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On March 27, 2020, the U.S. government passed the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act,” or “CARES Act.” The law serves as a stimulus and relief package to tackle the ongoing and future economic impact the COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to cause the United States.

The two biggest takeaways from CARES are the stimulus checks that American taxpayers may receive, and the expanded unemployment benefits workers may receive. We shall discuss both. We also encourage you to visit our co-collaborated GoFundMe that hopes to provide benefits to immigrants who do not qualify for this help.

Stimulus Checks

The CARES Act issues a direct payment from the federal government to taxpayers that qualify for the benefit. Each individual taxpayer may receive $1,200 each and $500 per child they include as a dependent on their tax returns, depending on earned income. The IRS will determine qualification and amount payable based on the most recent tax return filed. The payout is a tax credit to be applied on the taxpayer’s 2020 filing.

That means that the IRS will credit the taxpayer on their 2020 future tax filing and pay it forward in the form of a tax advance direct payment. The payment is anticipated to come in the form of a direct deposit or check, depending on the taxpayer’s preference, and may be sent out in April or May. They payment will not be taxed.

There is much confusion about who actually will receive these stimulus payments. The short answer is that U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and most immigrants who have valid work authorization (work permit) and a valid social security number will qualify, assuming they were in the United States for a certain amount of time before 2020. What we know for sure is that those who do not have a valid social security number will not qualify, because having one is a requirement. That means that many undocumented workers, including those with ITINs who file taxes, will not qualify for the stimulus help.

What we also believe is that families of mixed immigration status may not qualify if someone on the tax return does not have a valid social security number. For example, if you are a U.S. citizen, but your spouse is undocumented, and you file taxes together, nobody in your family will get a stimulus package, unless you are a member of the U.S. armed services.

We believe that the IRS will not issue a payment to qualified U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and other immigrants with valid work authorization and social security numbers who have filed their most recent tax return jointly with an immigrant spouse who lacks a social security and work authorization.

Expanded Unemployment Benefits

The CARES Act expands who is able to obtain unemployment benefits. The federal government will be working directly with state governments to pay eligible unemployed workers a flat $600 a week extra, in addition to what they may already be earning from their traditional unemployment benefit.  To qualify, the worker must show that they were in lawful immigration status with valid work authorization.

Most undocumented workers will not qualify, but U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and immigrants with valid work authorization should qualify. These benefits should cover January 27, 2020 through the end of 2020: December 31, 2020.

Contact Us with Questions

We know these are troubling and uncertain times. If you or anyone you know is impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, our office is still open for telephone and video consultations. We are still here to help you or a loved one in your U.S. immigration matter. Contact Ibrahim Law Office, an immigration law firm, today. 

Second, there is an expansion of unemployment insurance coverage that will likely benefit “true solos” (practitioners with no staff), by allowing them to collect unemployment benefits if they have to stop working due to the pandemic.

In short, individuals who are self-employed, are “able to work” and “available to work”, and do not have the ability to telework with pay, are considered eligible for unemployment benefits. They will be eligible to receive the amount authorized under the employment compensation law of the State where they are self-employed. Additionally, under the CARES Act, they are eligible to receive an additional amount of $600 per week up until 07/31/2020.

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