March 27, 2020
On Friday, Congress passed a $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, also described as an economic stimulus package, that will impact various aspects of family life – immediately and over the long term. President Trump has said he intends to quickly sign the bill into law. This 880-page piece of legislation will have significant impacts on family budgets, education, healthcare and religious expression, among a variety of other things.
- In the short term, families will receive an advance refund or rebate on their 2020 federal tax return equal to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. This money will be direct deposited in families’ bank accounts – based on accounts used for 2018 or 2019 tax returns – or sent by check (if no account is available), likely over the next 2-6 weeks.
- In the longer term, the jobs of many families will be secured by over $800 billion dedicated to guaranteeing loans for large and small businesses that keep employees on the payroll. For families who suffer a job loss due to coronavirus social distancing measures, the bill funds unemployment benefits equal to at least 100 percent of their pay for up to four months.
- In the short term, families with children in K-12 public schools may not be required to take federally mandated tests as this school year comes to a close. The federal secretary of education has been given authority to waive testing requirements, given school closures and social distancing.
- In the longer term, families with student loan debts will see their required principal and interest payments suspended – with no accruing interest or penalties – through the end of September 2020.
- In the short term, families with health savings accounts (HSA) will now be able to purchase many over-the-counter feminine hygiene products using tax-free HSA contributions.
- In the longer term, COVID-19 immunizations will be covered like other immunizations – without co-pays required from patients. Given recent coronavirus research reporting that the slow mutation rate of coronavirus suggests a one-time vaccine could provide long-term protection, this is good news for both families’ out-of-pocket costs and health insurance premiums.
- In the short term, families who financially contribute to churches or nonprofits on the front lines of providing services to those in need during this pandemic will be able to deduct up to $300 from their income on their 2020 taxes. Families can claim this charitable contribution deduction even if they do not itemize deductions on their tax return, which means this deduction applies universally to everyone.
- In the longer term, this deduction for charitable contributions will continue to apply to future tax years as well. Additionally, there was bipartisan support to increase this deduction to $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for couples in the current legislation. Even though that amendment did not pass, that support suggests that this universal deduction could increase in future years.
This summary of a few of the lesser-known provisions of the federal coronavirus relief package (or of particular facts of well-known provisions that have been inconsistently reported upon) illustrates how wide-ranging this federal legislation is from the perspective of families. We will likely not understand the full impact of the bill until years after the coronavirus pandemic has flamed out. Similar to other national or international crises of the near and more distant past – World War II, the Cold War, 9/11 or the Great Recession – the coronavirus pandemic and our response to it will likely impact American family life for decades to come.
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