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CARES Act to provide financial relief

  • Published
  • By Lori A. Bultman
  • 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, became law March 27, 2020. Among the important benefits the act will provide are:  emergency financial assistance, unemployment insurance, rent and mortgage payment relief, penalty-free IRA and 401(k) early withdrawals, and funds for food banks and other food security programs.

“The CARES Act, the biggest rescue package in U.S. history, seeks to provide emergency financial assistance to people and businesses as the coronavirus pandemic continues,” said Stephen Parchman, community readiness specialist at the Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Military and Family Readiness Center. “It is meant to relieve financial pressures on Americans.”

Emergency Financial Assistance

As part of the Act, the federal government is sending $1,200 to each qualified person, or $2,400 to qualified married couples, Parchman said.  

To receive this amount, in most cases people must have an individual adjusted gross income, or AGI, of less than $75,000, or $112,500 for heads of household and $150,000 for joint filers. Single filers who earn up to $99,000 and joint filers who earn up to $198,000 should receive reduced amounts. 

Those over the thresholds will have their amount reduced by $5 for every $100 of income over the limit.

Additionally, eligible families with children will receive $500 per child under the age of 17. 

“In order to determine your AGI, the government will use your 2019 tax return, or your 2018 tax returns if you have yet to file 2019 returns,” Parchman said. “Retirees who receive Social Security benefits are also eligible to receive a check, as are people who receive the Earned Income Tax Credit. Stimulus deposits are expected to be dispersed in mid-April, and recipients should receive a letter in the mail 15 days prior to receiving the payment.”

Helpful hints on how to budget spending emergency financial assistance can be found at https://www.jbsa.mil/News/News/Article/2129581/financial-planning-budgeting-key-during-times-of-crisis/.

Unemployment Insurance Program

Families dealing with a loss of employment during the pandemic may benefit from the CARES Act’s unemployment provisions.  

The Texas Workforce Commission, working with the Department of Labor, is in the process of implementing the requirements of the CARES Act, while also continuing to process unemployment insurance claims caused by the COVID-19.

For those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits, some may be able to extend their benefits.  

“If you recently exhausted benefits, no action is needed from you. The TWC will determine if you qualify and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility,” according to the commission website. 

If you are self-employed, a contract worker or previously worked in a position that did not report wages, you may also qualify for unemployment. 

“If you applied for unemployment benefits, but lacked the necessary wages to qualify, no action is needed. We will determine if you qualify under the new stimulus bill and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility,” according to the TWC. 

The health and well-being of Texas’ employees, employers, and communities is commissions top priority, and they are in the process of adapting their systems to the new legislation. If unemployed persons attempt to access the system or call prior to receiving notification, staff members at TWC will not be able to assist.

Updates may be found on the TWC website at:  https://www.twc.texas.gov/news/covid-19-resources-job-seekers.

If any San Antonio area Department of Defense ID cardholder needs assistance with employment-related questions, they can contact one of the Joint Base San Antonio Military and Family Readiness Centers to arrange a telephone or virtual appointment.

Penalty-Free IRA and 401(k) Early Withdrawals

People who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, whose spouses have been diagnosed, or anyone who has been adversely impacted financially by the coronavirus or disease, can withdraw up to $100,000 from their tax-advantaged retirement accounts, like a 401(k) or IRA, penalty-free, as provided by the CARES Act. 

Normally, early withdrawals come with a 10 percent surtax, on top of normal income taxes, Parchman said. 

“A distribution under the provisions of the act will be counted as income, meaning you will have to pay taxes on it spread out over three years,” he said. “Also, people who take the distribution will have a three-year window to repay the money if they wish.”

The provision for penalty-free early withdrawals does not apply to pension plans.

Food Banks and Other Food Security Programs

“To help hungry Americans, the CARES Act authorizes $450 million to go to food banks and other food programs, which is in addition to previous emergency funding,” Parchman said. 

Furthermore, $8.8 billion will go to school meal programs, as well as $15.5 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, he said. 

“For families that have been impacted by the pandemic, we strongly suggest they utilize the available resources to include food pantries, schools and the organizations.”

San Antonio area school districts’ meal distribution sites and information may be found on the individual districts’ websites.

The San Antonio Food Bank emergency food distribution mobile sites or home delivery, and Farm Fresh Saturdays produce box distributions require registration which can be completed at https://safoodbank.org/cvresponse/. For assistance finding a food pantry near you, call the food bank at 210-431-8326.

Joint Base San Antonio military and civilian members, families, and retirees may contact one of the local Military and Family Readiness Centers listed below for information on available MFRC programs or to arrange a telephone or virtual appointment. Phones are monitored, but if you are connected to voicemail, please leave a message and someone will get back to you. 

• JBSA-Randolph:  210-652-5321 or email Randolphmfrc@us.af.mil

• JBSA-Lackland: 210-671-3722 or email 802fss.fsfr@us.af.mil

• JBSA-Fort Sam Houston: 210-221-2705/2418 or email usaf.jbsa.502-abw.mbx.mfrc@mail.mil

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