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Federal aid is on the way, with up to $2,400 for couples and a big raise for unemployment

The aid is welcome timing for Arizonans. The state’s first-time unemployment claims reached a record of almost 30,000 filings last week.

Much-needed federal aid for American families is on the way: A blockbuster $2 trillion coronavirus “rescue” package was finalized today. It provides direct cash payments to households and substantially enhances unemployment benefits.

Today the House of Representatives passed the economic stimulus bill that cleared the Senate Wednesday. The broad-ranging aid package, signed into law by the President, will help those hit hard by job and income loss with:

  • Cash payments: The plan calls for direct payments of $2,400 for couples, $500 for each child under 17, and $1,200 for single Americans. But there’s an income level catch: Payments will be phased down for those earning more than $75,000 per year and stop at $99,000 in annual income (doubled for couples). The government hopes to make payouts within three weeks.
  • Pumped-up unemployment benefits: The federal government will chip in $600 more per week for four months for those out of work due to the pandemic. That’s a significant raise for Arizona, which provides state benefits of only $240 per week. The benefits period would be extended for an additional 13 weeks beyond Arizona’s 26-week period. For the first time, benefits will cover independent contractors, the self-employed and gig-economy workers.

The aid is welcome timing for Arizonans. The state’s first-time unemployment claims reached a record of almost 30,000 filings last week.

For Arizona families, “the package should be able to do a pretty good job of holding people in place for a month or two depending what their savings and spending are like,” said Price Fishback, a professor of economics at the University of Arizona. The hope is that people would be able to start becoming more financially stable by then, he added. But the cash payout will likely be used for essentials such as housing and food rather than economy-stimulating discretionary spending.

The package, the biggest of three federal coronavirus relief laws enacted to date, provides other wide-ranging financial assistance:
To help employers get back in operation and employees back to work, the Treasury Department will offer $500 million in loans, loan guarantees and investments for businesses. It includes financial assistance for small businesses. Specific aid of $46 billon is earmarked for the battered airlines and national security businesses.

  • Homeowners at risk of foreclosure due to coronavirus hardships will get a break through federally-backed mortgage loans for up to two months with potential extensions.
  • There’s also forbearance for renters. Landlords who obtain federal loans cannot evict tenants for the sole reason of unpaid rent for a 120-day period.
  • Student borrowers will not have to make education loan payments through September 30.
  • For hospitals and public health businesses, a $100 billion emergency fund will reimburse expenses and lost revenues related to the coronavirus. About $65 billion is targeted for hospitals, with the remainder for doctors, nurses, suppliers and others.

The historic package is the largest emergency aid initiative in U.S. history. Additional aid initiatives are expected to be developed as the crisis worsens.

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