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Frequently Asked Questions

After the CARES Act was passed by both the House and Senate, the President signed the legislation into law on Thursday, March 27, 2020. Below you will find answers to some frequently asked questions to help you unpack the over 800-page, $2 trillion funding package.

Stimulus Payments/Rebates

How large are the Stimulus Payments?

  • Eligible Americans will receive a one-time direct payment. The full amount is $1,200 (individuals), $2,400 (joint filers), and an additional $500 per child.

Will everybody get a payment? How do I know what amount I should get?

  • That will be determined by an individual’s 2019 tax return for those who have filed or a 2018 tax return for those who have not.

  • Individuals making less than $75,000, or $150,000 for joint filers, will receive the full amount. Recipients cannot be a dependent of another taxpayer and must have an eligible SSN. 

  • For filers with income above those amounts, the payment amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000/$150,000 thresholds.

  • It completely phases out at $99,000 (individuals) and $198,000 (joint filers) with no children.

How will payments be delivered and when? 

  • Rebates will be delivered automatically—by the IRS—to most Americans who file individual federal income tax returns. When available, an electronic direct deposit will be used in place of mailing a physical check.

  • If an individual’s direct deposit information is not on file, the Treasury Department plans to develop a web-based portal for individuals to provide their banking information to the IRS online, so that individuals can receive payments immediately as opposed to checks in the mail. Please check the IRS website, at IRS.gov/coronavirus, for developments on this portal.

  • The IRS has announced that they will start sending payments to most Americans in April.

What if the amount I receive is wrong?

  • If, when taxpayers file their 2020 returns, they find that the advance credit was greater than they should have received, they will not be required to pay the excess credit.

  • If the advanced credit is less than the actual credit received, taxpayers can claim the difference on their 2020 returns.

What if I don’t file income tax?

  • Social Security retirement, disability (SSDI), or survivor benefits recipients and Railroad Retirement and Survivor Benefits recipients DO NOT need to take any action to receive their stimulus payment.
  • If you did not file a 2018 or 2019 federal income tax return because your gross income was under $12,200 ($24,400 for married couples), including people who had no income, or you weren’t required to file a 2018 or 2019 federal income tax return for other reasons you should click here to enter your payment information to ensure you receive your stimulus payment.

Small Businesses

What additional programs and assistance were added for small businesses as part of the CARES Act?

  • There were many provisions to assist small businesses included in the CARES Act, including the paycheck protection program (PPP) loan, loan advances for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), debt relief for some non-disaster SBA loans, additional funding for resource partners, including Small Business Development Centers and Women’s Business Centers, as well as tax provisions such as employee retention credit, and the delay in payroll taxes.

  • As these provisions are implemented more guidance will become available on the specifics.

How does the Paycheck Protection Program work?

  • The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a new program that would provide cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally guaranteed loans to employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency. If employers maintain their workforce, SBA will forgive the portion of the loan proceeds that are used to cover the first 8 weeks of payroll and certain other expenses following loan origination. Up to 100 percent of the loan is forgivable.

  • Interest rates are capped at 4%. 

  • This program would be retroactive to February 15, 2020, in order to help bring workers who may have already been laid off back onto payrolls. Loans are available through June 30, 2020. 

Who issues these loans and when can I apply?

  • PPP loans will be issued by SBA 7(a) lenders.

  • Applications will start to be accepted on Friday, April 3, 2020.

What businesses can apply for these (PPP) loans? 

  • Businesses – including eligible non-profits, Veterans organizations, Tribal concerns, sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors described in the Small Business Act – with 500 or fewer employees may apply.

  • Businesses in certain industries may have more than 500 employees if they meet the SBA’s size standards for those industries.

What is the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance, and how is it different from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)?

  • The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help pay to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills. Illinois businesses can apply for these loans now through SBA at https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/

  • The Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance provides an advance of up to $10,000 to small businesses and private non-profits harmed by COVID-19 within three days of applying for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). To access the advance, you must first apply for an EIDL and then request the advance. The advance does not need to be repaid under any circumstance and may be used to keep employees on payroll, to pay for sick leave, meet increased production costs due to supply chain disruptions or pay business obligations, including debts, rent, and mortgage payments. 

How long are Loan Advances available?

  • The grants are available from January 31, 2020 – December 31, 2020. The grants are backdated to January 31, 2020 to allow those who have already applied for EIDLs to be eligible to also receive a grant.

If I have already applied for an EIDL how do I get the loan advance?

  • If you have already applied for an EIDL you will need to reapply through the streamlined application to be available for the advance. SBA will provide more guidance on this soon. 

How can applicants check the status of their Economic Injury Disaster Injury Loans (EIDL) online?

  • Once you submit your EIDL it will take you to the homepage and from there you should see your Applications and Loans, and you can click on the “Status” icon next to the loan you want to know that status of.

If I get an EIDL and/or an Emergency Economic Injury Grant, can I get a PPP loan?

  • As SBA rolls out their guidance it will become clearer what the parameters are around applying and receiving multiple loans. 

What is the SBA Debt Relief Program?

  • This program provides immediate relief to small businesses with non-disaster SBA 7(a) loans. Under this program, SBA will pay principal and interest for new loans issued prior to September 27, 2020, and for current 7(a) loans SBA will pay the principal and interest for a period of six months.

  • More information on this will become available as SBA and Treasury continue to implement this program.

Unemployment Compensation

What additional unemployment benefits are now offered?

  • The CARES Act includes many additional benefits for unemployment compensation but they are not mandated.

  • Unemployment Insurance is a state-federal partnership and as the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) finalizes implementation there will be additional guidance released. 

What is the additional $600 check for unemployment benefits?

  • Through July 31, 2020, the federal government will provide an additional temporary Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) of $600 a week for any worker eligible for state or federal unemployment compensation (UC) benefits. The FPUC would be paid in addition to and at the same time (but not necessarily in the same check) as regular state or federal UC benefits. The federal supplement would not affect eligibility for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. 

  • IDES has said these benefits will be applied automatically if you are eligible, and that once the stimulus package has been implemented in Illinois there will be additional guidance. 

What do workers do who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits?

  • All states are eligible to provide an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits available immediately through December 31, 2020, to workers who need beyond what is provided for in state and federal law. 

  • IDES has said in many cases, individuals will be eligible for more weeks of unemployment above the 26 weeks provided under regular unemployment rules. 

  • Once IDES implements the stimulus there will be additional guidance on when this extension will be available. 

Are self-employed workers, freelancers and independent contractors eligible for unemployment compensation generally or the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit specifically?  

  • The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program expands eligibility and provides unemployment compensation to workers not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency. This expanded eligibility would provide benefits to self-employed individuals, independent contractors, “gig economy” employees, and individuals who were unable to start a new job or contract due to the pandemic.

  • Individuals would apply for these temporary new federal benefits at the state UC office. PUA would be available in all states and U.S. territories, subject to agreements with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The program will exist through December 31, 2020.

  • IDES will provide information about how to apply for this benefit as soon as it is finalized. They have asked these individuals to please not apply at this time.

  • Upon further guidance from IDES these individuals may be entitled to also receive the additional $600 supplemental. 

When do the temporary emergency benefit increases end? 

  • The CARES Act terminates the $600 a week FPUC supplement on July 31, 2020, and other provisions on December 31, 2020. 

Can workers get UC at the same time as they receive employer-provided paid leave?

  • No, workers who are receiving paid leave are not eligible for UC.

Can workers on UC receive health insurance benefits from their prior employer?  

  • Workers receiving UC are eligible to stay on employer-sponsored insurance through COBRA but will no longer receive employer contributions for the premium.

Click here for additional specific COVID-19 related information from IDES.

HEALTH CARE 

Hospitals and Health System  

What financial assistance is available for hospitals, health systems and health care providers in the bill?

  • One of the primary ways the bill supports our health system is a $100 billion fund, run through the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF), to cover non-reimbursable expenses attributable to Covid-19. All health care entities that provide health care, diagnoses or testing are eligible for funding. 

Which hospitals, health systems, and health care providers qualify to receive the PHSSEF funding?

  • The $100 billion PHSSEF fund is designed to be:
    • Immediately responsive to needs
    • Reviewed by HHS on a rolling basis in order to get money into the health system as quickly as possible. (This is in contrast to a more traditional, yet time consuming, competitive grant process, under which HHS would solicit applications by a certain deadline and review all applications together.)
    • Nimble and flexible, ensuring a more rapid response.
  • The Secretary is expected to release guidance on the application process shortly, and Congress will continue to work with the Administration to ensure that the funding and application process works as intended.

What support is included for community health centers?

  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act provides $1.32 billion in supplemental funding for community health centers (CHCS), which are on the front lines in addressing COVID-19 in underserved communities across the country. This funding is in addition to the $100 million distributed by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to CHCs on March 24th. Community Health Centers can also access the PHSEFF fund. 
  • Hospitals are facing cash flow challenges due to canceling elective services. Is there anything in this bill to help hospitals stay afloat, even temporarily?
  • During the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), the CARES Act creates the opportunity for hospitals to receive accelerated payments. Specifically, acute care hospitals, critical access hospitals (CAHs), children’s hospitals, and prospective payment system-exempt cancer hospitals (PCHs) will be able to request accelerated Medicare payments for inpatient hospital services. This is an expanded set of hospitals compared with the existing accelerated payment program.
  • Accelerated payments must be repaid to Medicare, however a qualifying hospital would not be required to start paying Medicare back for four months after receiving the first payment. Hospitals would have at least 12 months to complete repayment without paying interest.

Medicare + Health Insurance 

Will my prescription drug coverage or Medicare benefits be impacted by the bill? 

  • Under the CARES Act, during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) a senior on Medicare can get up to 90 days of a prescription if that is what the doctor prescribed, as long as there are no safety concerns. Medicare drug plans will also allow beneficiaries to fill prescriptions early for refills up to 90 days, depending on the prescription.

If I have private insurance, will I have to pay for a coronavirus test? 

  • No. All private insurance plans are required to cover coronavirus testing without deductibles, coinsurance, or co-pays. It also requires insurers to cover costs for:
    • Visits to the ER,
    • Visits to urgent care centers; and
    • Visits to the doctor's office.

Is coronavirus testing covered if I don’t have health insurance?  

  • Yes. The Families First “phase 1” bill ensured free coronavirus testing, regardless of insurance status. That is not necessarily true for treatment. We are awaiting guidance from HHS on whether or not hospitals can offset the costs of treating uninsured patients with the $100B made available. 

How much will patients have to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available? 

  • Nothing or very little. Under ACA and restated in the CARES Act, vaccines are “recommended preventative care” measures and covered at no cost to patients. 

Transportation and Housing 

Will public transit continue to run? 

  • Yes. CTA, Metra, and Pace Bus are continuing to run during the COVID-19 crisis. In some cases, schedules or service frequency might have changed temporarily. Check the CTA, Metra, or Pace Bus website for details on your trip, and if possible, stay home! 

How does the CARES Act impact government-guaranteed mortgages? 

  • Homeowners with mortgages backed by the FHA, USDA, VA, HUD section 184a, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac are eligible for loan forbearance for up to one year without fees, penalties, or additional interest. Homeowners facing financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus may receive the forbearance by contacting their loan servicer directly, and should do so as soon as possible. 

What about foreclosure relief for homeowners?

  • Homeowners with FHA, USDA, VA, or Section 184 or 184A mortgages or mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac who are facing foreclosure will have relief from evictions until May 17, 2020.

What about renters?

  • Property owners are prohibited from filing for eviction or charging any fees for unpaid rent to a tenant in properties with federally guaranteed loans or participating in federal housing programs until July 26, 2020. In addition, notices to vacate, which must be posted 30 days prior to eviction, cannot be posted during this period. 

  • Owners of mult-family buildings with federal loans in forbearance may not evict tenants or charge late fees or penalties while those loans remain in forbearance. 

Education & Student Loans

For Students

What happens to my Federal Pell Grant eligibility if I dropped out of school as a result of COVID-19?

  • The school term will be excluded from counting towards lifetime Pell eligibility.

Am I required to return my Pell Grants or federal student loans if I dropped out of school because of COVID-19?

  • No, students are not required to return unused Pell Grants or federal student loans. In fact, it cancels the portion of the student’s loans taken out for the semester if a student withdraws from an institution.

What happens to my subsidized loan eligibility if I dropped out of school as a result of COVID-19?

  • The school term will also be excluded from counting towards the lifetime subsidized loan eligibility. 

What happens if I can’t continue my Federal Work-Study due to work-place closures?

  • The bill allows institutions to issue work-study payments to students who are unable to work due to these closures as a lump sum or in payments similar to paychecks.

Is there funding available for students who are financially affected by COVID-19?

  • Yes, there are supplemental educational opportunity grants (SEOG) for emergency aid, in which institutions can award additional SEOG funds to students impacted. 

If I dropped out of school as a result of COVID-19, what happens to my academic grades?

  • Grades will not affect a student’s federal academic requirements. An institution may exclude attempted credits that were not completed due to a COVID-19 from Satisfactory Academic Progress calculations.

If I attend a school overseas, how can I continue to receive my education and student loans?

  • The CARES act allows foreign institutions to offer distance learning to allow U.S. students to continue receiving student loans for the duration of the COVID-19 disaster.

For Teachers

What happens if I could not finish a full year of teaching service due to COVID-19?

  • The CARES Act allows teachers’ partial year of service to be counted as a full year of service toward TEACH Grant obligations or Teacher Loan Forgiveness. It also waives a requirement that teachers must serve consecutively for Teacher Loan Forgiveness if a teacher’s service is interrupted.

Immigrants

What are some key provisions in the bill that protect immigrants?

  • The bill does not include funding for ICE and CBP “quarantine facilities”.

  • It does include restrictions on the transfer and reprogramming of other DHS funds. 

Are immigrants able to access any of the benefits in this bill? 

  • Unfortunately, this bill stripped away major benefits that protect immigrant communities that were in the original House bill drafted by Speaker Pelosi, such as: 

    • Providing adequate health care access. In this package, undocumented immigrants and other categories of lawfully present immigrants are already excluded from Medicaid eligibility are also excluded from access to COVID-19 testing and care. 

    • Providing financial support for those in need. In this package, undocumented individuals and mixed families are excluded from the eligibility for cash relief. 

What efforts are underway to make sure tax-paying immigrants get the benefits they deserve?

  • In the next COVID-19 relief package, we will support the inclusion of provisions that were stripped out of the original House bill, such as:

    • A priority fix for automatic work authorization extensions. 

    • Individuals and mixed families being eligible for cash relief.

    • Individuals can have access to testing and care.

Does the Department of Homeland Security exclude COVID-19 related assistance from consideration under the Public Charge rule for green card applicants or other applicants seeking to change status? 

  • The USCIS encourages all COVID-19 symptomatic individuals to seek treatment and states that such treatment will not negatively affect a future Public Charge analysis.

  • The rule also requires USCIS to consider the receipt of certain cash and non-cash public benefits, including those that may be used to obtain testing or treatment for COVID-19 in a public charge inadmissibility determination, and for purposes of a public benefit condition applicable to certain nonimmigrants seeking an extension of stay or change of status.

  • Assurances that applicants may submit explanatory statements and USCIS will “take all such evidence into consideration in the totality of the alien’s circumstances” are inadequate to alleviate the fears of would-be applicants.

  • We need a full rescission of the Public Charge rule to ensure that people can feel safe seeking medical care or accessing other assistance necessary to keep everyone safe. 

  •  Unemployment benefits are not included in the public charge test and do NOT have to be reported on the I-944 self-sufficiency form that people subject to the public charge test have to complete. 

States and Localities

Are states and localities getting federal financial assistance?

  • Yes. The CARES Act provides $150 billion for assistance for state and local governments, tribes, and US territories.

  • In Illinois, 45% of funding allocated will go directly to municipalities with over 500 thousand residents (Cook County, the City of Chicago, Lake County, Will County, DuPage County, Kane County) and 55% of the funding will go to the State for state expenditures and/or distribution to municipalities with less than 500 thousand residents, at the discretion of the Governor. 

Americans Abroad

What should Americans and Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) who are abroad do to repatriate? 

  • The first thing to do is enroll in the State Department’s Smart Travelers Enrollment Program by visiting step.state.gov.

  • The next step is to contact the American Citizens Services at the local U.S. Embassy to inform them that you would like to repatriate. They will ask for your contact information, passport number, date of birth, and home address.

  • Our office is happy to contact the U.S. Embassy and the repatriation task force once those steps have been completed. The State Department may ask for a privacy release form to provide more detailed information. 

What are the charges for a State Department Charter or what if I cannot afford to pay for another flight?

  • By law the State Department allows Americans and LPRs to board the charters with a promissory note, meaning they will be billed later, at the address that was provided. The cost of the flight is that of market value before the crisis, so it depends where you are traveling from.

Can I just get on a commercial flight? 

  • Some countries are limiting or restricting commercial flights. If you are able to get on a commercial flight, you will not be charged by the State Department. 

How quickly can I get a flight back home?

  • It depends on what country you are in. Some countries have placed strict restrictions on air space and the State Department is working to get permissions to charter flights to repatriate citizens and LPRs. The US Embassy and the State Department will work through the list of individuals who submitted their information to the embassy and prioritize, the elderly and those with medical conditions. The State Department said that they are beefing up their repatriation program and trying to add flights. 

  • On April 1, 2020, the State Department issued an updated level 4 Global Health Advisory. If people do not repatriate now on either a commercial flight or with the State Department, they should be aware that they may have to remain where they are for the foreseeable future. The window to travel is set to close on April 6. 

What if I have a medical condition? 

  • When you are submitting your request to repatriate be sure to include that information. If you are still having issues, contact our office so we can with with the State Department and the U.S. Embassy to help get you home. In some cases, the State Department has been charting medical flights to repatriate these individuals faster but this has not been available in all countries.  

What if I am stuck in a remote area?

  • Enroll in STEP and inform the embassy that you would like to repatriate. The State Department is working on using some of their smaller planes to travel to those remote areas, but it may take a little bit longer, as they work on getting permissions from the home government.

How many Citizens and LPRs have the State Department repatriated?

  • As of April 1, 2020, the State Department has repatriated 31,000 citizens and LPRs on 186 flights worldwide. There are still 22,000 who need to be repatriated and the State Dept. has identified about 8,500 and added 90 flights. 

What if the Embassy is not getting back to me or I have more questions?

  • Constituents can contact our office and we can reach out to the State Dept. repatriation task force liaison and the congressional unit at the embassy to try to answer any additional questions. 

Disclaimer: This page is intended to provide preliminary guidance based on Congressional intent and does not constitute legal advice. It also does not replace official implementation guidance from the relevant state and federal agencies.

For the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention please visit cdc.gov/coronavirus.
For the latest information from the Chicago Department of Public Health, please visit Chicago.gov/coronavirus.

Last updated April 13, 2020