By Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff
Congressman Rick Larsen hosted a telephone town hall on April 7 to discuss the benefits available to workers and small businesses experiencing coronavirus’s impacts. Commissioner of the Washington Employment Security Department Suzi LeVine and the Director of the Washington Small Business Development Center Duane Fladland also joined Larsen on the call.
To reduce economic harm, Larsen explains Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARE) Act to expand eligibility unemployment benefits to independent contractors, the self-employed and gig economy workers. They have also increased the allocated time to collect unemployment insurance provisions by 13 weeks and will include an additional $600 per week payment.
“The CARES Act expands who’s eligible for unemployment, extends how long people can collect unemployment benefits, and increases how much is in each weekly check,” said Larsen.
LeVine notes that the “Employee Security Department is designed to act as a shock absorber during economic hardship” and has extended unemployment assistance, prioritizing efficient benefit distribution while expanding eligibility requirements to increase accessibility through the pandemic unemployment assistance program.
“What the CARES Act did, was create a parallel system that is called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance that extends unemployment to those who have been impacted by COVID-19 but are not otherwise eligible,” explained LeVine.
The CARES Act also includes a recovery rebate for taxpayers, providing a $1,200 refundable tax credit for individuals or $2,400 for joint taxpayers. Larsen explains that people with direct deposit on file with the IRS will begin to receive the money next week, while physical checks will then be issued three weeks after direct deposits are distributed in reverse income order.
Larsen then explained that the CARES act includes a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a cash flow assistance via small business association (SBA) loans or banks to help businesses retain their workforce. The bill also provides access to low-interest Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to two million dollars to businesses and private nonprofits suffering harm from the virus outbreak.
“There are lots of questions people have on how to apply for the PPP or the Economic Injury Loan”, added Fladland. “We’re all challenged right now with really trying to understand and maintain exactly what all of the specific rules are as of this all gets rolled out; a lot of this just got started a few days ago. The thing I would encourage people to do, whether you apply for a loan or anything else, is thinking about how you’re going to manage your cash flow and expenses.”
According to Larsen, Congress will potentially pass a CARES 2.0 bill to continue to provide economic relief to individuals and businesses facing hardship due to the crisis.
“We’re going to have to extend the Paycheck Protection Program to help more small businesses retain employees, provide more funding to support unemployed workers, provide further support for healthcare workers, hospitals, and state and local governments to address inequities and internet access because of the importance of internet access to K-12 online education, and to support homeowners and renters to ensure they keep a roof over their heads,” said Larsen.
COVID-19 Resource Guides for individuals and small businesses can be found on Representative Rick Larsen’s website at larsen.house.gov.