The government’s stimulus bill, known as the CARES Act, is supposed to help Americans stay financially afloat during the Covid-19 crisis.
For once, this financial assistance covers independent contractors like DoorDash and Lyft drivers, which is a big deal. 🙌
But like with most new, big things, there is endless confusion -- especially for independent contractors, who normally don’t get benefits like this from the government. 😔
In this post, we’ll try to turn our hours of research into simple answers from independent contractors like you. 💪
$1,200 stimulus check
How much will I get?
Most adults will get $1,200, although some with higher incomes would get less. For every child age 17 or under, you’ll get an additional $500. If you’re under 24 and someone else is claiming as a dependent, that person will receive your money rather than you.
If your income is above $99,000 as a single person, you won’t get a check.
How many payments will there be?
For now, just one. The government could pass future bills with additional payments.
Do college students get anything?
Not if anyone claims them as a dependent on a tax return. Usually, students under the age of 24 are dependents in the eyes of the taxing authorities if a parent pays for at least half of their expenses.
What do I need to do to get the money?
If you paid taxes in 2018 or 2019, you don’t need to do anything. If you received your tax refund with direct deposit, they will direct deposit this money as well. If not, they will mail you a check -- or soon the IRS will supposedly have a web-portal where you can enter your bank info.
If you’re not working or working less because of COVID-19, you could qualify for unemployment. In general, if you’re now working less than 30 hours per week.
Independent contractors typically don’t qualify for unemployment, so this is totally new.
State unemployment websites are still updating to allow independent contractors to apply, so it’s not a smooth process yet. Calls are not being answered, etc.
Varies by state, but in general 20-50% of what you previously earned, plus $600/week provided by the CARES Act.
Grants and loans
- Through the CARES Act, the government introduced two ways for small businesses, including independent contractors to receive loans.
- The most intriguing part is that part of this money does not need be paid back.
- ⚠️ However, it’s still unclear how independent contractors can get the free money without the loans, so proceed with caution like you would with any loan.
Economic Injury Disaster Recovery Loan and Grant (EIDL)
As an independent contractor, you may be able to get a $1,000 grant from the government that does not need to be repaid. But be careful: while the $1,000 grant could be free money, as part of the same application, you might also be given a loan that does need to be repaid with interest (3.75% per year).
⚠️ There currently is no way to only apply for the grant, so act with caution like you would with any loan.
⚠️ The $1,000 grant was initially intended to be $10,000, but due to overwhelming demand, it's been reduced to $1,000.
How to apply?
Luckily, you can apply online, and it’s pretty quick (10-20 minutes).
Below is advice from Forbes on how an independent contractor can fill it out:
- On the first question, check the second box as you are applying as an independent contractor or sole proprietorship.
- You must add your social security number if you are applying as an individual independent contractor.
- The form will ask you for the gross revenues for the last 12 months for your independent contractor business and the “cost of goods sold.” You can estimate this based on what happened in 2019. Cost of goods sold means the expenses of operating as a freelancer or independent contractor.
- Where it asks for “Owner” put your name and “100” percent owner.
- It will ask for the date the business was established. This is the date you started doing freelance or independent contractor work. Just estimate if you don’t have the exact date.
- The form will ask for the bank account you want the grant money wired to. You need the name of your bank, the account number (the middle number at the bottom of your checks), and the routing number (the number at the bottom left of your checks).
- For your business phone number, it’s ok to give your cell number.
- On the question “Is your business owned by a business entity”—the answer is no since you are an individual owner.
- When the form asks for your business name, just enter your individual name if you don’t have a business name.
- You can ignore the question “If anyone assisted you in completing this application …” unless you have actually gotten help.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
Please see our separate post on PPP.
People around the country are having trouble paying their rent. As a result, some cities and states have started banning evictions during the crisis. And if your landlord has a mortgage backed by a federal program, the eviction ban applies to you as well.
- Check if your state or city has put a “moratorium on evictions”. Google this plus your city or state name (or other terms like “rent deferral”).
- If #1 doesn’t give you good news, consider calling or emailing your landlord. Below is a sample email from the Forbes contributor.
- If #3 doesn’t work, Forbes says, “consider asking that your security deposit be used to cover the rent due for the next month or consider requesting the opportunity to pay half of the rent for a few months.”
Example of letter written for rent decrease during Covid-19:
Dear Mr/Ms. _____
I hope you are staying safe and healthy during this difficult time. It has really affected a number of my friends and family.
Unfortunately, the crisis has also badly affected me financially. As a freelancer, my sources of income immediately plummeted when the crisis hit, and it has not gotten better.
I hate to ask you this, but I don’t have much of a choice. Would you kindly consider letting me defer rent for the next two months? I am hoping by then that I will be able to earn income again and pay the rent.
I am a very responsible person, and absent these extraordinary circumstances, I would not be asking this of you.
Please help me out. I would be tremendously grateful.
Thank you so much for your consideration.
All the best,
Tax deadline extension
- Check our separate post on how the tax deadline has been extended due to covid-19.
- Using a mileage tracker to save more on taxes