Summary of the CARES Act Benefits
- Qualified individuals with incomes under $75k will receive a one-time stimulus payment of $1200; or up to $3400 for married couples with two or more dependents
- $10,000 Cash Grant Available for Freelancers, Sole Proprietors and Businesses (Cash deposited in 3 days)
- Forgivable Loans granted under the Paycheck Protection Program can be forgiven in whole or part if used for payroll to retain or rehire workers through June 2020
- Freelancers and self-employed individuals are now eligible for extended unemployment insurance benefits
- New tax changes defer payment of employer’s payroll tax contribution for remainder of 2020
- Student loan relief automatically suspends federal student loan payments for 6 months
- 10% early retirement fund withdrawal penalty waived
- Businesses may also qualify for state relief programs and grants
$10,000 Cash Grant Available for Freelancers, Sole Proprietors and Businesses (Cash deposited in 3 days)
𝗨𝗥𝗚𝗘𝗡𝗧 𝗙𝗢𝗥 𝗙𝗥𝗘𝗘𝗟𝗔𝗡𝗖𝗘 𝗣𝗛𝗢𝗧𝗢𝗚𝗥𝗔𝗣𝗛𝗘𝗥𝗦, 𝗕𝗨𝗦𝗜𝗡𝗘𝗦𝗦 𝗢𝗪𝗡𝗘𝗥𝗦, 𝗦𝗢𝗟𝗘 𝗣𝗥𝗢𝗣𝗥𝗜𝗘𝗧𝗢𝗥𝗦:
Forgiveable loans for freelancers, small business and sole proprietors
The Small Business Administration is distributing $350 billion in government loans (called the “Paycheck Protection Program”) to small businesses directly affected by COVID-19.
The goal of these forgivable loans is to help business owners be able to retain their employees through the pandemic. It incentivizes businesses to keep or rehire their employees and keep paying normal business expenses.
These loans will be forgiven (you don't have to pay the money back) if you use the money correctly for the 8 weeks following receipt of the funds.
Eligibility includes businesses with fewer than 500 employees, including self-employed, sole proprietors, freelancers, and gig economy workers.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
You can borrow up to 2.5x your average monthly payroll expenses.
If you spend on average $10,000 per month on paying people including yourself, you can borrow $25,000 and have it forgiven.
EXAMPLE: $10,000 x 2.5 = $25,000
Your average monthly payroll is calculated by the 12 months prior to Jan 31st 2020. This can include Employees, contractors, bonuses, distributions etc.
Loans granted under the Paycheck Protection Program can be forgiven in whole or part if used for payroll to retain or rehire workers through June 2020.
You can legally use the funds to pay employees, rent, utilities, contractors, and business mortgages and it will still be forgiven.
Your business must have been operational on Feb. 15, 2020 to qualify.
How to Access Stimulus Cash and Loans for Your Household and Business
In response to the unprecedented business shutdowns and record unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Government unanimously passed the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) into law on Friday, March 27, 2020.
This $2 trillion stimulus bill is aimed at providing relief for households and businesses directly affected by COVID-19.
I know that many of you who own your own photography businesses have been hit hard by this crisis. So I have created a resource guide for photographers who need financial assistance to keep their businesses and families afloat during this crisis.
Keep in mind that I’m not an accountant or a tax attorney, and cannot address individual questions or concerns.
You should consult with your own accountant and/or financial advisor to determine your eligibility for these programs.
Up to $3400 Stimulus Assistance to Individual Households
U.S. citizens or permanent residents who make less than $75k a year (or $112,500 for head of household and $150,000 married) are eligible for a stimulus benefit of $1200 per person, plus an additional $500 per dependent child. The maximum benefit available is $3400 per family.
To qualify, you must not be listed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return, and you need to have a work-eligible Social Security number.
You do not have to apply for this benefit if you’ve filed taxes in 2018 or 2019 and meet the eligibility criteria. Payment will be automatically distributed through the tax refund system.
New Unemployment Insurance Benefits Now Available for Freelancers and Self-Employed Individuals
If you’re self-employed, the CARES Act has expanded benefits to freelancers and gig employees formerly not eligible for unemployment insurance.
This is great news for anyone with a photography business who has lost income due to COVID-19 wedding and other event cancellations.
Applicants need to provide self-certification that they are partially or fully unemployed or unable and unavailable to work.
Eligibility includes workers diagnosed or seeking diagnosis with COVID-19, household members diagnosed with COVID-19, caring for child or household members who cannot attend work or school, and those quarantined or advised to self quarantine.
Specific Programs for Workers Unemployed Due to COVID-19 Business Closures
There are three programs under the CARES Act which expand existing Unemployment Insurance Benefits for workers. If you or your spouse has lost their job due to COVID-19, be sure to look into these extended benefits.
PUC – (Pandemic Unemployment Compensation)
From March 27, 2020 until July 31, 2020 Unemployment Insurance claimants will receive usual benefits plus an extra $600 per week in compensation.
For purposes of eligibility for Medicaid or CHIP, this benefit will not be counted as income.
PEUC – Pandemic Emergency Compensation
PEUC provides 13 additional weeks of benefits after you exhaust your regular Unemployment Insurance benefits.
To be eligible for PEUC, you must be actively actively searching for work.
The usual one week UI waiting period is waived under the PEUC program.
PUA – Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
PUA provides Emergency assistance for workers left out of regular State UI or have exhausted their state UI benefit. PUA provides assistance for up to 39 weeks, which expires on December 31st 2020.
Eligibility for PUA includes self-employed workers including freelancers, independent contractors, workers seeking part-time work, and those who do not have a long enough work history to qualify for state benefits.
Under the guidelines of the CARES Act, self-employed photographers qualify for PUA, even if they do not qualify for regular Unemployment Insurance benefits.
Important Tax Credits and Changes Affecting Photography Businesses
The CARES Act provides tax relief measures to help small business owners, including photography businesses.
Here are the highlights:
Employers, including those self-employed, can delay payment of the employer portion of Social Security payroll tax for the remainder of the year. The tax can be paid back over 2 years.
There is a 50% tax credit on wages up to $10,000 for employers to retain employees after you partially or completely shut down your business due to COVID-19.
If your business had a non-operating loss in 2018, 2019, or 2020, the non-operating loss can now be carried back 5 years.
Businesses due to receive corporate Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) credits at the end of 2021 can now claim a refund instead.
When filing your personal tax return using the standard deduction formula, you can claim a charitable deduction of $300. (Formerly, this was only available to those who filed itemized tax returns.)
Tax-Free Student Loan Relief for Photographers
If you have outstanding student loans from the last ten years held through the federal government, your payments will automatically be suspended for six months.
The exceptions are FFEL loans, Perkins loans and private loans.
One thing to note is that employers can make tax-free student loan payments on behalf of their employees up to $5250 annually. This also includes anyone with a corporation or LLC who pays themselves a salary. This means that you can pay your student loans through your company up to the maximum amount without incurring a tax penalty.
Student loan payments made through this program do not count towards your taxable income.
10% Early Retirement Fund Withdrawal Penalty Waived
Tapping into your retirement funds should be a last resort.
But if you need to access these funds to support your family, the 10% early withdrawal penalty for distributions up to $100,000 has been waived retroactively to Jan. 1. (This only applies if you are withdrawing funds because of coronavirus-related financial hardships.)
These withdrawals will be taxed as usual; however, the taxpayer can spread repayment back over three years, instead of the usual one year.
Photographers May Be Eligible for State Programs As Well
I haven’t covered state-specific relief programs that could be of benefit to photographers because they are beyond the scope of this post.
For example, certain states have expanded (or are in the processes of expanding) Medicaid eligibility.
Some states have taken the measure to temporarily ban evictions, mortgage foreclosures, and utility disconnections due to non-payment. Others have created alternative unemployment insurance programs.
This page from the National Conference of State Legislatures has a general overview of individual state measures for Corona virus relief.
Check with your state’s official webpage for more information on programs you or your photography business may qualify for.
I'll Keep This Page Updated
I’ll be keeping this page updated in the days and weeks to come. My team and I want to do everything we can to keep you and your photography business healthy.
If I find out about new resources and programs to help you out, I’ll be sure to add them here.
Know that my team and I care about you and your business during this time of turmoil.