Many people in Washington State have lost income or their jobs entirely due to the COVID-19 crisis. Others are seeing their small businesses struggling. Washington State and the Federal Government are scrambling to help by enacting financial assistance programs to support people during this global pandemic. We here at the Law Offices of Lance Fryrear are doing our best to help our clients and the community through this difficult time. We have put together this list of benefits that are available to residents of our state as of March 30, 2020.
The list below has some, not all, of the financial assistance programs available to Washington residents. Things are developing quickly in our state and nationally, so programs are subject to change and new opportunities appear each day. The Federal Government also just passed the CARES act which is one of the largest economic stimulus plans in recent history. The CARES act will funnel money directly to taxpayers and will offer loans to small businesses. As a result of all this, we’ve put together a good starting point for you and your family if you’ve been financially affected by COVID-19.
CARES Act – Signed Into Law March 27, 2020
- Direct Cash Payments
Most Americans who pay taxes will receive a one-time direct deposit of up to $1,200 and married couples will receive $2,400, plus an additional $500 per child. The payments phase out for individuals who make $75,000 annually, or $150,000 for married couples.
The act provides many workers an extra $600 per week for four months on top of what state programs normally pay.
- Payroll Taxes
Employers may be able to delay payment of their portion of 2020 payroll taxes until 2021 or 2022.
- Use of Retirement Funds
The 10% early withdrawal penalty of distributions up to $100,000 for coronavirus-related withdrawals is waived.
- Cash Flow Assistance for Businesses
Small businesses may be able to get a forgivable loan (if they do not layoff their workers) for up to 8 weeks of cash flow assistance. This means that loans that are used for payroll costs, interest on business mortgages, rent and utilities may be forgiven. If the loan is not forgiven, it is at a low interest rate of up to 10 years.
In Seattle, residential evictions have been frozen temporarily. This means that if you live in Seattle, your landlord cannot evict you for failure to pay rent. Here is a helpful FAQ about this.
Seattle Public Utilities, Puget Sound Energy, and Seattle City Light will be keeping the lights on. If you are having issues paying your energy bills due to income loss, you may be able to ask for a deferral and a reversal of late fees. Call Seattle City Light at (206) 684-3000 for more information.
There are more ways to save on utilities in Seattle. The Utilities Discount Program gives customers a 60% discount on their Seattle City Light bill and a 50% discount on their Seattle Public Utilities bill.
People financially impacted by COVID-19 can also set up payment plans with either Seattle City Light or Seattle Public Utilities by calling 206-684-3000.
Private companies are also trying to help people who have been financially affected by Covid-19. Comcast is offering 2 months free to new internet customers. See more information here.
Xfinity WiFi hotspots are available for free to anyone who needs internet, even if you don’t have a subscription.
In addition to the CARES act additions above, there are also resources out there for those who have recently been laid off due to COVID-19. You may be eligible for unemployment benefits. The Employment Security Department of Washington State created an easy-to-follow chart for COVID-19 employment scenarios and benefits.
To find out if you are eligible for unemployment benefits due to COVID-19, download the unemployment application checklist and follow the instructions.
If you have a job but need to take time off from work due to a serious health condition or to care for a family member with a serious health condition, the Washington State Employment Security Department’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program can provide paid leave benefits to you. You will need to get a certification from a healthcare provider in order to be eligible.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has extended deadlines for taxes. A new IRS Notice extends the current deadline for all income tax payments to July 15, 2020. This applies to 2019 and the first quarter estimated income tax for 2020.
Is your business suffering during COVID-19? The Small Business Administration may be able to help through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan. There are low-interest disaster loans available to help small businesses meet financial obligations and cover operating expenses.
The CARES act, mentioned above, also has the important Paycheck Protection Program which may allow employers to get a forgivable loan that can cover up to 8 weeks of payroll costs for most employees. This may also cover health insurance, retirement, rent and the like. Funds are expected to go fast, and the loan application likely needs to be directly to banks, as opposed to the government itself. This was just passed the weekend this blog was written, so please check with your bank or tax professional.
The Washington State Department of Revenue now has an informational website dedicated to financial relief for businesses.
If you do not have health insurance, Washington Healthplanfinder has a special enrollment period until April 8, 2020. Call 1.855.289.4503 to speak with a customer service representative to find out if you are eligible.
We here at the Law Offices of Lance Fryrear will continue to do our best to provide education, communication, and protection to our clients and members of our community. If you have any questions, please give us a call. We will be there for you.