More economic relief is on the way. That was the word out of the White House briefing today regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 is the official name for the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, as of March 18, 2020, there are 193,029 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 164 territories and countries. According to Johns Hopkins, the United States has 7,324 confirmed cases with reported cases in every state.
As a result of the virus, state, local, and federal government officials have instituted varying degrees of voluntary and mandatory quarantines. The impact has been felt immediately by some businesses, including those who depend on in-person customer interaction.
There wasn’t a lot of targeted discussion about financial relief in the most recent briefing, but when questioned about the economic stimulus checks, the President confirmed that those are likely. The amount, however, is “to be determined.” Similarly, the frequency and timing of the checks have not yet been confirmed although it’s been suggested that there would be two checks to be released, with one in April and again in May. As noted earlier, Treasury expects that the amounts would be based on income level and family size.
Additionally, the President announced additional coronavirus relief, including the suspension of foreclosures and evictions from Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Specifically, HUD will be suspending foreclosures and evictions for mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration through the end of April. Also, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has ordered lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to take similar steps.
The President also said that additional relief for the private sector was on the way, noting that “we want to keep those companies vibrant.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned Senators yesterday that the unemployment rate could hit 20%. When questioned about those comments today, Trump said that he did not expect those levels, calling it “an absolute worst-case scenario.”
Also, yesterday Mnuchin announced some changes to the tax filing season. During the White House briefing on March 17, Mnuchin explained that the IRS would allow taxpayers to defer some payments.
“If you owe a payment to the IRS, you can defer up to $1 million as an individual — and the reason why we are doing $1 million is because that covers lots of pass-throughs and small businesses — and $10 million to corporations, interest-free and penalty-free for 90 days. All you have to do is file your taxes, you’ll automatically not get charged interest and penalties,” Mnuchin said.
The IRS issued official guidance on the penalty and interest provisions and then updated the guidance subsequently.
As part of the response to the virus, the House also passed H.R. 6201, Families First Coronavirus Response Act. While the President has voiced support for the bill, the Senate has not yet voted. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called the bill “well-intentioned” and has promised action.