ORLANDO, Fla. – President Donald Trump has signed off on a $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill to help support businesses and workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s being called the largest economic rescue bill in history. One of the most popular parts of the 500-page-plus measure is its plan to give direct payments to most Americans.
“Basically the plan is everybody will get something,” Dr. Tom Smythe, a financial markets expert at Florida Gulf Coast University said.
Each adult could receive up to $1,200, additionally, families would receive $500 per child, according to the stimulus bill.
The Washington Post created a stimulus payment calculator to help people determine how much they could receive.
Smythe said the one-time payments will be means-tested.
“People that are single making $75,000 grand or below based on adjusted gross income, you can pull that straight off your tax form, will get the full amount. Families who make up to $150,000 will get the maximum possible amount,” he said.
If an individual makes between $75,000 or $95,000 they likely won’t receive the entire payout but could still receive funds. If their salary is more than $95,000 they most likely won’t receive any money at all, Smythe said. He added that families who make more than $199,000 shouldn’t expect a payment either.
“People with the lowest income will see the largest checks,” he said.
For example: a family of four-- two adults with two children-- who make less than $150,000 combined could receive between $3,400-$3,600, according to Smythe.
“Once you get past that (income) limit, you won’t get much,” he said.
Family figures are based on a family of four. To figure out one’s family size and income, Smythe said the IRS would likely turn to each individual’s tax return.
“They’re still putting out details but it looks like they’re looking at 2018 tax returns as a starting point,” he said. “If somebody has moved, there’s no bank account on file or no address that makes it hard to get payment.”
How will people receive the money?
Smythe says the federal government will likely use direct deposit information to send people their money. Those who receive Social Security benefits or benefits with Veteran’s Affairs would also receive their payments through direct deposit.
He says those who have filed direct deposit information with the federal government will likely see their pandemic relief money first.
“It can take longer for people who’ve switched banks or jobs or addresses," he said.
Smythe says if the federal government does not have direct deposit information for an individual, they will likely try to track down their most recent address or employer, which could be a time-consuming task. Government officials may also try to find people via electronic benefits transfer cards for people who receive food stamps and other cash assistance.
“It would not be surprising to me if there’s some provision for people to contact the IRS to make sure they have the correct address,” he said. “But that’s purely speculation on my part.”
Smythe believes the federal government will try to obtain each individual’s direct deposit information since it will be more efficient in the process of distributing money.
“Part of the reason they say they’re not cutting checks until April 6 is that there are not a lot of check writing facilities in the U.S. anymore,” Smythe said, adding social distancing could also slow things down.
He recommends people double-check their address when filing this year’s taxes and to opt for direct deposit to make sure they receive the pay-out.
Where’s the money coming from?
The money isn’t exactly coming from taxpayer dollars, Smythe said.
“Essentially, the government is going to borrow it,” he said. “It’s going to be added to the existing national debt.”
The nation’s gross domestic product is roughly $4 trillion. The U.S. has also accumulated a national debt of about $23 trillion over 65 years, according to Smythe.
“We’re talking about adding 10% to that number overnight,” Smythe said about Congress’ $2 trillion stimulus package. “There are no taxes coming in now. This is all debt.”
What’s the money for?
Smythe said the one-time payments are meant to help families purchase provisions through the coronavirus crisis.
“This money is to get people through the health part of the situation,” Smythe said about the pandemic.
He explained the stimulus bill is to help people in the U.S. get through the time of uncertainty. With businesses suffering, furloughed workers or people losing their jobs altogether it may be hard to get food as people practice social isolation to stay healthy.
The financial expert said this stimulus bill is comparable to the 2008 recession but the purpose behind the two payouts are very different.
“(They’re) conceptually very similar,” he said about the previous decades’ payouts. “What didn’t happen was everything else, like payroll and business support.”
During the 2008 recession, the federal government offered two payments to Americans.
“It was, in essence, the $1,200 we’re seeing,” Smythe said. “Back in 2008, how quickly (Americans) spent it was more significant.”
He explained that back then, the interest was to stimulate the economy. The payments now are to help people stay afloat and help ease them back to normalcy when the pandemic passes.
“Back then it was about putting money in people’s hands so they can spend,” he said. “Now we’re not buying cars and boats. The intent is to help people satisfy basic needs.”
He says the pandemic has many parts and right now people are concerned with the health portion of the outbreak, while lawmakers are trying to stay ahead of any unprecedented long-term economic impact.
“The number one focus is getting through the crisis," he said. "And we just don’t know when that endpoint is.”