Your COVID-19 questions, answered.

Kristin Schwab Mar 26, 2020
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iStock/Getty Images

Your COVID-19 questions, answered.

Kristin Schwab Mar 26, 2020
iStock/Getty Images

There’s so much news out there right now when it comes to the novel coronavirus that it can be hard to find clear answers to important economic questions. At Marketplace, we’re tracking what the outbreak means for your personal finances and the economy at large. We’ve compiled a list of FAQs here that we’ll update regularly.

I was supposed to take a trip. Will travel insurance cover it?

Likely not. Standard travel insurance, booked through an insurance company or backed by your credit card, will not cover the outbreak. But the more expensive “cancel for any reason” policies should let you recoup 50% to 75% of your losses. Regardless of your situation, it never hurts to call and ask your insurance company or individual airlines and hotels.

My supermarket’s shelves are empty. Are we running out of food?

Short answer: no. Grocers rely on a supply chain that goes from factories to warehouses to stores, with lots of trucks in-between. If you can’t find rice, beans and canned foods it’s probably because of logistics. In fact, the country’s food system has up to four months of these staples squared away.

What’s happening with taxes this year?

Tax Day, April 15, has been moved to July 15. It means you can file anytime between now and then. More than 70% of Americans get a tax refund, but if you owe the government money, you’ll have until mid-July to pay. This only applies to federal taxes. Your state filing deadline depends on where you live.

Is the government doing anything to curb evictions?

The Trump administration is temporarily suspending evictions and foreclosures for people living in Housing and Urban Development properties. For homeowners who have single-family mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, you may be able to suspend or lower your payments for up to 12 months, if you’ve lost income due to the pandemic. A growing number of cities and states are enacting similar local measures.

I’ve been furloughed. What does that mean and what can I do?

A furlough is a temporary layoff. Your pay and benefits during the furlough will depend on your employer. In the meantime, you’re eligible for unemployment benefits through your state. Many have waived the waiting period for collection, but many state systems are also overrun by applications. Unemployment benefits vary by state, but the clock on the number of weeks you can collect starts immediately, so experts suggest filing as soon as you can.

Will I be getting a check from the government?

The Senate has approved a bill that grants $1,200 to individuals who reported up to $75,000 on their 2018 tax returns or, if they’ve already filed, their 2019 returns. Meanwhile, $2,400 will be sent to couples who filed joint taxes and made up to $150,000. Payments will be reduced for those making more than those amounts. Financial assistance will not be granted to individuals making more than $99,000 and couples earning more than $198,000.

What’s being done to prevent a recession, or worse, a depression?

A recession is technically called after two consecutive quarters of negative growth, but experts say we are already in the middle of one now. The Federal Reserve announced new measures aimed at preventing a full-on economic depression. The central bank will now buy unlimited amounts of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities. The Fed is also setting up special programs to support business and consumer lending. The goal: to keep money flowing in the U.S. economy.

How hard will it be to get the economy up and running again?

It depends on how long this lasts, but it won’t be like pushing a start button. Consumers drove 70% of the economy before it came to a near standstill. When we get out of this, people will still need new dishwashers and shoes, but that won’t make up for the impact the shutdown has had on businesses like restaurants. And it will take time to see how COVID-19 will affect consumer confidence when it comes to bigger ticket items, like cars and homes.

I’m feeling coronavirus overload. What are some ways to take my mind off of all this?

The list of companies offering free books, movies and concerts is growing each day. Here’s a list of our favorites, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s live cams, because who doesn’t love penguins?

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