The heavy economic toll caused by compliance with coronavirus health guidelines has been devastating for many Americans, but real help is now within sight. The recently enacted CARES Act provides urgently needed financial assistance to families, displaced workers, and businesses.
Immediate Relief for Workers
Mississippi residents are beginning to see fast and direct relief in the form of payments from the U.S. Treasury. These payments provide up to $1,200 for individual tax filers and $2,400 for joint filers, depending on income, with an additional $500 per child. Every American making less than $99,000 will receive this assistance, including those who receive Social Security benefits or Social Security income. And no action is required. The Treasury will deliver the money based on information from each person’s most recent tax filings.
Those who have lost their jobs because of this crisis can get additional help. The CARES Act makes available an extra $600 per week for those who are unemployed, on top of the unemployment benefit determined by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES). This additional $600 will last through July 31. More information about eligibility and how to apply can be found on the MDES website: mdes.ms.gov.
For those who have kept their jobs but have to stay home for reasons relating to the COVID-19 outbreak, new paid leave benefits are available. The recently enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires certain employers to provide paid leave for workers if they have coronavirus symptoms or are forced to stay home because of a government-imposed quarantine. Workers are also eligible for partial paid leave if they have to stay home with their children because of school closures or need to care for someone under quarantine.
Keeping Small Businesses Going
Struggling businesses across the nation now have a critical lifeline in the Paycheck Protection Program. This program, authorized by the CARES Act, will help businesses keep their workers on payroll during this economic slowdown. The program was rolled out within seven days of the law’s enactment, but the sheer volume of applications caused some delays and frustration. The loans offered through this program are administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and can be accessed through any of Mississippi’s SBA-certified lenders. Businesses can borrow up to 2.5 times their monthly payroll costs (up to $10 million), and costs associated with those loans will be forgiven if at least 75% of the money goes toward payroll and up to 25% goes toward utilities, rent, and mortgage interest payments over eight weeks. These loans are also available to farmers, independent contractors, certain nonprofits, and faith-based organizations.
Small businesses can also apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans. President Donald Trump’s nationwide disaster declaration made every small business in America eligible to apply for this aid, which includes a $10,000 advance payment that does not have to be repaid. And while waiting for a loan decision or disbursement, businesses that urgently need cash can apply for an SBA Express Bridge Loan of up to $25,000. These loans can be accessed through any of Mississippi’s SBA-certified lenders and can arrive within three days.
The assistance provided by the CARES Act is already making a difference for families and businesses. For more information about these and other programs, Mississippians can visit the coronavirus resources page on my website at: wicker.senate.gov/coronavirus-resources. This page is a one-stop shop for COVID-19-related materials, including links to apply for assistance programs, frequently asked questions, and the most up-to-date guidance.