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!
Here’s a question we got from patron MacKenzie through our Patreon on the Congressional 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.
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 Congress has ever passed, 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 they double the income thresholds 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 you’ve set up your direct deposit information with the IRS, you can check right here.
But wait, there’s more!
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? Also, this:
- Coronavirus Reveals America’s Pre-existing Conditions, Part 1: Healthcare, Housing, and Labor Rights
- Coronavirus Reveals America’s Pre-existing Conditions, Part 2: Racial and Gender Inequality
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. Which is why we’re asking senior citizens 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:
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!