The roller-coaster ride of the second major CARES Act is finally over. Some highlights:
- 11 weeks respite: Unemployment benefits for most people were set to run out on December 26. The Act adds 11 weeks of eligibility for wage-earners, part-time workers, gig workers, and the self-employed. That moves the cliff to March 14, 2021, for now. (Caution: It may only add 10 weeks because 45 delayed signing it until after benefits expired. Governor Inslee’s Pandemic Relief Payments program may or may not cover that week.)
- The on-again, off-again federal boost to unemployment: Anyone who receives at least $1 in state unemployment benefits after the 75% earnings deduction will be eligible for a $300/week federal boost.
- A second shot of PPP: Businesses that took a revenue hit of at least 25% can apply for a second-round of forgivable PPP grants.
- Let there be stimulus: The Act includes a $600 stimulus payment for each adult with taxable income under certain thresholds, plus $600 for most dependents. Direct deposits will go out quickly this time and the paper checks/debit card process should be smoother. Note: The stimulus payments are actually advance credits, which will be reported on your 2020 income tax return. If you did not get the full amount due, you can recoup it when you file your taxes. (Vashon volunteers with AARP Tax-Aide hope to be offering free virtual tax preparation starting in early February 2021.)
Many people will urgently need the stimulus money to pay rent or buy food, but many others will be in a position to do something else with it.
You could put it in savings, but then you would not have stimulated the economy. You could spend it online, but that would not do anything to help the local economy. You could use it to buy alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, or carb-loaded treats, but the satisfaction is fleeting. The thing that will really make you feel good long-term is giving back to your community and doing something for others.
Here are some great ways to use your stimulus money to pay it forward in 2021:
- Donate all or part to Vashon non-profits providing emergency management, rent, groceries, senior and school lunches, mental-health services, safety from domestic violence. These agencies know exactly who needs what and can get it to them quickly.
- Order takeout at least once/week and leave a big tip.
- Renew your memberships/subscriptions with local organizations early so they will be here in years to come.
- Buy gift certificates for local stores/theaters/restaurants to give them the cash-flow they need to survive. You can use them later, gift them to friends, or donate them to organizations to distribute.
- And if you can’t afford to donate your stimulus payment, here are some no-cost ways to give back to your community:
- Pick up litter every time you walk. We walked the 81-mile P2P route over the last 2 months and picked up enough to fill dozens of large black trash bags with garbage and recycling. (No, we were not working off community service hours for a bank robbery.)
- If you’re bagging up dog poop, take it with you. Don’t toss it in the bushes and make someone else get all tangled up in blackberries trying to retrieve it.
- Save the trees from being toppled by the Vashon-ubiquitous ivy vines by removing a 3’ section, from knee to shoulder-height. Hang it or lean it off the ground so the roots die out before it has a chance to re-root.
This is your chance to “vote” with your stimulus payment. Whether you spend it on the essentials of living or pay it forward locally, you will be doing your part to save the Vashon community we love.
Deborah has provided over 1,000 free telephone consultations re: stimulus and unemployment benefits through VashonBePrepared.org and the Vashon Chamber of Commerce “Ask An Expert” program. Deborah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Diamond’s portrait was painted by Pam Ingalls for her “Local Heroes” exhibit at The Hardware Store in July.