Wednesday, 20 January 2021

COVID-19 Relief Package: What Congress and Banks Are Offering

COVID-19 Relief Package: What Congress and Banks Are Offering
31 Mar
10:39

American taxpayers can finally expect some relief heading their way, thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law two months after the coronavirus (COVID-19) first appeared in the U.S. This $2 trillion financial relief package seeks to provide assistance to affected taxpayers as well as small businesses and corporations.

In addition to the government’s efforts, banks across the country have also stepped up. To help you navigate these challenging times and make sure you’re aware of all potential resources, we’ve compiled the latest information on the government’s relief packages and relief plans from the big banks.

We will continue to update this page as the situation evolves.

One-time stimulus checks

Taxpayers’ long-awaited direct payments, or recovery rebates, will be determined by their most recent tax return. For many, this will be your 2019 tax return, since we have yet to file taxes for 2020. If you have not yet filed your 2019 tax return, the government will turn to your 2018 return instead.

How much you’ll get: For individuals, the plan will provide one-time direct payments of $1,200 ($2,400 for joint returns) to those with an annual income of $75,000 or less. Payments will decrease incrementally for those who made more than $75,000 and will stop altogether for individuals who earned more than $99,000. Individuals will also receive an additional $500 per child.

To find the estimated amount of your recovery rebate check, drag your cursor along the line below to your corresponding income amount.

How to sign up: There’s no need to sign up for this. All you need is a valid Social Security number to receive these relief rebates. The IRS will distribute these payments based on information from your most recent tax return. If you did not file a tax return, the IRS may turn to your Social Security Benefit Statement or Social Security Equivalent Benefit Statement to pull your information.

How you’ll get the check: Depending on what you requested on your tax return, the IRS will send the payment either via direct deposit or a paper check. If your address or bank account information has changed since 2018, file your 2019 tax return as soon as possible, if you haven’t already.

When the checks will come: As of now, taxpayers can expect to see payments sometime in April.

Are the checks taxed? These recovery rebates are considered advanced tax credits for 2020 and should not be taxed for most. Since the payment amounts are determined based on your previous tax returns, however, the payments could be subject to adjustment if you earned more or less this year compared to prior years.

For example, if you received too large of a rebate proportionate to your most recent income, you could end up owing back the excess. However, it is so far expected that taxpayers will not have to return or pay tax on any portion of these rebates, regardless of income changes. If you receive a payment that is too low, you also may be able to receive a tax credit from your 2020 taxes to make up the difference.

Expanded unemployment benefits

For starters, individuals who have found themselves unable to work as a result of COVID-19, including those who are sick, quarantined or taking care of family members, will be able to collect unemployment, extending those benefits beyond those who were fired or laid off.

The stimulus bill will also add $600 on top of existing unemployment benefits (currently averaging about $300 a week) for four months and extend unemployment insurance by 13 weeks. The bill will also ensure that workers maintain their full salaries if they lose their job due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This additional funding will come from the federal government rather than from states and employers, who typically fund unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits are still taxable under current law, which the stimulus bill does not account for.

Eased penalties around retirement account withdrawals

The bill also allows those affected by COVID-19 to withdraw up to $100,000 from qualified retirement accounts, including your 401(k) and IRAs, without facing the 10% early withdrawal penalty that typically applies when you make withdrawals when you are under the age of 59 ½. You will still have to pay income taxes on your withdrawals, though these taxes will now be due over the course of three years instead of immediately. Additionally, the bill waives required minimum distributions (RMDs) for select retirement plans for this year.

Qualified individuals include those who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or have a spouse or dependent who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, as well as those who have been laid off, quarantined, furloughed or faced reduced hours due to the pandemic. This applies through Dec. 31, 2020.

Even though the bill allows it, withdrawing from your retirement accounts before you’ve actually hit retirement is generally not the best plan — especially if you’re already close to retiring. By doing so, you run the high risk of hurting the nest egg that you’ve worked hard to build for retirement. Still, this may be the only source of money available to many right now.

Small business relief

The stimulus plan includes $425 billion for the Federal Reserve to leverage for loans to distressed companies and $75 billion for industry-specific loans. Despite previous claims from President Trump that he alone would choose which businesses received aid, this lending system will fall under oversight by an inspector general and a congressionally-appointed panel.

The spending package also provides $350 billion that will go toward lending programs for small businesses, but only those that keep their payrolls steady through the crisis. There is also a reward for small businesses that keep their workers in the form of federally-guaranteed loans that will be forgiven if the employer continues to pay its workers throughout this time of crisis.

Additionally, the plan allocates $130 billion for hospitals and $150 billion for state and local governments.

Banks’ responses to COVID-19

In the meantime, millions of Americans are struggling with changes to their work hours and incomes. Some banks are offering relief packages of their own, often waiving certain fees or offering expedited services. Certain banks, like Ally Bank, are providing more robust aid than others, while several big banks have not committed to providing widespread support. Although not listed below, community banks may offer a stronger support system to those financially affected.

Many banks also warn customers about keeping their information and money safe from fraudsters. Unfortunately, scams and phishing attempts are cropping up to take advantage of this crisis. Be wary of phone calls, emails and texts from suspicious senders who ask for personal or account information, and avoid clicking on links in emails and texts. When in doubt, head to your institution’s official website to verify the bank’s contact information or log into your account to access its secure messaging system.

Wondering whether your bank is offering a relief package? Here’s what some of the biggest banks are offering.

American Express

American Express has not released any specific COVID-19 relief plans to help its Personal Savings banking customers at this time.

Customers of the online-only bank can continue to access their accounts online. They can also call customer service at 1-800-446-6307 — just beware that wait times may be longer than usual.

Ally Bank

Online-only Ally Bank currently has an expansive COVID-19 relief plan, especially in comparison to other banks. The bank has outlined measures to help customers, employees and communities.

Until July 16, 2020, Ally Bank deposits customers can benefit from waived overdraft fees; free expedited checks and debit cards; and waived excessive transaction fees on your savings or money market accounts.

Transfers and online payments remain uninterrupted. Plus, Ally Bank has made it faster to deposit checks of $50,000 or less online with Ally eCheck deposit. You can still use mobile deposit via the Ally Mobile app.

Bank of America

Bank of America’s COVID-19 response so far is encouraging its customers to turn to mobile and online banking first, both of which allow you to check your account statuses, pay bills and deposit checks.

However, Bank of America financial centers remain open. The bank’s locations are open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time, while Saturdays maintain regular hours, which vary from branch to branch. Branches that remain open undergo “enhanced, daily cleanings” and “other measures to limit the risk of exposure, based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”

As for relief in light of the coronavirus outbreak, Bank of America urges any customers who are facing financial hardship to contact a representative who will “work with you to create a solution tailored to your particular situation” or use its virtual assistant, Erica, to get answers to any questions. For banking customers, relief solutions can include waiving certain fees, such as overdraft fees.

Capital One

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Capital One is waiving its out-of-network ATM fee. It won’t reimburse you for a third-party surcharge, though.

If you are facing financial difficulties, you can contact Capital One and a representative can help to find a solution for you. Note that customer service wait times are likely longer than usual right now.

Capital One has temporarily closed select branches that do not have drive-thru tellers or protective glass at teller counters. Branches that do have those features will remain open via those outlets and are being disinfected per CDC guidelines. Tellers may still assist customers in the lobby in special circumstances. Capital One ATMs remain open 24/7. Capital One also strongly encourages its customers to use the Capital One mobile app or online banking to make payments, check balances and deposit checks.

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab has no specific measures in place to provide relief aid to its banking customers amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Schwab branches are temporarily closed as of March 20 and will remain so until local, state and federal government recommendations indicate it is safe to reopen. Still, you can contact a branch directly by phone to reach a representative. Schwab also encourages customers to go digital by completing tasks online or via its mobile app, which includes check-depositing capabilities.

Chase

In light of the pandemic, Chase Bank customers are encouraged to use the Chase Mobile app and online banking to complete their account-related tasks. Chase asks that those who need help because of COVID-19 reach out to a representative, though you may experience wait times that are longer than usual.

Several Chase branches are temporarily closed, while other branches’ hours and services have been adjusted. You can check the status of your branch on the Chase Mobile app or online. Chase branches and ATMs are being cleaned with EPA-approved disinfectants.

On a wider scale, JPMorgan Chase has pledged $50 million to nonprofit organizations to help support “healthcare, food and other humanitarian relief” efforts globally; community partners; and small businesses in the U.S., China and Europe.

Citibank

For at least 30 days starting March 9, Citibank will waive monthly service fees and penalties for early withdrawals from CDs. Citibank also asks that those affected by COVID-19 contact the bank for assistance, although wait times may be longer than usual. If you already work with a personal banker or financial advisor through Citibank, you can contact them directly during their regular business hours.

Select Citibank branches are closed and those that are open are undergoing “daily cleaning procedures … on high-touch surfaces,” providing hand sanitizer and practicing CDC recommendations like social distancing. You can also access your accounts and funds via the Citi Mobile app, the Citibank website and Citi ATMs on a 24/7 basis.

Discover

Discover has “support in place for qualified Discover customers who experience hardship” due to the coronavirus pandemic. Although it is unclear what qualifies customers to receive this support, a Discover representative adds that “Discover customers may receive assistance related to payments, fees and interest.”

Discover Online Banking customers can call 1-800-347-7000 (TTY/TDD 1-800-347-7454) any time to reach a Discover representative for assistance. You also can continue to access your accounts online or via the Discover mobile app.

Goldman Sachs Bank USA

Customers of Marcus by Goldman Sachs can make penalty-free withdrawals from regular CDs at this time, as a direct response to COVID-19. You can do so by calling 1-855-730-7283. Marcus contact centers are operating virtually, with temporary hours of 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday.

You can still access your Marcus accounts online. Apple device users can also benefit from the Marcus mobile app.

PNC Bank

PNC Bank customers who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 should call 1-888-762-2265, which is available 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday.

If you are eligible for assistance, a PNC representative will discuss your options with you, which include waiving or refunding fees on deposit accounts (and other products). Qualified customers can also take out an emergency hardship loan “at a low rate.” PNC did not make it clear how it determines eligibility for assistance, but it stressed that customers should call for help.

As of March 20, select PNC branches are closed. Others remain open with limited hours and access, with some are operating via drive-up window only. You can use PNC’s branch locator to check the status of a branch and to find a branch that offers essential appointments, made available for safe deposit box access, loan closings or other banking services that you cannot make otherwise. PNC is also still widely accessible via online, mobile and voice banking.

TD Bank

TD Bank encourages customers affected by COVID-19 to call 1-888-751-9000 to see how the bank can support you as it says it “may be able to provide some financial relief.” Of course, wait times are uncharacteristically long at this time.

Assistance options offered by TD Bank will depend on your situation and request but may include fee refunds, early, penalty-free access to CDs and payment extensions. The bank’s customer assistance offers continue to evolve as well, according to a bank representative.

Select TD Bank branches are temporarily closed, while others remain open at either full-service or drive-thru only status. Branches that are open also have reduced hours, including closure on Sundays. TD Bank is also reserving the first hour of full-service branches and customer appointment bookings for seniors and those most at risk for the virus. You can check the status of branches by state on TD Bank’s COVID-19 updates page.

TD Bank ATMs are still accessible, as is its website and banking app.

Truist (formerly BB&T and SunTrust)

Truist, the result of a recent merger between BB&T and SunTrust, is offering its deposits customers temporarily-waived ATM surcharge fees.

For further assistance, Truist encourages heritage BB&T clients to call 1-800-226-5228 and heritage SunTrust clients to call 1-877-820-2103. Watch out for long wait times, however, which customers have reported on social media.

Local BB&T and SunTrust branch hours and services are temporarily moving to drive-thru teller services only, appointment-only in-person visits and select branch closures. Customers still have 24/7 access to ATMs as well as online, mobile and telephone banking.

U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank maintains that it is “actively looking for ways to help customers” who have been impacted. Deposits customers who have been financially affected by COVID-19 should call the bank at 1-888-287-7817.

U.S. Bank branch operations are temporarily reduced, and the bank encourages customers to use drive-up windows instead of going inside a branch. You can check your local branch’s hours and status online. Otherwise, you can still access your U.S. Bank accounts on the bank’s mobile app, by phone or on its website.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo has said it will offer fee waivers for customers who contact the company. On a larger scale, the Wells Fargo Foundation has pledged up to $6.25 million in donations “to support domestic and global response to the COVID-19 and to aid public health relief efforts.” This includes funding “at the local level,” as well as for the national CDC and the International Medical Corps.

Select Wells Fargo locations are temporarily closed, while the branches that remain open have temporarily reduced hours. You can check the status of a Wells Fargo branch here. If you need a service that can only be completed in a branch, you can make an appointment. Wells Fargo call centers still remain open, though they are experiencing higher-than-normal call volume and longer wait times.

You can also access your accounts online and on the Wells Fargo Mobile app, where you can deposit checks, move money and more. Wells Fargo also reminds customers that they can use contactless cards or digital wallets for payments.

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Source: https://www.magnifymoney.com/blog/banking/coronavirus-relief-package-stimulus/

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