Well, I finally received the results of mycoronavirus test, and they were negative. Yes! That’s a relief!Hooray, now we can finally isolate as a family!We’re very fortunate that we can keep doingthis show from our private office, but a lotof people aren’t so lucky. As the coronavirus forces many businessesto shut down, people everywhere are losingtheir jobs or seeing their hours dramaticallyscaled back. As of March 21st, 3. 3 million Americans filedfor unemployment, the largest number in historyby a wide margin. The previous record was set in 1982 at 695,000. And this might just be the beginning. Some economists predict that by this summer,over 14 million Americans will have lost theirjobs. It’s a unique situation. In past unemployment crises, the governmentusually tries to encourage businesses to increasehiring, but this time, we actually want peopleto stay home to slow the spread of disease. So Congress recently passed a $2 trilliondollar stimulus package that includes a massiveexpansion of unemployment insurance to helpkeep Americans afloat while we wait out thestorm. Even if you still have your job, this billwill most likely affect you, so you shouldknow what’s in it. First… free money!If you are a United States resident with asocial security number, not claimed as a dependent,and made less than $75,000 last year, youwill receive a $1,200 check from Uncle Sam,plus $500 for each child you have under 16. The more you made over $75,000, the smallerthe check gets and is totally phased out forpeople with incomes greater than $99,000. But, married filers earning less than $150,000together get the full amount. So if Dan makes $105K and Marsha makes $40K,they still both get $1200 each, plus $1500for their three kids. You do not have to apply or sign up or doanything at all to get that money. It’s a one time payment based on your 2019gross income, and should be arriving in about3 weeks or so by mail or direct deposit, ifyou already have that set up with the IRS. If you haven’t filed your 2019 taxes yet,they can use your gross income from your 2018tax return…But if you still haven’t filed that either,you should ASAP, or risk not getting yourcheck. And if you happened to make over $100,000in 2019 but expect to lose that income thisyear…well, unfortunately you won’t qualify. Sorry. Next, the bill provides a dramatic increasein unemployment insurance. Traditionally, unemployment insurance is onlyavailable to people who lose full-time W2jobs through no fault of their own. It usually lasts about 26 weeks, and paysaround 45% of lost wages. But this bill expands pretty much all of that. Freelancers, part-timers, gig-economy workers,and even people who still have jobs but hadtheir hours cut can all now apply for unemploymentinsurance. You’re also eligible if you were about tostart a new job, or are too new to a job tonormally qualify for benefits. If the closure of a school or nursing homemeans you have to quit your job and stay hometo take care of someone, you are eligiblefor unemployment insurance. Basically, if the coronavirus pandemic hasseverely hampered your ability to make money,you probably qualify for some kind of benefit. How much and for how long depends on yourstate and your previous income level, butthe federal government is increasing the durationacross the board by 13 weeks, and the benefitamount by $600 a week. Here in Texas, weekly unemployment benefitsare calculated by taking your highest-earningquarter of the last year and dividing by 25,up to a maximum of $454. So Timothy, who was making about $30K a yearwaiting tables before his restaurant shuttered,would normally be eligible for $300 a weekfor 26 weeks. Now, thanks to this bill, he’ll be getting$900 a week and his benefits will last for39 weeks. You might be thinking… wait, that’s morethan he was making before!And while that’s true, there is a catch. That extra $600 a week is only available forfour months, ending July 31st. So unless Congress extends it, he’s onlygetting $900 for the first 16 weeks. Since most experts doubt that either thismedical or financial crisis will be over bythen, Timothy is hardly on easy street. This bill isn’t a magic wand that will keepus all afloat in perpetuity. It’s a temporary life raft to buy Americanssome time, and a way to keep money flowingthrough the economy in the short term. There’s a lot more in it we haven’t discussed:student loan suspensions, funds for healthcare,an expansion of loans available to small businesses,and of course, a $500 billion loan packagefor large businesses and municipalities. We’ll be talking about those things in theweeks to come, but for now, if your incomehas been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,grab yourself a seat on Uncle Sam’s liferaft while there’s still room. It will give you the breathing space to takea fresh look at your finances and plan forwhat comes next. And that’s our two cents!