On March 31, President Trump signed a $2 trillion economic relief plan offering assistance to millions of American households and businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. And then, only a minute later it seemed, scams related to the stimulus started circulating. At the same time, parts of the stimulus bill may seem like scams but are real. I can understand the doubt and confusion because this kind of relief has not been available before.
Let’s sort through what you need to know about both the real help and the really bad scams.
The Unprecedented Help
In most cases, if you are an individual who is unemployed because of the coronavirus pandemic, or a business that was negatively impacted by it, relief is available.
Here’s a simple explanation about unemployment benefits and small business loans, with the caveat that this is a broad description, not all details are included, and certain situations may not qualify.
Unemployment benefits for individuals
: Those who are unemployed, are partly unemployed, or cannot work for a wide variety of coronavirus-related reasons will be more likely to receive benefits.
A few examples:
- Certain self-employed people and part-time workers are eligible.
- If you have COVID-19 or need to care for a family member who has it and you’re unemployed, partly unemployed, or cannot work as a result, you will be covered.
- If you are a part-time worker who lost a job because of a coronavirus reason, but your state doesn’t cover part-time workers, you are likely eligible.
- If your employer didn’t lay you off but you had to quit because of quarantine, or because your child’s daycare closed, and you’re the primary caregiver, you are likely eligible.
Small business relief
: It seems the policy is less like a loan program and more like a payroll-support program. That’s because:
- If you are a company with 500 or fewer employees that maintains their payroll during the coronavirus emergency, you can receive up to 8 weeks of cash-flow assistance. When you maintain your employees, the portion of the loans used for payroll, benefits, utilities, rent, mortgage payments, or other debts would be forgiven.
- The loan program is also available to sole proprietors, independent contractors, and the self-employed.
- You do not need to work through the SBA or its affiliated lenders to secure loans. You can apply for them at most any “federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution.”
All of the above have restrictions, caps, and other terms.
There are many. Here are just a few:
- “Quick service” scams: For businesses, there will be paperwork to fill out, long holds when trying to reach assistance by phone, and the possibility of website overloads. This is frustrating, but the norm. Any offer that is not from a trusted source that claims it can help you bypass the frustration is a scam.
- Phone scams: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Treasury Department, or any other government agency will not contact you by phone to collect information for stimulus payment processing. Period.
- Phishing scams: Government agencies will not email or text you to collect information for stimulus payment processing. Watch for suspicious emails or texts with links or attachments requesting information for processing stimulus deposits or checks. If you receive one, do not click the link or open the attachment. Delete it.
- State-agency scams: State agencies will also not call, email or text you to collect information or a fee to process a stimulus payment. To date, no state has introduced its own version of a stimulus payment.
The bottom line: There is help out there. People and businesses desperately need that help. But it is this desperation that scammers are counting on. If you need guidance considering your available relief options, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Brigade. You can also visit our Small Business Support and Resources Library. We want to make sure you have the facts and can get what you need.