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Perspective: What Does the CARES Act Mean for You and Your Clients?

Mar 25, 2020
Currently, the United States Senate is debating the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act – S. 3548).

In uncertain times, it is a comfort to feel that you are not alone and that there are groups of people with the same vested interest as you. Here at the American Counseling Association, we continue to work closely internally and with our mental health coalition groups to assure that we are supporting you, the professional counselors, at the highest level.

ACA is also working with a third-party lobbying group to assist us with our overall federal strategy. In short, we have multiple sources we can use to engage and empower our elected officials to make decisions that are supportive of our professional counseling community. In addition, we work with all of these sources to make sense of the ever-changing information coming from the federal government.

Currently, the United States Senate is debating the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act – S. 3548). The CARES Act, as introduced, is not perfect—and many congressional leaders believe it does not do enough for the citizens of our country as written. However, this is where the negotiating starts on the Hill, with input from groups such as the American Counseling Association.

The question we have to ask ourselves now is: “What does the CARES Act mean for me and my clients?” Before we answer that question, it is important to note that this is not the last stimulus package that will be created. Also, this package does not have a focus on mental health issues relating to professional counseling.

The primary congressional focus in this bill is to position health care to effectively treat COVID-19, with a focus on providing hospitals with the resources they need. There are additional areas of focus, such as small business, families and individuals, education and labor. We will do our best to pull out areas that we believe will interest our profession, your clients, and yes, your family.

This brings us back to our original question: “What does the CARES Act mean for me and my clients?” The answer is not as simple as one would hope. Policy within this act is debated every day and seems to change in the blink of an eye. Here is what we know now:

SMALL BUSINESS SUPPORT

Small business interruption loans (SBIs): This loan program would provide loans of up to $10 million for qualifying small businesses. The program also includes an opportunity for future loan forgiveness. Businesses eligible for these loans must have less than 500 employees. If you borrow from an SBI loan, by law you are not eligible to receive an SBA economic injury disaster loan for the same purpose.

 The SBI loans are designed to cover:

  • Payroll
  • Mortgage/rent
  • Payments on debt obligations

If approved for this loan, fees would be waived for the borrower and lender. The SBI loan would be eligible for a loan repayment deferment for up to one year, as well as loan forgiveness.

For more information on SBI loans, go to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Please note the information available now will likely change once the CARES Act is passed and enacted. Currently, the Congress does not have answers on how the bill would work in practice.

SUPPORT FOR INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES

Payments to tax payers: The proposal would provide payments to tax payers who have reported income on their 2018 tax returns. This income would include a variety of veterans’ benefits and Social Security income.

  • Payments would be between $600 and $1200.
  • Joint filers would receive between $1200 and $2400, including an increase of $500 per child.
  • Individuals earning more than $99,000 in 2018 would not be eligible.
  • Joint filers reporting more than $198,000 in 2018 would not be eligible.

Delay of 2019 tax payment deadline: Tax filings for 2019 have already been delayed until July 15, 2020.

Additional Areas of Importance to Individuals and Families

Retirement plans: The bill would waive the 10 percent tax on early withdrawals for qualifying accounts for:

  • Individuals or a spouse diagnosed with COVID-19 or
  • For people who suffer financial hardship due to being quarantined.

Delay of certain tax payments: Corporations may delay estimated tax payments.

  • Employer and self-employed individuals may delay payment of the employer’s share of the payroll tax.
  • Fifty percent of the tax would be due by December 31, 2021, and the other 50 percent would be due in 2022.

Net operating loss deductions: Companies would be able to amend their returns to claim losses from:

  • 2018, 2019, 2020 carried back five years.
  • The legislation would temporarily remove the taxable income limitation ensuring that the net operating loss could be used to fully offset taxable income.

Expanded charitable deductions: The bill would give individual donors a $300 deduction when donating to a charitable organization. The measure also suspends limitation on charitable donations by individuals.

EDUCATION

Student loan borrowers: The bill would suspend all payments of federal loans for a designated period. This includes the suspension of the accrual of interest for federal loans.

Federal work study: Eligible students would receive payments from their school for a designated period when they are unable to fulfill their work-study obligation due to a national emergency. Schools would have the choice to pay students with a one-time grant or in multiple payments.

GOING FORWARD

The information provided here does not cover all of the items included in the CARES Act. Our goal was to pull out information we believe you would find useful. Please stay tuned for future updates on the stimulus programs that the U.S. Congress is working on. We would also encourage you to research all information provided in this write-up because that information is changing day by day—and to consult with a tax professional on any and all areas relating to taxes.

ACA will keep a close eye on the happenings on Capitol Hill. Please be ready to advocate for the professional counseling community as we develop our strategy for the next stimulus package. Let’s gear up and fight for our community, our clients and for each other.

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