Stimulus checks approved – not in the mail yet (Updated)

Help is on the way for musicians and other Americans feeling an economic pinch from the coronavirus and its negative impact on jobs and the economy.

Congressional leaders from both parties approved a $2 trillion stimulus package, which includes payments to most Americans, and President Trump is expected to sign it when it reaches his desk. Individuals would receive $1,200, couples twice that, with the amount reduced for individuals with adjusted gross incomes over $75,000 for singles, twice that for couples. Parents would receive an extra $500 for each child under 17 years old.

Lawmakers and President Trump also said that independent contractors and participants in the so-called gig economy – including musicians, promoters and others – would be eligible for the first time for expanded unemployment benefits. Specifics were still being worked out, with objections from a handful of Republicans to the unemployment issue holding up final approval. Even if the objections remain, there are plenty of votes on both sides of the aisle to pass the bill, albeit more slowly than if the objections are lifted and votes could be fast-tracked.

Number crunching by the Tax Policy Center indicated nine in 10 Americans would be eligible for stimulus checks.

Both developments represent good news for bluegrassers, whose gigs dried up pretty much overnight, just as the busy festival season was about to begin. Many of them were previously without the safety net that helps countless other workers who lost their jobs to virus-releated shutdowns or job trimming: unemployment insurance.

Just when the stimulus checks will be issued isn’t clear at this writing. White House officials said Wednesday night that they hoped to issue checks or make direct deposits within three weeks, but that might be overly ambitious. Previous experience with checks to help tide folks over in economic downturns suggests it could be six weeks, perhaps a little longer. 

For those who have already filed their income taxes, 2019 income will be used to determine the check size. If you haven’t filed– and the government is extending the filing deadline from mid-April to mid-July – 2018 income from 2019 tax filings will be used.

Good luck, everybody. Stay safe out there.

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris, an award-winning songwriter and journalist, has written for Bluegrass Today since its inception. He joined its predecessor, The Bluegrass Blog, in 2010. His 40-year career in journalism included more than 13 years with The Associated Press, a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and several top editing jobs in Washington, D.C. He is a life member of IBMA and the DC Bluegrass Union. He and co-writers won the bluegrass category in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2015.