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Ask the Bitches: "Will the Government Really Give Me $1,200?"

Ask the Bitches Pandemic Lightning Round: “Will the Government Really Give Me $1,200?”

Welcome to the Ask the Bitches Pandemic Lightning Round! We’re working around the clock to answer your questions about coronavirus, the impact of quarantine, and the recession of 2020.

Pardon our idealism, but we Bitches tend to think that one of the things a government should be responsible for is the economic welfare of its citizens in times of financial crisis.

You know: like right now.

Because make no mistake, along with being a public health crisis, the global outbreak of coronavirus is also an economic crisis. Many Americans have already lost their jobs due to the pandemic, resulting in a record 3.3 million unemployment claims; others are seeing their hours or pay severely cut; and the stock market is free-falling like Tom Petty at the Super Bowl, dropping the most in a single day since 2008.

But there are little glimmering lights of hope in this, our hour of darkness. The Federal Reserve just made $1.5 trillion available to keep banks solvent and steady. And now Congress has followed suit by passing a stimulus passage that will put money directly into the hands of people financially affected by the pandemic. Which happens to be all of us!

Unsurprisingly, you’ve got questions about this stimulus. We read all about it and distilled it down into easily digested morsels so that you don’t have to.

We’ll be coming at you fast this week, answering as many urgent questions as we can. If you appreciate the extra effort, we would love a small donation on our Patreon. Thank you!

The question

Here’s a question we got from patron MacKenzie through our Patreon on Congress’s stimulus package:

“I know that I’m qualified to get that snazzy $1,200 check from Congress, but honestly I don’t need it. I am safe, my job is safe, and I know many are not. What would be the best way to use this money the way it was intended and to help the most? Donate to a food bank? Pay off more of my loans? Give it to my mom so she can buy a better car (she needs to get rid of her mini-van. I lose cool points just by association)? Go on an unholy online shopping binge? How can I best support those around me? Any advice is welcome. Just promise it’ll include a meme.”

Include a meme? Include a meme??? Honey, that’s not a promise we can make… it is our solemn vow.

The answer

Ok so yes, many people are getting money. It is not an advance on next year’s tax return, and you don’t have to pay it back to the government eventually, and it’s not taxable. There’s literally no catch, as far as I understand it.

Other than the general catch that social democracies are being a lot more generous with their citizens. But hey, that’s nothing new.

Direct stimulus money

This week Congress passed a $2 trillion stimulus package. If that sounds like a lot of money, that’s because it is. In fact, it’s the largest stimulus ever passed by Congress, and that’s including measures taken during the Great Depression and the 2008 Recession.

Included in the stimulus are payments to individuals. Basically, every American adult would receive a one-time payment of $1,200 from the government. Married couples will get $2,400 total, and parents will receive $500 for each kid under the age of seventeen.

Unbasically… we’re all “eligible” for the payments listed above. In practice, if an individual makes over $75,000 a year, “the amount would then be reduced by $5 for every additional $100 of adjusted gross income” (CNN). If you make over $99,000 a year, you don’t get anything. And the income thresholds are doubled for married couples. So if your combined income as a couple is $99,000, you’re still eligible for a payout. But you won’t get anything if your combined income is $198,000.

The government will determine your eligibility based on your 2018 or 2019 tax returns. How and when we’ll all receive our money is still a bit vague. Personally, I’m rooting for embossed check delivered by robo-courier, but it seems that AS USUAL they’ll ignore all my good ideas and do it via direct deposit. The treasury secretary has indicated a three week timeframe.

If you’re concerned about whether or not you’re eligible, or whether your direct deposit information is set up with the IRS, you can check right here.

Other perks

But wait, there’s more!

The Department of Education will suspend payments on student loans through September 30th… without penalty. Which is great news for anyone already struggling to pay off their student loans.

Unemployment benefits are getting a steroidal injection. Under the stimulus plan, the unemployed will get an extra $600 a week for four months from the federal government in addition to their normal state benefits. And depending on eligibility, unemployed folks could receive up to thirteen weeks of extended unemployment benefits.

Also included in the stimulus is $117 billion for hospitals. Which is a fucking answer to the prayers of overworked and at-risk healthcare workers all over the country. And there’s another $450 million for food assistance programs!

You can read more about the specific details of the stimulus package here. but in the interest of brevity (STOP LAUGHING, WE’VE WRITTEN ARTICLES UNDER 1,000 WORDS BEFORE), I want to wrap this up with the last piece I think is directly relevant to Bitch Nation.

The bill covers housing protections against foreclosures and evictions. Which means that on top of the moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures coming from state and local governments, our homes will also be protected by this stimulus from the federal government too.

All of which should come as a little relief to anyone struggling financially because of the global pandemic. Three cheers and a tiger!

Who could possibly have foreseen this?

Comrades, you know we’re the feminasty libtard democratic socialists your parents warned you about. Long-time readers will be utterly unsurprised that we think things like labor rights, a universal basic income, and a robust social safety net are dope!

Which is why you know I have to say what I’m going to say next. I’m sorry, but I can’t not.

If there were ever a clear indication that we need systemic change to our economic and social structures, coronavirus is it.

Conventional indicators (like the stock market and unemployment rate) suggested our economy was healthy and performing well. But we’ve always known that these indicators fail to capture the true scope of its foundational instability.

The rate at which we raise the minimum wage falls far short of inflation. Most hourly workers in service industry jobs or manual laborers don’t get paid sick leave, not to mention employer-provided health insurance or retirement funds. The working poor are living hand to mouth in this, the richest country on Earth.

So is it any fucking wonder that these people need a government stimulus to make ends meet right now? That they’re applying for unemployment benefits en masse? Who could possibly have foreseen the disastrous results of millions of people making $7.25 an hour losing their jobs with no hope of replacement employment?

Aw shit. Sorry about my sarcasm dripping all over the floor. I’ll get a custodian to clean that up right away. Oh wait, I can’t because CUSTODIANS ARE TOO BUSY RISKING THEIR LIVES PERFORMING ESSENTIAL SERVICES DESPITE BEING PAID AN UNACCEPTABLY OPPRESSIVE WAGE.

Just… remember this at the polls, ok?

What should I do with the money?

If you’ve lost income because of the pandemic, the answer is obvious: use it to pay any bill you can’t postpone or forgive. Because yes, you should still try to negotiate on every bill you can.

But if you’re in MacKenzie’s position, you have so many options! And I love that more than one of the options she presents involves using the money to help others. We often say our readers are glimmering moonbeams of compassion and generosity (and in those exact words!), and that’s because it’s hella true.

If your job is secure, you have a fully loaded emergency fund, and you’re prepared for the next shit tornado to come your way, giving that money away is a lovely idea. We’ve already gone over ways to support your community, but here are a few coronavirus-specific ways to effectively use your government stimulus check for the greater good:

  • Donate to your local food bank. The food banks are being hit especially hard right now, with so many low-income people losing their jobs. And food banks have access to wholesale pricing on food, so they’ll be able to make better use of your dollars than your canned goods right now. Feeding America will use donations to directly benefit food banks around the country.
  • Donate to feed the elderly. The oldest members of our communities are some of the most at-risk of dying from coronavirus if they’re infected. Which is why senior citizens are being asked to stay home. These people are therefore relying on meal delivery services to have their food safely delivered to them, without the risk of infection. You can donate directly to Meals on Wheels to help them.
  • Donate to feed kids. Many children rely on school lunches as their only meal during the day. It’s horrific, but true. With schools closed to slow the spread of disease, these children and their families are struggling to eat. No Kid Hungry is accepting donations to feed children whose nutrition has been disrupted by school closures.
  • Donate to a subsidized clinic. Medical staff are literally saving lives from COVID-19 right now, and they’re at risk of running out of resources as they take on more and more sick patients. Many hospitals are nonprofits, and free or subsidized clinics serve the poorest among us. The CDC has set up a fund specifically to distribute donations to healthcare providers in need of resources.
  • Help local businesses. Many small businesses like restaurants and independently owned shops are suffering from having to close their doors to customers to enforce social distancing. But buying gift cards from them now that you can use later when they reopen is a great way to help them pay their bills in the interim.
  • Pay off debts. Even though the gubernmint has pressed pause on some kinds of debt repayment, your debts are still there. And we want all of our readers to work towards being free of debts, because debts magnify other catastrophes like illness and job loss.
  • Set it aside. We’re all getting the stimulus checks this year. But the economic ramifications of coronavirus could snowball for years to come. Putting the money away isn’t the worst plan. It could become a gift, to your future self or a loved one in need later on.

There are many ways we can work together to mitigate the effects of coronavirus—both economic and medical. Kitty wrote all about it last week:

Love in the Time of Coronavirus: How to Protect Your Community and Your Soul from COVID-19

And not to get too after-school-special on you, but that’s the only way we are going to get through this: together. HIT IT, 1985!

You’re heckin’ welcome, MacKenzie!

20 thoughts to “Ask the Bitches Pandemic Lightning Round: “Will the Government Really Give Me $1,200?””

  1. I’ve heard that this stimulus check is actually just a tax return advance for next year’s taxes (meaning if we are expecting a return next year, we won’t get it, or it will be our return minus whatever we get in the stimulus check). Is this true?

      1. I think Kristin may have been referring to next April’s tax return, because the places I’m looking are all saying that this is an advance on next year’s return. So you get, say, $1200 now and then next April if your refund is supposed to be $1400 you only get $200 because they advanced $1200 to you now.

        Please please fact check me – because I don’t know anything about tax policy or accounting! Here’s an example of where I got this from (from https://www.steptoe.com/en/news-publications/president-trump-signs-cares-act-into-law.html):

        “Recovery Rebates: The CARES Act provides for recovery rebates of up to $1,200 ($2,400 for joint filers) for US taxpayers. The mechanism for paying the rebates is an advance refundable tax credit.”

        The same language is at KPMG (https://home.kpmg/xx/en/home/insights/2020/03/flash-alert-2020-127.html), and the Tax Foundation (https://taxfoundation.org/cares-act-senate-coronavirus-bill-economic-relief-plan/). And this one was written based on the Senate version before the House passed it, but I don’t think there was a reconciliation so maybe it’s still good: https://www.kitces.com/blog/analyzing-the-cares-act-from-rebate-checks-to-small-business-relief-for-the-coronavirus-pandemic/.

        So, please let me know if I’ve misunderstood!

        1. You’ve misunderstood. I’m replying late because I read the damn bill (85 fucking pages… and I skimmed a lot of it) just to make sure. This is NOT an advance on your next tax return, nor is it a rebate. It’s just money, straight up. I think a lot of the confusion is coming from the fact that individuals’ qualifications are based on their 2018 or 2019 tax returns, and that you only will receive direct deposit if you’ve set that up with the IRS in the past. But truly, the stimulus check has nothing to do with your tax return beyond that.

          1. Also the use of the word “rebate” is deeply misleading. But if everything was neat and clear, it wouldn’t be the fucking government!

  2. What happens if you made too little money to file during 2018 or 2019? I was a student those years living at home with my mum and dad — the last time I was well enough to do more than study was 2011! What do you do if you’ve fallen off the tax rolls AND the UI rolls?

    1. Not to worry. If you didn’t file in 2018, you still have time to file your 2019 taxes. And you should do so, even if you made too little money to be taxed. This way the IRS will know you exist (though they probably have other ways, to be honest) and will know that you qualify based on your adjusted gross income.

  3. Since I’m disabled, on SSI, and considered a dependent even though I filed taxes for my temporary minimum wage job I had for half of 2019, I’m not getting the $1,200 and my mom/stepdad will not be giving me half of their $2,400, my youngest sister getting $500, and the independent sister that lives here and isn’t claimed as dependent is getting $1,200. Mom said it’s not fair that an adult dependent like me isn’t getting that check. So, if your parents claims you as dependent even as an adult because of disability or if you’re a college student, you’ll not receive the check.

  4. Up until 2017 I had a job (I’ve been a student/employed my entire adult life) but it was a contract job and it wasn’t renewed for 2018 due to budget issues. Around the same time a relative asked me to be a caregiver for them due to their health issues so I moved in with them and am basically getting free rent/utilities/food. I am pretty busy during the day but at night I do some editing work for friends and former professors where they pay me in cash so I don’t report it (it’s not much at all). This situation isn’t going to last forever but it’s been fine for the last 2 years. I filled out a tax form on TurboTax last year because I wasn’t sure if I still needed to file with no income. And I’ve filed every other year before that (I’m in my mid-30s and single and no one claims me as a dependent). Will I not get anything from the stimulus? 2018 and 2019 are the only 2 years I haven’t “worked” so even if I file this year (which I haven’t done yet), there’s nothing to report. I’m hoping I qualify but I probably won’t. Also, my mom makes less than $15k a year so would she qualify for the entire 1200? I’m still looking for more freelance editing work so if anyone has any ideas let me know! I’m really worried about finances so I’ll make it work and stay up all night if I have to. I have advanced degrees in English and experience editing manuscripts, academic work, and university publications. Thanks so much for everything you guys do!

  5. I am already a little Patreon donor, but I would love to be able to donate a larger one time donation to you guys for all the great information you are putting out and to help offset fellow readers who can no longer afford to. Any tips on how we could make that happen would be great!

    1. Thank you so much for your generosity, sweet pea!
      The best way to do a one-time donation is to increase your Patreon level to a higher amount, then after the first of next month, reduce the level again. Sorry, but that’s the only way we can accommodate one-time donations right now! I recommend setting a calendar reminder for the 2nd of next month so you remember to decrease your Patreon level after the one-time higher donation goes through.

  6. Thank you so much for posting this article! It occurred to me that even though many people will be receiving the stimulus money, it won’t come until a couple weeks have passed (at the earliest) so now is a good time to donate to help out until the money is dispensed. So THANK YOU SO MUCH for your advice on good places to donate! (I was paralyzed with indecision). And thank you so much for continuing to answer questions on tumblr and for posting these articles in these trying times!

  7. I haven’t filed this years taxes yet. I’ve seen that they’re going to do direct deposits based on past years taxes but the account I used last year for taxes has closed now. I’m worried they’ll try to deposit the check there and it’ll get returned and be in limbo or something. Advice? I can finish filing my taxes for 2019 this weekend but idk if they’ll process that information in time to use it for direct deposit. Thank you!!

    1. If the account is closed, they’ll mail you a check from the IRS. It’ll take longer than the direct deposit, but it’ll get to you. The important thing is to file your taxes ASAP so your current address and bank account info gets on file.

  8. I’m aware that the poorest and most vulnerable people are more likely to not have bank accounts, so I’m wondering who’s being left out because they normally don’t file taxes?

    I was trying to find out what % of American citizens and residents do not file taxes in a given year, but I didn’t find any numbers on this. (Though I did find something indicating that low-income seniors, many of whom don’t file taxes because they’re not required to, are getting their stimulus checks anyway and don’t have to file to get it.)

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