down a job at a different company, the employee can ask for an increase in the severance as he/she is left unemployed due to his/her loyalty to the company.
Note that the severance pay can only be negotiated for more than a higher payout. The employee can negotiate and ask payment for unused sick days and vacation.
How Much Severance Pay Does An Employee Receive?
Severance amounts vary with companies. Usually, companies calculate the amount based on the total salary and the duration an employee has worked.
For instance, an employer might offer severance pay for 2 weeks’ salary for every year. So if the employee has worked for 3 years, the employer may offer 6 weeks of salary.
What To Do If An Employer Is Not Giving A Severance Package?
As said earlier, a severance package is not required by law, and hence, a company can deny the payment. However, if there exists an employment contract that states the employee is entitled to the payment, the company must pay the employee, failing to which the employee can argue that he/she is entitled to the payment.
Second, if the employee and employer have signed a severance agreement, release, or separation agreement, and the employer fails to pay, the employee can go to court.
Is Severance Pay Taxable?
Severance pay is considered as income and hence is subject to taxes. The amount taxed, however, depends on how much the employee receives.
Severance pay is a goodwill act that provides employees with buffer time between working and unemployment. It may also safeguard employers from lawsuits and give them a competitive edge in the market.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a labor law that requires covered employers to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leaves to employees with no threat of job loss. The law was enacted in 1993 and aims at prioritizing the health and family of employees while protecting their jobs.
Not all employers need to adhere to FMLA law. Employers with more than 50 employees, all public agencies such as state, federal, and local employers, and schools must comply with FMLA rules.
What Does FMLA Cover?
Under FMLA law, employers must provide eligible workers with 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a year. These leaves need not be consecutive. The employer must also give the employee his/her position back after the leave. If the job is unavailable, then the employee must offer him/her another position with equivalent benefits and pay. During the leave period, the employer must still provide health insurance benefits.
Who Qualifies For Family And Medical Leave Act?
To qualify for the Family And Medical Leave Act, an employee must meet several eligibility requirements such as:
- The employee must have worked at least for 12 months for his/her employer
- The employee must have worked minimum 1,250 hours over the 12 months
- The employee must work at a worksite where the 50 or more workers are employed by the company or within 75 miles from the worksite
Under the Family And Medical Leave Act employers will grant unpaid leave for one or more following reasons:
- An employee is unable to perform his/her duties due to severe health conditions
- An employee is giving care to spouse, children, or parent who has serious health conditions
- An employee wants to care for a child after birth
- An employee is providing care to an adopted child or child in foster care
- An employee is dealing with emergencies concerning family member’s military activities
FMLA law applies to mothers as well as fathers, and also same-sex spouses.
Advance Notice and Medical Certification
Some companies may require their employees to provide 30 days advance leave notice and if the leaves are foreseeable. Employers may also require employees to provide certification and second or third opinions in case of serious health conditions. The employee must respond to the employers within 15 days of the request or provide the required certification. Failure or delay in giving certification may lead to the denial of continuation of leave.
Employees can collect medical certification using the Department Of Labor Certification (DOL) of Health Care Provider in case of a family member’s serious health conditions.
Procedure for Requesting FMLA Leave
Employees can request leave under the Family And Medical Leave Act either verbally or in the written form. Within 5 business days after asking leave, the Human Resource (HR) manager will complete and provide the DOL Notice of Eligibility and Rights.
As said earlier, the employee must provide 30 days’ notice if the need for the leave is foreseeable. However, in case of unforeseeable leaves, the employee must comply with the company’s customary and usual notice and procedural requirements for requesting FMLA leave.
Will You Be Paid While On FMLA leave?
FMLA doesn’t guarantee paid leave. However, an employee can choose to use his/her paid leave. Companies may require the employee to use paid leave under the FMLA Act until they provide the employee with the proper notification.
FMLA law allows employees to take off from their work and take care of themselves or their family members. Some employers may not provide FMLA leaves but may offer other benefits like disability insurance, paid maternity leave, etc. For more details on Family And Maternity Leave, visit https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fmla.
It is estimated that about 5% of American workers experience a short term disability due to various reasons, including pregnancy, illness, or injury. A disability may lead to a loss in income, thereby financial crisis. Fortunately, a Short-Term Disability insurance program can replace your lost income and provide you financial support while you take a break from your work to recover from illness or injury.
What Is A Short-Term Disability Insurance?
Short-Term Disability (STD) insurance provides income replacement or compensation if you are unable to work for a limited period due to illness, injury, and childbirth. Generally, the insurance program pays 40% to 60% of your weekly gross income.
Who Qualifies For A Short-Term Disability Insurance?
To be eligible for the Short-Term Disability insurance, you must meet several requirements. They include:
- You must have worked a minimum length of time before being eligible for the insurance program, i.e. 1 month or 6 months, depending on your state rules
- The injury or illness must be non-work related
- You must earn minimum wages if your state requires
- Pregnant women can collect Short-Term Disability benefits for several weeks for delivery and recuperate
- You have to submit medical records to prove your disability
- There is 7-days waiting period before benefits are payable. You cannot collect benefits until the 8th day of your temporary disability
- Benefits will not last more than 26-30 weeks ( 52 weeks in California)
States Providing A STD Insurance
Only a few states provide Short-Term Insurance benefits. They include California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. A few states offer temporary disability aid to low-income families through other programs.
For example, Maryland’s Temporary Disability Assistance Program (TDAP) offers monetary and housing and medical assistance.
California, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island states have paid family leave programs, and states like D.C. are set to authorize a paid family leave program starting from July 2020.
How Does A Short-Term Disability Insurance Work?
If you are not able to work due to illness or injury for a limited time and have a Short-Term Disability policy, you can file a claim. While filing a claim, submit medical records or other information that proves you are unable to work. Once approved, the payment will be sent to you directly. Note that you use the money to pay any bills, and there are no restrictions or limitations on how the benefits must be used.
Who Pays For A Short-Term Disability Coverage?
The state or employer provides a Short-Term Disability insurance policy. Generally, employers who offer policy have a choice of having their employees pay for coverage, with tax implications.
A Short-Term Disability policy provided by an employer pays a percentage of an employee’s wages for a limited amount of time. STD insurance policy given by employers may offer a wide range of full or partial income coverage, depending on the premium and policy level.
Each state has its own set of requirements as to whether companies must provide STD insurance. States can also decide the weekly cash benefit limits.
How To File For Short-Term Disability Insurance Program?
You can apply for Short-Term Disability either by filling a form given by your employer or
By visiting your state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development and filing the application form. The form will have 2 or 3 sections. After entering the necessary details in the employee section, give the form to your employer and doctor to complete the pending sections.
Is Short-Term Disability Insurance Taxable?
STD insurance may or may not be taxed. If you are paid with pre-tax dollars, the benefits will be considered a part of your income, and you would be liable to pay taxes. But if you are paid with after-tax dollars, you need not pay taxes on the benefits.
Short-Term Disability insurance can provide you financial security when you are unable to earn income to support you and to your family. If you are injured or pregnant, and qualify for the insurance program, then hurry up and submit an STD insurance application.
The House of Representatives recently passed a $3trillion bill known as The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. This bill would provide a second round of stimulus checks for Americans who lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The HEROES Act aims to provide a $1,200 base payment to eligible individuals and $2,400 for married couples filing a joint return. It would also provide an additional $1,200 for each dependent ( maximum of 3 dependents). For instance, a married couple with 2 children could get benefits up to $4,800.
The HEROES Act bill exceeds the cost of the $2 trillion CARES Act, the largest stimulus package in the history of the United States. Though the House has approved the bill, it is now up to the Senate to pass this second round of stimulus check.
What’s Included In The HEROES Act?
The HEROES Act includes several key provisions. Some of them are:
1. Hazard Pay
The HEROES Act bill would create a $200 billion “Heroes’ Fund” to provide hazard payment to some essential workers. That is, the eligible essential workers would get a $13 per hour pay premium in addition to their regular pay earned for total hours worked in essential sectors through the end of 2020. Essential workers earning less than $200,00 per year can get up to $25,000. And those who are earning more than $200,000 per year can receive up to $5,000 hazard pay.
2. Extended Unemployment Benefits
About 36.5 million Americans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and about 30+ million have filed for unemployment benefits. The HEROES Act would extend the financial measures from the CARES Act. This includes extending the extra $600 weekly unemployment benefit through January 2021. The second stimulus package will also allow the self-employed, gig workers, independent contractors, and part-time workers to take advantage of unemployment benefits through March 2021.
3. Changes To The Employee Retention Credit
The HEROES Act includes several provisions to the employee retention credit. The Act would increase the maximum credit amount from $5,000 to $36,000 per paid worker. It is also expected to change the 100-employee rule for determining wages for large employers. Under the HEROES Act, an organization with more than 1,500 full-time employees and gross receipts of more than $41.5 million in 2019 will be considered as a large employer.
4. Expansion Of The Paycheck Protection Program
The CARES Act has introduced the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that allows small businesses to borrow a loan up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll cost. This program was expected to end on June 30, 2020. The HEROES Act would extend the PPP through the end of 2020 and increase the 8-week loan use period to up to 24 weeks. The Act would also allow small businesses with 10 or fewer employees to get access to PPP.
5. Rental And Mortgage Assistance
The renters across the country have received little federal support since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. The HEROES Act would offer more support by providing about $100 billion for rental assistance. The benefit would be distributed through an existing nationwide grant rental assistance program. The rental program would cross-verify a tenant’s inability to pay rent and provide vouchers to cover the cost of the rent. The Act would also $75 billion for homeowners’ assistance funds meant to avoid mortgage defaults and property foreclosures.
6. Student Loan Forgiveness
The CARES Act suspended payments and interest for most Americans with federal student loans through September 30, 2020. The HEROES Act extends suspension through September 2021 and expands it to all federal student loans. This includes Federal Perkins Loans and HEAL loans not owned by the Department of Education. It also cancels up to $10,000 for some private and federal loan holders.
The HEROES Act can provide additional financial relief to the people who have lost their jobs or are experiencing reduced work hours if approved by the Senate. But will the Senate pass the second stimulus check? Let’s wait and watch!
In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the federal government has passed the New Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This financial relief program includes several programs such as PUC, FPUC, retirement plan provisions, and funding for Short-Time Compensation (STC) programs.
What Is A Short-Time Compensation Program?
Short-Time Compensation, also known as shared-work program or work sharing, is an alternative to layoffs for employers whose available work has reduced. It allows employers to reduce working hours of employees instead of laying-off some employees. This program protects employers’ trained workforce and employees’ jobs during times of lowered economic activity.
For instance, an employer might reduce his/her employees’ working hours by 10% instead of laying off 10% of his/her full-time workforce.
STC or shared-work programs are administered by state governments. The requirements may vary with states but they must meet certain federal requirements to receive funding for the programs. This includes:
- The reduction in number of hours worked must be in lieu of layoffs
- Employers must report the estimated number of layoffs that would have occurred in the absence of STC program
- The amount of UC payable must be in a prorated portion of what the employee would be receiving if he/she did not participate in the program
- Employers who offer health, retirement, or other benefits must certify that participating employees are still continuing to receive the benefits even after their work hours has been reduced
Who Can Qualify For An STC Program?
To be eligible for an STC program, employers must have an approved STC plan with an appropriate state agency. The STC application process is initiated by employers.
To qualify for a shared-work program, employees must be determined to qualify for UC benefits. While receiving benefits under an STC plan, employees need not meet work search or availability requirements, but must be available for their normal workweek. If the state requires, the employees should also serve “waiting week,” a non-paid week.
Does The Short-Time Compensation Program Help Employees?
The STC program not only helps employers but employees as well. That is, those employees who have experienced a reduction in working hours and lost a portion of wages can collect a percentage of unemployment compensation (UC) benefits.
Unemployment benefits generally replace half of an average employee’s wages. If an employee has experienced a 10% reduction in working hours, UC benefits would account to 5% of the employer’s wages before the working hours were reduced. Employees would therefore receive a combined income of 95%,i.e., 90% as wages plus 5% as STC.
Which States Have A Short-Time Compensation Program?
27 states have STC programs that meet the federal definition under Code Section 3306(v), and 26 among them have operational programs. The states that offer STC programs include:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
With extra funding available for STC programs under the CARES Act, it is expected that more states will implement these programs.
Where Can You Apply For STC Programs?
You can apply for STC programs through your state’s Unemployment Insurance agency. But before applying you must draw up a plan which must include:
- How many working hours will be reduced?
- How many employees will be affected due to reduced hours?
- How will the employees be notified about the reduced work hours?
It should also include:
- A statement that benefits will be provided to employees even after reducing work hours
- An estimate of the number of employees who would be laid off if a STC program is not implemented
- Certification that affected employees can take part in training to upgrade their job skills during the shared-work program
Details Required While Applying For STC Program
You have to provide several information while applying for a shared-work program. They include:
- Your company’s name, telephone number, address, fax number, and contact details for an authorized representative
- Names and social security numbers of employees who are affected due to reduced work hours
- Your tax account number
Is An STC Benefit Taxable Income?
Yes, an STC benefit is taxable income. Individuals who have received STC benefits should fill a Form 1099-G from the state where they have filed a claim, to show the amount received.
STC programs can help you not only retain trained employees but also improve the morale of your business by avoiding layoffs. For employees, these programs do not replace 100% income but can help you if your work hours are reduced. However, if you are still laid off under unfortunate circumstances, you can apply for other unemployment benefits programs like Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, etc. under the CARES Act.
On March 27, the U.S. Congress announced the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, And Security (CARES) Act. This act includes wide-ranging implications, including changes to unemployment insurance benefits, support to businesses, and self-employed. The CARES Act also consists of a retirement plan and Individual Retirement Account (IRA) provisions. In this article, we will walk you through the retirement plan provisions under the CARES Act.
The Coronavirus-Related Distributions
The CARES Act allows plan sponsors (company or employer) to offer a new type of distribution known as the Coronavirus-Related Distribution (CRD). This distribution can be made from qualifying retirement plans that start on January 1, 2020, and end on December 30, 2020.
Eligibility For Coronavirus-Related Distributions
To qualify for the coronavirus-related distribution, you must be a “coronavirus-affected individual.” That is,
- You are diagnosed with the Coronavirus by a Centers for Disease Control(CDC) approved test
- Your dependent or spouse is diagnosed with the Coronavirus by a(CDC) approved test
- You are unable to take employment due to the Coronavirus child care issue
- You experience the adverse financial problem as a result of being quarantined, reduced work hours, laid off, or furloughed due to the Coronavirus
- You have experienced other factors as listed by the Secretary of the Treasury
- You have closed your business or reduced work hours
The plan administrator may rely on your certification to determine if you satisfy the criteria to be a coronavirus-affected individual.
Required Minimum Distributions
For 2020, Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) needed for defined contribution retirement plans need not be made. This applies to certain retirement plans and IRA accounts, including:
- Defined contribution 401(a) qualified plans including 401(k) and profit-sharing plans
- Government defined contribution 457(b)
- Defined contribution 403(a) and 403(b) plans
The suspension of the RMD applies to those who have attained the age of 70 1/2 before January 1, 2020. If you have turned 70 1/2 in 2019 and were waiting to take your 2019 distribution, you need not take your 2019 or 2020 RMD. If you have already taken your 2019 or 2020 RMD but is still within 60 days from the RMD date, then you can roll back your distribution to a qualified plan or IRA to avoid any penalty.
Can You Take Loans From Your Qualified Retirement Plan?
The CARES Act allows you to take loans from your employer-sponsored retirement plans to meet your financial needs during a crisis. Earlier, the loan limit was $50,000, but the Cares Act has temporarily increased the loan limit to $100,000.
The CARES Act has also shelved the rule that limits the individual to borrow their fully vested balance up to 5-%. It now allows you to borrow up to 100 % of your vested amount. For instance, if you have $20,000 in your 401(k), you can borrow the entire amount.
Should You Pay Taxes On Withdrawing Money From Your Retirement Plan?
Coronavirus-Related Distributions are not subject to federal income taxation. However, the amount of the CRD is included in gross income for federal tax over the 3-taxable-year beginning with 2020. You can choose to include the total amount of the CRD in gross income for federal tax for 2020 than spreading it over 3 years.
You can pay the money to an eligible retirement plan during the 3-year period that starts on the day after the distribution date. Repayments within the 3-year will result in the CRD not being subject to federal income taxes. But if the federal income tax has been paid already, then the authorities may permit you to receive a refund of that amount.
The Coronavirus pandemic outbreak has affected the Americans like never before. Many businesses have shut down, and millions of people have lost their employment. To provide Americans with economic assistance, the U.S. Congress has passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) act. This act offers unemployment benefits to the unemployed in addition to supporting business operations through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
What Is a Paycheck Protection Program?
The CARES Act includes a $2 trillion stimulus package that provides financial relief. While a portion of the package is given as unemployment benefits, about $349 billion is dedicated to the Paycheck Protection Program. This program provides federally guaranteed loans to businesses to cover their payroll and other costs.
Which Businesses Qualify For The Paycheck Protection Program?
Not all businesses qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program. Only those with 500 employees or fewer are eligible for PPP. This includes independent contractors, sole proprietorships, private non-profits, the self-employed, and 501(c)(19) veterans organizations. For the hospitality and foodservice industries (with a NAICS 72 code), the limit of employees may vary with the location.
Additional Eligibility Requirements
To receive the loan, you must also meet additional requirements. This includes:
- Your business was in operation on February 2020
- You have paid the payroll taxes and employed salaries
- You have paid your independent contractors
Which Businesses Do Not Qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program?
Though some businesses have 500 or fewer employees, they still do not qualify for the PPP loan. These include:
- Businesses who lend, invest or speculate (Banks and investment companies)
- Passive businesses (Landlords)
- Political and policy lobbyists
- Multi-level marketers
- Gambling and marijuana businesses
- Businesses who promote religion
- Household employers
What Can the Loans Be Used For?
You can use the loans for:
- Payroll purposes including employee benefit costs (like health insurance and retirement contributions)
- Rent or under lease agreements in force before February 15, 2020
- Interest on mortgage obligations that incurred before February 15, 2020
- Utilities for which the service started before February 15, 2020
What Is Counted As Payroll Costs?
Payroll costs include:
- Wages, salary, tips, or commissions (capped at $100,000 yearly per employee)
- Compensation to or income for an independent contractor or sole proprietor that is less than $100,000
- Employee benefits including parental, medical or sick leave, or costs for vacation,
- Allowance for dismissal or separation or dismissal
- Local or state taxes imposed on employee compensation
- Retirement benefits
Where Can You Apply For A Loan?
You can apply for a loan through any Small Business Administration (SBA) lender. The SBA collaborates with about 1,800 local lenders to provide loans.
When applying for a loan, you have to provide a good-faith certification to justify your loan request. You must acknowledge that the loan will be used to maintain payroll and retain your employees. Also, you must certify that you haven’t received any loan under the Paycheck Protection Program or have any loan applications pending.
Documents Required While Applying For A Loan
You must submit a copy of the following documents while applying for a loan.
- 940, 941 or 944 payroll tax reports or Form W-3 or Schedule C of 2019.
- Payroll reports for the 12-months of 2019 that show the gross wages for each employee, including
- Paid time off for each employee
- Family medical leave pay for each employee
- Vacation pay for each employee
- State and local taxes imposed on each employee’s compensation
Will The Loan Be Forgiven?
Yes. Complete or portion of your loan may be forgiven, provided you use it on eligible expenses. When you receive the loan, you have 8 weeks to utilize the loan.
The loan has a 1% interest rate and maturity of 2 years.
Neither the federal nor local lender charges any fee during the process.
How To Request Loan Forgiveness?
You can request loan forgiveness by applying it to your local lender. Your application should include:
- Documents that determine the number of full-time equivalent employees on your payroll
- State income, payroll, and unemployment insurance (UI) filings
- Payroll tax filings reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- Documents that verify payments on covered lease and mortgage obligations
- Documents that verify covered utility payments
The lender can take up to 60 days to decide on your application. If approved, the lender will report the expected forgiveness amount to the SBA. The SBA will forgive the loan within 15days.
How Much Amount Can A Business Receive?
You can receive a loan that is 2.5 times your average monthly payroll. The amount is capped at $10 million. The loan amount is calculated by considering your average monthly payroll for January and February 2020 for new businesses or the previous year for old businesses.
The Paycheck Protection Program is expected to end on June 30, 2020. If you meet the eligibility requirements, then quickly file for a loan and get benefited.