Anxious readers are being hit by a rapid flood of information and hastily-reported facts that can be overwhelming to sort out as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grip the U.S. economy.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2020, earmarks $2.2 trillion in direct aid to individuals, expands unemployment insurance and directs billions in aid to large and small businesses. Hard-hit industries, including healthcare, education, and air transportation, are also included. Read the CARES Act here.
Business reporters can help readers make decisions critical to their financial well-being. Develop your stories based on the seven key measures in CARES or, as suggested in this two-part series, focus on consumers and the business sector.
Relief for the Consumer
Prep yourself with tax relief information on COVID-19 from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to report on the following CARES measures:
Individuals and Families: By mid-April, taxpayers will begin receiving tax rebate credits ranging from $600 for those who don’t file an income tax return, or have any tax liability, to $1,200 for individuals with incomes up to $75,000, and $500 per child. Checks are doubled for those who filed a joint return, and rebates phase out on incomes above $99,000. How do individuals and families plan to use the money?
Students: Students receiving financial aid will continue to receive checks, even if their work is interrupted. CARES also authorizes the use of grants for emergency aid to students. Payments and interest on federal student loans are suspended for three months and can be extended for another three months. Use this link from the Federal Student Aid office in the U.S. Department of Education to develop your questions. How are students and their families managing financial aid under the “new normal?”
Retirees and Investors: Rules are relaxed on retirement plan distributions. Retirees can withdraw up to $100,000 in tax-favored disbursements or loans from their retirement accounts and pay back the money over three years. In addition, the U.S. Treasury will use the Exchange Stabilization Fund, an emergency reserve fund, to guarantee money market funds, to prevent a replay of what occurred during the financial crisis, when panicked investors rushed out of money market funds. Are your retiree readers planning on taking distribution allowed by the relief bill? What do investors think about Treasury’s decision?
Charitable Donors: Cash contributions and donations of food are deductible, in addition to a new, above-the-line deduction of $300. Do any of your readers plan on giving away their stimulus check?