The Breakdown On COVID-19 Stimulus Cash

Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus stimulus checks and a few other ways officials are easing the pandemic's economic fallout for Houstonians.

By Dianna Wray March 26, 2020

This story was updated 4:20 p.m. Apr 2 

As the coronavirus epidemic continues to grip Houston, the United States, and much of the rest of the world, it is becoming increasingly clear that the necessary efforts to slow the spread of the disease are hitting us all right in our moneymakers in the Bayou City. (The dirt cheap oil prices aren't doing this energy capital of the world any favors either.) Luckily, there's at least a little bit of good news: The federal stimulus money should be on its way to Houstonians—along with the 90 percent of other Americans who qualify, according to the Tax Policy Center—sometime soon. 

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a $2 trillion stimulus package on Wednesday which the U.S. House passed Friday and is expected to land on President Trump's desk to be signed into law soon. So what does that mean for you? Well, for starters it means that most Americans are about to receive some kind of stimulus cash. Most adults are expected to get about $1,200 plus an additional $500 for every child under 16 in a household. 

The nice part about this? If you're someone who has been filing your federal income taxes on the reg you won't need to do anything but wait for your money, since the funds will be distributed using IRS records. The IRS will be working off of the 2019 filings—or the 2018 filings if 2019 hasn't been submitted—so if you haven't gotten around to doing that yet, you might want to take care of it pronto, according to the IRS website.

However, many high school seniors and college students won't receive any money at all. In a confusing series of events, the IRS announced March 30 that people who receive Social Security payments must file a tax return in order to receive their $1,200 payment. However, after receiving pushback, the Treasury Department announced on April 2 that people who receive social security will still get their stimulus payments without having to file a tax return, just like everyone else and what had been announced in the first place. 

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has said the money will be dispersed in about three weeks or less, with the goal being to begin direct deposits by April 17. It's unclear if it's doable within that timeframe (past stimulus checks like the one issued by President George W. Bush during the Great Recession in 2008 have taken between weeks and months to actually go out), but some money will be coming your way. How much? Well that depends. While $1,200 is the standard payment that's for a single adult who makes $75,000 a year or less, and couples who make $150,000 or less will get a $2,400 one-time payment. If you're pulling in above those figures, the payments decrease. Any single person making $99,000 or more a year, or couple pulling in $198,000 or more, will not receive a payment. 

But on the upside, if you have a Social Security number and have kept up on your tax filings, you should be good. It won't be here tomorrow, but the funds will get here eventually. 

Meanwhile there are a few local adjustments being made to help ease the economic burden of the coronavirus pandemic, which has already caused 3.3. million people in the country to file for unemployment: 

Free tolls: The Harris County Commissioner's Court voted to extend all tolls through April 29. The county also extended the disaster declaration through April 29. 

Property tax delay: The Harris County Tax Office is providing a three-month extension of all 12-month delinquent property tax payment plans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Due to our area’s current health crisis and resulting economic uncertainties, property owners who are currently on 12-month property tax payment plans will not have to make payments for three months, according to a release.” Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector & Voter Registrar Ann Harris Bennett said. “Unfortunately, state law mandates that the appropriate late fees still be assessed. However, I hope this extension helps ease property owners’ burdens during this critical time.”

Property owners with 12-month installment payment plans will not have to make payments for March, April, or May 2020. The next required payments would be due on or before June 30, 2020 and payable on a monthly basis from June until the end of the property owner’s initial property tax payment agreement deadline.

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