As the pandemic wears on, many people have been reporting a sense of “brain fog.” Memory problems and an inability to think clearly or to concentrate in meetings may be the brain’s response to the stress of the pandemic, our isolation, and the sameness of our days, according to neuroscientists interviewed by The Guardian. Our brains are wired to respond to novel situations, but the repetitive nature of working from home, isolated from colleagues, may be what’s causing that sluggishness of thought. Combining that with the stress of experiencing a global health emergency may also be desensitizing us to our current situations. The good news is that most people should recover their mental faculties when life returns to a bit more like normal.
THE AMERICAN RECOVERY PLAN ACT (ARPA)
Economic Impact Payments (aka Stimulus Checks)
Payments for VA beneficiaries who do not file tax returns were slated to go out at the end of last week. This means that most people should have already received their stimulus payments or will receive them soon, according to an update from the IRS.
The IRS continues to update its EIP FAQ pages for the third round of stimulus payments. Recent updates include clarification that these payments do not count as income when considering eligibility for benefits, and that this third round of payments should not be included on 2020 tax returns. If you don’t receive the full amount, you’ll receive the full amount when you file your 2021 tax return in 2022.
The best way to track your payment is using the IRS Get My Payment tool which has been updated for third round payments.
If you’re eligible for the first two stimulus payments but did not receive the full amount you’re entitled to, you’ll receive the additional stimulus payment as a Rebate Recovery Credit when you file your 2020 tax return.
Employee Retention Credit (ERC)
The Paycheck Protection Program has gotten the most attention among the business provisions of the COVID-19 stimulus programs, but the Employee Retention Credit also has valuable benefits. This article from Law360 outlines the considerations for employers before they apply. Employers are eligible if they had a 50% decline in gross receipts, but performing the analysis can be tricky, so it may be wise to work with a professional. Employers who received a PPP loan can also apply for the ERC, but they can’t use the same wages to qualify for both. The easiest way to apply for the credit is on a quarterly payroll tax report, Form 941, because this uses actual data, not estimates. Estimating the amount of the credit beforehand may leave employers open to penalties for underpayment of payroll taxes. Filing on paper may result in a delay in receiving the credit since the IRS still has a backlog of millions of paper returns and other correspondence that has not yet been processed.
Shuttered Venue Operators Grants (SVOG)
Technical issues forced the SBA to shut down its portal for the SVOG the day it opened, but the agency hopes to re-launch by the end of the week of April 18. When the portal re-opens, the first 14 days will be reserved for businesses that suffered more than a 90% loss in business, with succeeding application windows for businesses with smaller losses. Grants are available for 45% of 2019 gross revenue, up to a maximum of $10 million. The SBA has a dedicated webpage for the SVOG program, which includes eligibility requirements, video tutorials for the application process, and allowable uses of funds.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
If you’re considering applying for a PPP loan, you should apply sooner rather than later. Funds may run out before the program’s deadline of May 31, and the SBA is no longer requiring companies to wait eight weeks or to spend all of their first-round funding before requesting a second loan. It is possible that Congress will appropriate more funding and will also make some of the recent changes to funding formulas for sole proprietors retroactive.
Expanded Child Tax Credit
Instead of receiving the child tax credit in one lump sum at tax time, the latest stimulus package allows families to receive this credit in monthly installments, which the IRS pledges to begin in July. The agency plans to have a dedicated portal in place by July 1 and will also accept paper applications. Through 2021, parents can receive up to $3,600 for each child under the age of 6 and $3,000 for children between 6 and 17. This credit will also be fully refundable for the first time.
To find out how much you may be eligible for, CNet has created an online child tax credit calculator. The IRS portal will also allow people to update income and the number of eligible children they have. If your income during 2021 bumps you out of the window of eligibility, you may have to repay any excess you receive when you file your 2021 tax return.
Office gossip may get a bad rap as a conduit for malicious rumors and wasting time, but also used to fill an important gap in workplace knowledge. Getting the entire context of a decision, rather than just the official version enabled employees to make sense of their workplaces. Leaders can gauge the overall sentiment of their teams by monitoring feedback reported to trusted team members. However, the remote and hybrid workplace has made casual conversations between co-workers challenging. Recreating that degree of intimate sharing is more difficult in a Zoom chat or via email, where leaving a digital trail of rumors can be frightening. However, some employees are recreating that lost intimacy by keeping Zoom windows open or using Slack or phones.
LIFE IN THE POST-PANDEMIC ERA
Working from home during the pandemic magnified the burdens that parents face, and many parents will be demanding more support from employers in the future. That’s according to a survey of working parents as reported in USA Today. Flexible work hours, remote work, and expanded options for childcare are among the expectations parents will have when they consider staying with a current employer or when choosing a new place to work. Nearly six in ten employees who went remote at the beginning of the pandemic want to continue with that arrangement, and 46% of parents want their employers to offer childcare either consistently or in emergencies.
- IRS resources for stimulus payments:
- The best source for up-to-date and accurate health information is the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- The CDC also has recommendations for businesses and employers
- Intuit QuickBooks has a dedicated page to help small businesses
- Entrepreneur put together a listing of free tech resources for remote work
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has warnings about COVID-related scams
- Fast Company has a listing of the best productivity apps for 2020
- The New York Times has an online newsletter on K-12 and higher education
- The Wall Street Journal has a collection of articles on education
- The Atlantic has a state-by-state coronavirus tracker
We sincerely hope that you and your family are well and remain well. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are all in this together!