The Heals Act: What You Need To Know

Heals Act

The Heals Act

The Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools Act (HEALS Act) Act is a $1 trillion economic stimulus bill introduced in 2020 by the United States Senate during the COVID-19 pandemic, to supplement the earlier CARES Act.

2020 has been a challenging year for American families as they come face to face with a global pandemic, a first for millennials. The economic and human loss of the pandemic is staggering. As of now, more than 177,000 Americans have lost their lives due to COVID-19. Millions of Americans continue to lose their jobs and file for unemployment benefits.

To fight the financial hailstorm, the Republican-led senate unveiled the Health, Economic, Assistance, Liability, and Schools (HEALS) Act. The new bill promises stimulus checks of $1200 per adult for those with adjusted gross incomes of up to $75,000. Married couples will qualify at $150,000, and are eligible for $2,400 and $500 per dependent.

The prerequisite to qualify for this round of stimulus check is to have a work-eligible Social Security number. Furthermore, the individual should not be listed as a dependent of another taxpayer.

Here are 13 things you should know about the HEALS Act.

1. No Age Restrictions for Dependents

The checks would be issued under the CARES Act, with the difference that there is no age limit on eligible dependents. The CARES Act only issued the additional $500 to families with dependent children, but households will now be able to qualify for the $500 for dependents of all ages.

The benefit excludes individuals earning over $99,000, or $146,00 for individuals with one child and $198,000 for joint filers without children.

2. The IRS Gets Access to Direct Deposit Info

The HEALS act will allow the IRS to access 2018 and 2019 tax return filings to determine eligibility. The IRS may have access to the bank account information for anyone who has received federal refunds in the past few years. However, the IRS will not be able to make payments related to the CARES Act. This means that Americans should be able to receive their stimulus checks much faster than last time.

Individuals who are recipients of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income will be automatically issued the checks.

3. There are More Payment Options

The HEALS Act has authorized a number of payout options, including, obviously, direct deposit. Other payout options include prepaid debit cards or sending payments to a Treasury-sponsored account.

Critics believe there are a few problems with the Heals Act, because the administration does not have information for individuals who don’t file tax returns and those who don’t qualify for some of the more popular benefits programs. The IRS has requested individuals to send in their information using the non-filers tool, latest by October 15 if they want to receive the first payment by the end of the year.

4. The HEALS Act Stops Banks and Creditors Right in Their Tracks

The CARES Act failed to clarify whether banks and creditors had the right to Economic Impact Payments if an individual fell short on paying back their loans. The HEALS Act makes it resoundingly clear that banks and creditors won’t be able to take from these stimulus checks. As an insult to injury, protections have been enforced to the CARES Act so that payouts reach their targets instead of creditors.

5. Deceased People Will Not Receive Checks

This one shouldn’t come as a surprise. People who have passed away before January 1, 2020, will not be eligible for the HEALS Act stimulus checks. Furthermore, the CARES Act clarifies that the payments made to deceased individuals must be returned.

6. Prisoners Get Nothing

Prisoners have been excluded from stimulus check payments under the HEALS Act, despite the fact that it may leave their families struggling financially. The Republican-led Senate has faced criticism for this within their own ranks, as they alienate individuals who have been incarcerated for the entirety of 2020.

7. Undocumented Immigrants Won’t Receive Anything

Previously, the HEROES Act allowed undocumented workers holding an ITIN to receive a stimulus payment, but the HEALS Act has excluded this provision. People who don’t have a clear path to US citizenship will not be eligible to receive a payment from the CARES Act.

8. Unemployment Benefits Have Been Slashed

The Republican-led senate believed that the $600 received by unemployed beneficiaries was too high and could be responsible for keeping them out of the workforce. They’ve laid down provisions in the HEALS act to replace only 70% of the person’s wages during unemployment, this slashes their enhanced benefit to $200 a week instead of the usual $600.

9. More Funds for a Vaccine Research

The White House initially hesitated at the idea of funding for coronavirus research. However, the HEALS act provides support to speed up the delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine. This time around, $16 billion have been added to the $9 billion for a sum total of $25 billion.

10. Schools Will Receive More Funding

The HEALS Act also gives $105 billion to educational institutes like schools and universities. Approximately $70 billion will go to K-12 schools (especially those that are reopening while the pandemic rages on), and $30 billion is given to colleges and universities. $5 billion will be allocated to state governors to spend as they deem fit.

11. The Liability Shield

The Republican proposal plans on offering five years of legal protection to hospitals, businesses, and schools from being sued due to damages related to the pandemic. While this won’t completely eliminate lawsuits, but payments would have to provide definitive proof of gross negligence of local and state public health guidelines in order to get ahead with their case.   

12. Small Businesses Would Receive PPP Loans

Small businesses looking for a bailout will receive some help with the HEALS Act. Around $190 billion, in addition to leftover funding, would be set aside for small businesses under the Payment Protection Program (PPP) funds. Small businesses will have to show that their sales dipped by at least 50% due to COVID-19. Only businesses with less than 300 or fewer employees would qualify.

13. No Relief for Students

The CARES Act gave some relief to individuals with outstanding student loans, by foregoing their payments for 6 months until September 30, 2020. During this time interest would not accrue. The HEALS Act did not extend this moratorium, implying that interest will resume after October and payments will have to be made on time.

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