Am I Eligible For The Stimulus Relief Check?

Over the last several weeks, many of us were on edge – from wondering when and if we get access to relief funds to whether we’ll even have a job. Now that the U.S. government has rolled out the process and we’ve received more clarity on who qualifies for a stimulus check (and who doesn’t), some of us can breathe a sigh of relief.

A hundred dollar bill in the shape of the USA

So Who’s Eligible for a Stimulus Check?
As an individual, you are eligible for up to $1,200 if:

  • You made less than $75,000 (verified through filing your 2018 or 2019 income taxes)
  • You have a valid social security number

Married couples are eligible for up to $2,400 if:

  • The combined income is less than $150,000

An additional $500 is added to the check for each child you have that is 16 years old and younger

If you’ve filed 2018 or 2019 taxes already, you will automatically receive the payment – no need to do anything! Just make sure your bank information on file is correct!

Who Isn’t Eligible for a Stimulus Check?
Unfortunately, there is a group that has been left out – students 17 years and older that have been listed as dependents on their parents’ tax returns. For obvious reasons, parents list their adult children as dependents to receive tax credits that reduce their income taxes paid.

Regardless, I imagine many of us have reflected on the importance of having an emergency fund or have now made it a priority to establish one. No doubt will COVID-19 affect the way people think about money.  

In the meantime, what are some of the things you can do to better your financial situation during this COVID-19 crisis?

  1. If you’re struggling for money, normally I would say cut expenses and go make more money. In this case, people are facing reduced hours and layoffs so it’s not going to be easy to just go out and get more hours or a side hustle. However, there are certain industries that are desperate for workers. No job is beneath you when you need to pay bills –the hustle is real. Places like Amazon, Costco and Walmart are hiring. If you’re concerned about your health or are unable to work in these industries, outsource your skills on platforms like Fiverr or PeoplePerHour.
  2. Negotiate all your payments. From rent (talk to your landlord, don’t ghost them) or mortgage deferrals (which they announced) to your phone bill. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Be proactive about this especially if you’re concerned about job security.  
  3. If you’ve been laid off from your job, apply for unemployment insurance. Since unemployment is funded by the state, file your claim online in the state you work in. Each state pays differently (as each state is taxed differently), so the payments will vary by state. During this time, the federal government has topped up this unemployment insurance payment by $600 per week until July 31, 2020. Normally, gig workers/self-employed/freelancers are not eligible for unemployment insurance. However, the government has expanded the eligibility for these individuals during this health crisis. If you’re unsure of your eligibility, apply anyway!
  4. If you are on a cash crunch and need to turn to credit – use a credit card that carries the lowest interest rate or a line of credit if you have one. Really be mindful of your expenses and factor the minimum payments into your budget. Make sure you make these minimum payments!
  5. If you’re fortunate enough to work from home with a full salary and actually have your expenses reduced (e.g. transportation, eating out, entertainment), please please please support local businesses. Small businesses are the backbone of any economy. When small businesses close permanently, jobs are lost. Less jobs, equals less spending, equals recession, equals even more job losses. Your job may be safe now, but may not be in five months, pending how this all turns out.

The big box stores and restaurant chains that can afford to close temporarily or are sitting on a mountain of cash are going to survive. It’s the local stores and family restaurants that will suffer. I’ve committed to supporting local businesses once things start to normalize, and I hope you do too.

Remember, whether you own a business, hustle gig contracts, or work for a big bank, we’re all in this together.  Stay safe. Stay home. Don’t be that bratty kid in class that holds back the entire classroom!

Your Sassy Investor

Michelle Hung

For more personal finance and investment stuff, follow Michelle on Instagram @thesassyinvestor or visit her at www.thesassyinvestor.ca

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