Resources for Individuals & Families

Congress and the federal government have taken several steps to help provide relief to individuals and families during this challenging time. On March 27th, 2020 the U.S. House of Representatives passed and the President signed H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide immediate economic stabilization and relief to many sectors of the economy, including individuals and families. Then, on April 23rd, 2020 the House of Representatives passed the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act (H.R. 266), which was signed into law the next day to help further combat the health and economic impacts of COVID-19.  These legislative packages built on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) that provided family and worker protections and secured free COVID-19 testing. Some of the important provisions of these new laws and steps the federal government has taken to help individuals and families include the following that are explained in further detail below:

Economic Impact Payment for Individuals and Families

Expanded Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Tax Relief

Student Loan Relief

Food Security Resources

Energy Assistance

Child Care Assistance

Veterans’ Assistance Resources

COVID-19 Testing

Ameri-Corps & National Civilian Community Corps

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Economic Impact Payment for Individuals and Families

For the latest information on Economic Impact Payments, including updates about timing and application requirements, visit the IRS website here.

You can check the status of your payment on the IRS Get My Payment webpage and many 2018/2019 tax filers can update their direct deposit information here.

NON-FILERS ONLY: If you have not and do not intend to file tax returns for 2018 or 2019, visit the IRS website here to provide your direct deposit information. It is recommended that you provide bank information as soon as possible because you will not be able to use this tool once a paper check is issued.


The CARES Act provides for an Economic Impact Payment of $1,200 for most U.S. adults ($2,400 for joint filers) and $500 for each qualifying child 16 or under to help Americans afford what they need during this public health crisis as many are experiencing a significant cash crunch.
 
Like other tax credits, these Economic Impact Payments do not count as income or resources for means tested programs. Therefore, receiving a payment will not interfere with someone’s eligibility for Social Security, SNAP, Medicaid, ACA premium credits, TANF, housing assistance, or other income-related federal programs.

 

Estimated Economic Impact Payment Timeline & Delivery Method

The IRS started making payments the week of April 13th to Americans with their direct deposit information on file with the IRS from their 2018 or 2019 tax returns. The IRS will continue sending electronic payments as the agency receives bank information from the Social Security Administration, the VA, and other government agencies, which may continue through early May.

About three weeks after the first round of payments are made (the week of May 4th), the IRS will begin issuing paper checks to individuals.

The paper checks will be issued at a rate of about 5 million per week, which means it could take up to 20 weeks to get all the checks out. The checks will be issued in reverse “adjusted gross income” order—starting with people with the lowest income first.

Americans will a receive a paper check unless they update their direct deposit information in the IRS Get My Payment portal here. You can get your payment quicker by using the IRS Get My Payment portal to share your direct deposit information with the IRS, rather than having to wait for a check in the mail. In the IRS Get My Payment Portal you can: (1) find out the status of their rebate payment and (2) update direct deposit information.  The IRS Get My Payment Portal cannot update bank account information after a payment has been scheduled for delivery.

For Social Security  beneficiaries who do not file returns, Treasury and the IRS announced on the evening of April 1stthat these beneficiaries will not need to file a “simple tax return” to receive their rebate. Recipients will receive their rebate just as they would their Social Security benefits. 

Americans who did not file and do not intend to file a tax return for 2018 or 2019 can use the IRS Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool to submit basic personal information to quickly and securely receive their Economic Impact Payments. Do not use this tool if you will be filing a 2019 federal tax return. The Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info site should be used by U.S. eligible citizens or residents who had gross income that did not exceed $12,200 ($24,400 for married couples) for 2019 or were not otherwise required to file a federal income tax return for 2019, and didn’t plan to. To learn more about who should use the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info portal, visit the IRS website here.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Get My Payment portal can be found here. Details on why some filers may get “Payment Status Not Available” can be found here.

 

Economic Impact Payment Eligibility*

To be eligible for the full Economic Impact Payment an individual adult or couple must be U.S. citizen(s) or legal U.S. resident(s), have  a work-eligible Social Security Number(s), household income below certain limits, and not be claimed as a dependent on anyone else's tax return. Social Security numbers are also required for qualifying children age 16 and under in order to receive the additional Economic Impact Payment of $500 per child. Rebate payments start to phase out at the thresholds of $75,000 individual, $112,500 head of household, and $150,000 married. This includes Social Security beneficiaries (retirement, disability, survivor), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and veterans benefits recipients.

Social Security or VA beneficiaries who are not typically required to file tax returns do not need to file to receive a payment. However, if you do not file tax returns, the government may not know of any children you have as dependents. To ensure you receive the additional $500 per child payment, visit the IRS website here to register your dependents as soon as possible.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will work deliver the one-time Economic Impact Payment to individual taxpayers with an adjusted gross income (AGI) up to $99,000, head of household filers with an AGI of up to $146,500, and taxpayers filing jointly with an AGI up to $198,000. Taxpayers with AGI above these thresholds are not eligible for a payment. The IRS will automatically calculate and send the payment to those that are eligible.

Payments will be initially calculated based on the most recent AGI of the taxpayer available with the IRS (from the 2019 or from the 2018 tax return, as applicable). The IRS will use information on the Form SSA-1099 and Form RRB-1099 to generate payments to Social Security beneficiaries who did not file taxes in 2018 or 2019. Taxpayers who are not legally required to file a return with the IRS may consider filing so as to facilitate prompt payments; payments may be delayed for people who are eligible but who neither have a tax return on file nor already receive payments from Social Security.

If a taxpayer experiences an income loss or has an increase in family size over the course of 2020, they may be able to claim an additional credit for the difference between the payment received and the payment the taxpayer is eligible for when filing tax returns for 2020 in the spring of 2021.

These payments will not be taxed and do not need to be repaid.

*The above information is for informational purposes and should not be relied upon for legal advice. Individuals should consult the IRS or a tax advisor related to their individual circumstances.

 

Economic Impact Payment Information for Social Security Beneficiaries

Most people who receive Social Security retirement and disability payments will receive an Economic Impact Payment. Social Security beneficiaries are eligible for the Economic Impact Payment, even if they don’t file a tax return.

The IRS will use information on the Form SSA-1099 and Form RRB-1099 to generate the $1,200 payment. Since the IRS will not have any information regarding dependents for these people, each person would receive $1,200 per person, unless they use the IRS Non-Filers Tool to input information about eligible dependents.

The Economic Impact Payment is considered a tax refund and will not count as income when determining eligibility for federal means-tested benefits.

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Expanded Unemployment Insurance Benefits

In the wake of the recession cause by coronavirus, the unemployment insurance program provides an essential lifeline for millions of people during this crisis. The CARES Act included $260 billion in temporary expanded unemployment benefits with critical improvements to the program to make the program more effective for workers and enhance benefits to help individuals and families during this difficult time. These temporary emergency benefit improvements include:

  • Expanded Benefits – An additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits for the next four months, terminating this supplement on July 31, 2020. Combined with regular unemployment benefits, this is intended to replace 100% of wages for the average U.S. worker.

  • Elimination of Wait Period –Unemployment Insurance applicants no longer have to wait a week after losing a job to become eligible for benefits and can apply right away.

  • Extension of Benefits - Allows for an extension of benefits to provide an additional 13 weeks of federally funded unemployment insurance benefits for workers who exhaust the 26 weeks of regular benefits. This allows unemployment benefits to last up to 39 weeks. 

  • Expanded Access - Allows states to work with the U.S. Department of Labor to permit part-time, self-employed, and gig economy workers to receive unemployment insurance benefits.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) is working on implementation and has issued guidance on the Federal Stimulus Package Unemployment Benefits, which you can find here. The $600 federal increase in Unemployment Benefits is now available for claimants certifying beginning April 6th, 2020 and is available through the week ending July 25th, 2020.

IDES recently issued guidance for independent contractors, self-proprietors, and workers who are not typically eligible for unemployment benefits on how the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) federal funding can help, which you can find here. For independent, contractors, self-proprietors and those not typically eligible for unemployment benefits seeking assistance through the PUA, the State of Illinois IDES is working to upgrade and modify their computer systems to enable these workers to apply for unemployment benefits online by May 11th. It is recommended to wait until the new computer system is launched before applying for PUA benefits. When the new system is up and running, this information will be updated.

The day or time of day in which a claim is filed will not impact whether someone receives benefits or their benefit amount. Additionally, unemployment claims will be back-dated to reflect the date in which a claimant was laid-off or let go from their job due to COVID-19.

For information on how to apply for Unemployment Insurance Benefits visit the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) website here.

Illinois Department of Employment Security COVID-19 and Unemployment Benefits FAQ can be found here. Additionally, the Illinois Governor’s Office published information about their efforts to implement the federal unemployment access and eligibility for benefits that you can find here.

IDES offices are currently closed. Applicants can apply via phone or online for unemployment benefits. Please note, that due to the high volume of unemployment benefit claims, the Illinois Department of Employment Security has implemented a schedule based on last name for people to file claims online and via phone.

IDES Online Filing Schedule:

  • Those with last names beginning with letters A-M will be asked to file their claims on Sundays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays.

  • Those with last names beginning with letters N-Z will be asked to file their claims on Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays.

  • Saturdays will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.

IDES Call Center Filing Schedule:

  • Those with last names beginning with letters A-M will be asked to call on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 7:30am – 6pm.

  • Those with last names beginning with letters N-Z will be asked to call on Mondays and Wednesdays between 7:30am – 6pm.

  • Fridays (7:30am – 6pm) will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.

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Tax Relief

The CARES Act provides for an Economic Impact Payment of $1,200 for most U.S. adults ($2,400 for joint filers) and $500 for each qualifying child 16 or under to help Americans afford what they need during this public health crisis as many are experiencing a significant cash crunch.

Like other tax credits, these Economic Impact Payments do not count as income or resources for means tested programs. Therefore, receiving a payment will not interfere with someone’s eligibility for Social Security, SNAP, Medicaid, ACA premium credits, TANF, housing assistance, or other income-related federal programs.

The deadline to file and pay 2019 federal income taxes has been changed to July 15, 2020. On March 21st, 2020 the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service announced the federal income tax filing due date is automatically extended from April 15th, 2020 to July 15th, 2020. Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15th, 2020 to July 15th, 2020. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax. Taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or call the IRS to qualify for this automatic federal tax filing and payment relief. More information can be found here.

The deadline to file individual state income taxes has also been extended to July 15th.  More information on the state extension can be found here.

 

Charitable Giving Tax Benefits


The CARES Act provides additional tax benefits for charitable contributions. Taxpayers can choose to either take the standard deduction or itemize specific deductions they are eligible for on their federal tax return. Previously, taxpayers who took the standard deduction were not eligible to receive any tax benefit for their charitable giving. The CARES Act creates a new above-the-line charitable giving deduction to allowing these taxpayers to deduct up to $300 in charitable giving from their income for 2020. For taxpayers who itemize, the previous law limited the value of the charitable giving deduction to 50% of their adjusted gross income (AGI). The new law changes suspend this limit for the 2020 tax year.
 

Education Tax Benefits

To alleviate pressure of student loan costs, new law changes exclude up to $5,250 in qualifying student loan repayments and educational assistance paid by an employer on behalf of the employee from income for income tax purposes.

 

Retirement Account Withdrawals

The CARES Act includes retirement plan tax provisions to provide flexibility in assisting individuals and families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Generally,retirement plan participants must pay a 10% penalty in addition to any income taxes on money withdrawn from plans before reaching retirement age. Starting with the 2020 tax year, withdrawals up to $100,000 from retirement plans are allowed without this penalty if needed due to the COVID-19 public health outbreak. In addition, any income taxes on these withdrawals will be spread out over 3 years instead of being all due on the next tax return and funds can be returned to the plan if need be without taking into account normal annual contribution limits. As an alternative to withdrawals, retirement plan participants can take a loan from their plan that they pay back. Normally, such loans are limited to $50,000 or half of the account’s value. This limit is raised to $100,000 and borrowers get more time to repay the loan under the new law.

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Student Loan Relief

The CARES Act provided for more than $30 billion in emergency education funding, allowed for paused payments for federal student loan borrowers, and suspended wage garnishment and negative credit reporting during the coronavirus crisis.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, federal student loan borrowers are automatically placed in an administrative forbearance, which allows borrowers to temporarily stop making monthly loan payments, from March 13th, 2020 through September 30th, 2020.  If you have made a payment since March 13th, you have the option to contact your loan servicer to request that your payment be refunded.  Auto-debit payments are suspended during this period.  Your student loan servicer will contact you in August to remind you that you will start making payments again after September 30th.  Please ensure that your contact information remains up-to-date in your loan servicer profile.

Interest rates for most federal student loans are also temporarily set at 0%, meaning that interest will not accrue from March 13th through September 30th.  Private student loans are not eligible for the 0% interest benefit. You should contact your loan servicer to determine if your loans are eligible. After September 30th, interest rates will be set back to the interest rate prior to March 13th.

You may wish to continue making payments on your federal student loans during this period (March 13th through September 30th) even though they are not mandatory.  If you want to continue making payments, you should contact your loan servicer to opt out of the administrative forbearance and request your auto-debit payments to resume.  You may also have the option to remain in administrative forbearance and make manual (not auto-debit) payments, including those less than your usual monthly payment, during this period to make progress towards reducing your balance; you should contact your loan servicer to learn about your options.  During this period of 0% interest, the full amount of your payments will be applied to the principal once all the interest that had accrued prior to March 13th is paid.

Borrowers will continue to receive credit as if regular payments were being made toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Income-Driven Repayment forgiveness, and loan rehabilitation programs. No negative reporting or forced collections (such as wage garnishment, tax refund forfeiture) will occur during these 6 months for borrowers in default.

Congressman Lipinski’s office has been, and will continue to be, in communication with the U.S. Department of Education about the implementation of these student loan relief provisions. You can learn more about Federal Student Aid relief for students and borrowers at their website here.

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Food Security Resources

The CARES Act provided $15.5 billion in contingency funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program. SNAP helps low-income people and families buy the food they need for good health. Information about eligibility and to apply for SNAP, Medical Assistance, and Cash Assistance benefits visit the State of Illinois Application for Benefits Eligibility (ABE) website.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act expanded funding for food security resources including $500 million in additional funding to the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program, $400 million to assist local food banks meet increased demand, and $250 million for the Senior Nutrition Program in the Administration for Community Living (ACL). WIC is a food assistance program for Women, Infants, and Children. It helps pregnant women, new mothers and young children eat well and stay healthy. More information about WIC eligibility and the application process visit the Illinois Department of Human Services website here.

During this challenging time there is an increased need for food. Local food banks have networks of food pantries and mobile pantries all across the Third Congressional District to help individuals and families in need.

Please ensure you call the food pantry before you go to confirm it is open, hours, and eligibility requirements. Qualifying income limits vary but are, in general, not as rigid as SNAP limits.

Cook County Residents – Greater Chicago Food Depository Food Bank Search

Will County & DuPage County Residents – Northern Illinois Food Bank Search

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers 15 nutrition programs and is using all available program flexibilities and contingencies to serve program participants during this difficult time.

For senior citizens grocery shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association have a resource list of grocery stores with special shopping hours for senior citizens and other vulnerable populations that is updated frequently, which can be found here.

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Energy Assistance

The CARES Act includes an additional $900 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This emergency contingency funding release is in addition to the regular LIHEAP funding, all of which besides the final 1 percent of which has been released. These $900 million in funds will be released to all grantees; including States, Territories and Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations (Tribes) in upcoming weeks to help eligible low-income households afford their energy costs and avoid making cutbacks on other household essentials as a result of hardship caused by the virus.  

Information on Illinois’s LIHEAP program and how to obtain benefits can be found here.

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Child Care Assistance

The CARES Act offers child care relief to families and frontline workers. It provides $3.5 billion for child care and an additional $750 million for Head Start. It supports child care providers through the crisis, even if providers are forced to close, and it will ensure that workers in the health care sector, emergency responders, sanitation workers, and other essential workers have access to child care to enable them to work. The CARES Act also ensures that children and families enrolled in Head Start continue receiving services, to the extent possible, and provides funding for summer programming in areas of the country that will be ready to reopen by then.

Childcare Assistance Program information is available on the Illinois Department of Human Services website here.

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Veterans’ Assistance Resources

The CARES Act provides $20 billion to help the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress provided this robust emergency funding to ensure the VA has the equipment, tests, and support services—including setting up temporary care sites, mobile treatment centers and increasing telehealth visits to allow more veterans to get care at home—necessary to provide veterans with the additional care they need. This funding will save veterans’ lives, protect VA’s health care providers and first responders, and give VA the resources it needs to serve as the nation’s backup health care system in communities where local hospitals are overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. The VA has implemented an aggressive public health response to protect and care for Veterans, their families, health care providers, and staff in the face of this emerging health risk. You can read more about their plan and what veterans should do to access care from the VA on their website here.

If you are a veteran who thinks they have COVID-19, you are encouraged to call your VA medical facility or call MyVA311 (844-698-2311, press #3 to be connected) before visiting local VA medical facilities, urgent care providers, or community providers. Veterans can also send secure messages to their health care providers via MyhealtheVet, VA’s online patient portal. VA clinicians will evaluate veterans’ symptoms and direct them to the most appropriate providers for further evaluation and treatment. This may include referral to state or local health departments for COVID-19 testing.

For routine VA appointments and previously scheduled procedures, the VA is encouraging all veterans to call their VA facility before seeking any care — even previously scheduled medical visits, mental health appointments, or surgical procedures. Veterans can also send secure messages to their health care providers via MyhealtheVet and find out whether they should still come in for their scheduled appointments. VA providers may arrange to convert appointments to Video Visits, where possible and veterans should feel free to request telehealth appointments from their VA providers.

Many VA medical facilities have cancelled public events for the time being, and VA is urging all visitors who do not feel well to postpone their visits to local VA medical facilities. Facilities have also been directed to limit the number of entrances through which visitors can enter. Upon arrival, all patients, visitors, and employees will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and possible exposure.

On March 10, 2020, the VA announced that its 134 nursing homes (also referred to as VA community living centers) and 24 spinal cord injury and disorder centers would be closed to all outside visitors. All clinical staff will be screened for COVID-19 daily before entering the nursing home or spinal cord injury units. Staff will work only within those units to limit possible transmission of the virus. Exceptions to the visitor policy will only be made for cases when veterans are in their last stages of life on hospice units or inpatient spinal cord injury units.

Help is available for veterans in crisis by:

Additional Resources

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COVID-19 Testing

Availability of COVID-19 test kits continues to be a problem in Illinois and nationwide.  Our state is working diligently to build a daily test capacity of 10,000 samples.  Public health experts believe that this level of testing availability will give us useful data on whether or not the disease is still spreading rapidly.

Due to the shortage of availability, many testing sites will offer tests to individuals based on a four-tier priority system.  Details on that system can be found here.  If you are unsure whether or not you need to be tested for COVID-19, consult with your healthcare provider.

The State of Illinois has also provided information on testing sites on the State of Illinois State of Illinois Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response site. Individuals can find this information here.

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Ameri-Corps & National Civilian Community Corps Volunteers & Grantees

The CARES Act provides relief for AmeriCorps volunteers, grantees, and the Corporation for National and Community Service. It also ensures that AmeriCorps volunteers whose service has been disrupted by COVID-19 can still earn their education awards. National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) members can re-enroll in their service if it is interrupted by COVID-19 up to the age of 26. It also creates additional flexibilities for grantees and the Corporation of National and Community Service to fulfill their financial obligations.

FAQ’s for Grantees, Sponsors, Members, and Volunteers with AmeriCorps and the National Civilian Community Corps can be found here.

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