Written in part and partnership with GreenPath Financial Wellness- providing our members with free financial wellness education, counseling, and debt management resources.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a financial impact on millions of Americans. Thankfully, some relief is on the way. Lawmakers recently passed a stimulus package to combat the economic impact of COVID-19. The new economic stimulus law includes or owe student loans, provides financial support for small businesses and their employees, and the distribution of what they are calling Economic Impact Payments to individuals who meet the requirements.
As part of the bill, eligible US taxpayers are expected to receive payments of up to $1,200 for each adult and $500 for every child-- with initiation of payments rolling out as early as this week. However, there are income limitations based on your filing status:
Eligible retirees and recipients of Social Security, Railroad Retirement, disability or veterans' benefits as well as taxpayers who do not make enough money to normally have to file a tax return will receive a payment.
This also includes those who have no income, as well as those whose income comes entirely from certain benefit programs, such as Supplemental Security Income benefits. Retirees who receive either Social Security retirement or Railroad Retirement benefits will also receive payments automatically.
No matter your filing status, the stimulus includes $500 for every qualifying child under 17 you might have. So even if your income exceeds the maximums above, if you have dependents that you've claimed, you might still receive some money.
Don't feel like doing the math? Check out this free calculator from The Washington Post for an estimate!
Most taxpayers don’t need to take any extra steps to receive a payment as the IRS will use information from a taxpayer's 2019 tax return if they’ve filed it, or their 2018 tax return if they haven’t.
Direct deposit is the safest and fastest way to receive your money. The IRS will begin making direct deposit payments in mid-April to the people who have their bank account information on file with the agency. What this means is, those who had set up direct deposit for tax returns for 2019 or 2018 will receive their automatic deposit to that same account they have on file. Those payments will take about three weeks to process.
The IRS then will begin putting paper checks in the mail in early May to send out to Americans that do not have direct deposit information on file-- which could take 20 weeks, according to the committee’s document. This means that the final round of payments may not go out until September. The checks will be issued in reverse adjusted gross income order-- meaning that they will be starting with people with the lowest income first.
If you receive a paper check, members can deposit it by visiting our drive through windows at any of our branches, through our state-of-the-art Live Teller Machines, or deposit directly on our mobile app. Here are two quick video tutorials on how the mobile app works and how to do a mobile deposit:
If your address has changed since the last time you filed taxes and you have no direct deposit information on file with the IRS, this could halt the process until the IRS can find you. The IRS said it will have an online tool you can use to set up electronic payments and update your information by mid-April. When this is available, they said they will notify people here.
An Important Note from the IRS:
"For security reasons, the IRS plans to mail a letter about the economic impact payment to the taxpayer’s last known address within 15 days after the payment is paid. The letter will provide information on how the payment was made and how to report any failure to receive the payment. If a taxpayer is unsure they’re receiving a legitimate letter, the IRS urges taxpayers to visit IRS.gov first to protect against scam artists."
If you are expecting a stimulus check, you may be unsure how to best use the money you receive. This will depend on your unique situation. But in general, here are five areas to prioritize:
Prioritize your essentials (the stuff you can’t live without) first: things like medication, food, utilities, and housing. Taking care of your immediate needs so you can stay healthy is crucial! Once you’ve taken care of yourself and your family’s immediate needs, you can look at other areas to allocate the money.
Consider putting at least part of the money toward emergency savings, whether it’s an existing emergency fund or one you’re starting from scratch. Setting aside as much as you can and knowing it’s available if you need it can provide you with peace of mind. You don’t have to think of this as money you won’t touch ever: think of this as an emergency fund to help for next month’s immediate needs and expenses.
Next, you should look at housing costs like rent payments or your mortgage. While many states and lenders are taking steps to provide support for homeowners and renters, including suspending evictions and foreclosures, and deferring payments, if you can afford to make these payments you should. They will eventually come due, and staying current will be much less stressful than falling behind.
You should also reach out to your lender or landlord directly for the most accurate, up-to-date information on programs available if you cannot make your full payments. If you feel stressed about calling your lender or landlord, please reach out to our partners at GreenPath. Their financial counselors are here for you and can help you navigate this conversation.
Similarly, you also want to try to keep up on your auto loan or lease if you can. If you have fallen behind, consider using the stimulus money to catch up on late payments.
Many auto lenders are offering payment or debt relief options, such as deferred payments or waived late fees, to help people through the next several months. Most don’t want to see you default on your loan or face repossession, so be sure to stay in contact with them and keep them up to date on your situation.
Lastly, put money towards your unsecured debt payments like credit cards. Lenders and the government are working to provide support for these debts as well. Check your lenders’ websites to see what concessions may be available to you if you cannot afford your minimum payments. Keep in mind that interest will likely continue to add up on these debts.
If you’ve made your minimum payments, set aside money for an emergency fund, and have handled your housing and auto loans, you may want to consider putting some of the money towards paying down the principal on your unsecured debts. The more you pay off now, the more you will save in overall interest.
Once you’ve made a plan, you might consider having a buddy — a friend, family member, someone you trust — look it over. This may give you more confidence that you are making the right decisions for your situation.
Times of crisis bring out the best in people, but the worst in scammers. Coronavirus scams are popping up at an astounding rate, related to everything from charity fraud to fake medical and cleaning equipment. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alone has received nearly 12,000 consumer complaints about alleged coronavirus-related cons, scams, and unscrupulous behavior.
“This is just so holistic and it impacts everybody. The number of folks and businesses potentially falling victim are so much larger in comparison to those regional disasters,” said Thomas Edwards, who’s part of an agency that investigates financial crimes as the Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Secret Service’s San Francisco regional office.
With stimulus payments and checks about to be dispersed, it's important to stay extra-cautious with your personal information. The IRS is not going to ask you for information in a phone call-- they're not going to ask you to verify your information at all. All of your information is taken from your tax return that you've previously filed or provided on their upcoming portal.
121 Financial, nor any other financial institution, will ever call you and ask for specific account details or personal information regarding the stimulus check or at any other time. If you get a suspicious call like this from someone claiming to be from 121 Financial, please hang up and call us at 904-723-6300.
The best defense is to refuse and not engage at all if anyone contacts you and asks for your Social Security number, bank account number, credit card information, number, drivers license number, or any other personally identifiable information by phone, by text message, or email. Be sure to check out our recent resource with tips from the FTC on Avoiding Coronavirus Scams.
Through our partnership with GreenPath Financial Wellness, we are able to provide free financial counseling for our members. GreenPath’s counselors are available to talk and help you through these uncertain times. They can help you figure out your plan and will walk through your whole financial picture to help you identify options that can relieve stress and make it easier to bounce back.
We also would like to remind you that the safest place for your money at a time like this (or any time) is an NCUA-insured credit union. We are working hard to ensure you’ll have access to banking services and cash when you need it.
These are uncertain times. No one should struggle alone. Allow us to be there for you and don't be afraid to ask for help. If you are currently experiencing financial difficulty and finding it stressful to meet your obligations, please visit our member resource page for COVID-19 Assistance.