House Passes HEROES Act

HEROES Act

The House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion stimulus bill on Friday, May 15, with a 208-199 vote. The more than 1,800-page legislation, dubbed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (Heroes Act), would provide another stimulus check to qualifying Americans, extend unemployment benefits, and provide relief to homeowners, among other economic stimuli.

The HEROES Act needs to be approved by the Senate before passing into law. However, the Senate will not be voting on the aid package until after the May 25 Memorial Day recess. In addition, Senate leadership has called the bill “dead on arrival” and many senators have threatened to oppose its passing.

Here’s what’s inside the proposed legislation:

1. Economic Impact Payments of up to $6,000 per household

The second round of stimulus checks included in the HEROES Act are structured similarly to the first payments, with individual tax filers phasing out of eligibility at $75,000-plus, and couples filing jointly phasing out at $150,000-plus.

The proposed second economic impact payment varies from its predecessor in two areas. Firstly, the latest stimulus checks will grant $1,200 for each dependent, regardless of age, for up to three dependents per household. Secondly, immigrants with taxpayer identification numbers will be included in the payments, unlike the first round.

2. Expanded and extended unemployment benefits 

While some states have made the first tentative steps toward reopening their economy, a record 33 million Americans are still out of work. The HEROES Act would provide relief to these individuals, offering expanded unemployment coverage of an extra $600 per week through January 2021. The bill also extends eligibility benefits for gig workers, independent contractors, part-time workers and the self-employed through March 2021.

3. Student loan forgiveness 

The original plans for a broad $30,000 in student loan forgiveness have been scrapped from the legislation, but the HEROES Act includes the following provisions for student loan relief:

  • $10,000 in federal student loan forgiveness.
  • $10,000 in private student loan forgiveness.
  • An extension of the CARES Act suspension of payments, interest and collections on government-held federal student loans through September of 2021. These protections will also expand to include commercially-held Federal Family Education Loan federal student loans, as well as Perkins loans.
  • A modification to Public Service Loan Forgiveness that would allow payments made on previously-consolidated federal student loans to potentially count towards the 120 qualifying monthly payments required for the program.

The Democratic House leaders made a last-minute amendment to these provisions, restricting eligibility for student loan forgiveness to students who are “economically distressed.” The term has been defined as someone who, as of March 12, 2020, was delinquent or in default on their student loan, in economic hardship deferment or forbearance on their student loan, or in an income-driven repayment plan with a monthly payment amount of $0.

Rental and mortgage assistance

The HEROES Act will provide $100 billion of rental assistance for the country’s 40 million-plus renters. The funds will be distributed through an existing nationwide grant rental assistance program that would verify a tenant’s inability to pay rent and issue vouchers to cover the cost of rent and utilities. The legislation will also extend the moratorium on residential foreclosures and rental evictions for 12 months.

In addition, the HEROES Act also expands the protection for homeowners included in the CARES Act, providing an additional $75 billion for a homeowner assistance fund designed to prevent mortgage defaults and property foreclosures.

Hazard pay for essential workers

The HEROES Act would establish a $200 billion “Heroes’ Fund” to provide hazard pay to qualifying essential workers. The fund will furnish a $13 per hour pay premium on top of regular pay for “all hours worked in essential industries through the end of 2020.” The hazard pay caps at $25,000 for essential workers earning less than $200,000 per year, and at $5,000 for workers earning more than $200,000 per year.

Other provisions and benefits 

The HEROES Act includes several additional economic relief provisions, including:

  • Close to $1 trillion in direct financial relief for state, local and tribal governments.
  • $75 billion for coronavirus testing and tracing.
  • Increased spending on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
  • Debt-collection relief.

The Complete Guide to Prioritizing Bills During COVID-19

Prioritize your bills

If you are one of the millions of Americans on furlough thanks to the coronavirus, you may be scrambling to cover your bills. Let’s take a look at what Freedom’s financial experts are advising so you can make an informed decision about your finances going forward.

Triage your bills

Freedom recommends putting your most basic needs, including food and shelter, before any other bills now. Make sure you can feed your family before using your limited resources for loan payments or credit card bills. Similarly, your family needs a place to live, so mortgage or rent payments should be next on your list.

Housing costs

In early March, the Federal Housing Finance Agency offered payment forbearance to homeowners affected by COVID-19, allowing them to suspend mortgage payments up to 12 months. These loans account for approximately 66 percent of all home loans in America. They will eventually need to be covered, though conditions for repayment vary by lender.

Speak to your lender about your options before making a decision.

If you’re a renter, be open with your landlord. They may be willing to work with you.

Paying for transportation

Missing an auto loan payment can mean risking repossession of your vehicle. This should put car payments next on your list of financial priorities. If meeting that monthly payment is impossible right now, it’s best to communicate with your lender and come up with a plan that is mutually agreeable to both parties.

Household bills

Utility and service bills should be paid on time each month, but for workers on furlough due to the coronavirus pandemic, these expenses may not even make it to their list of priorities.

Most states have outlawed utility shutoffs for now. Also, many providers are willing to work with their clients. Visit the websites of your providers or reach out to them by phone to see what kind of relief and financial considerations they’re offering consumers.

Unsecured debt

Unsecured debt includes credit cards, personal loans and any other loan that is not tied to a large asset. Struggling Americans can place these loans at the bottom of their list of financial priorities for now. At the same time, borrowers should know that missing out on a monthly loan payment can have a long-term negative impact on a credit score.

Here, too, consumers are advised to communicate with their lenders about their current financial realities. Credit card companies and lenders are often willing to extend payment deadlines, lower the APR on a line of credit or a loan, waive a late fee or occasionally allow consumers to skip a payment without penalty.

Freedom Federal Credit Union is committed to putting our members first, not shareholders, and helping you achieve your financial goals. Learn more at freedomfcu.org or call us 800-440-4120 to see how we can help.

Your Turn: How are you prioritizing your bills during the pandemic? Share your tips with us on Facebook, LinkedIn,Twitter, or Instagram.

 

Should I Buy a House During a Pandemic?

Buying a House During a PandemicQ: I’ve been planning to buy my first home this spring, and I’ve spent years preparing for this purchase. Now that the coronavirus has had a negative impact on the economy, I’m wondering if I should go through with my plans. Is it a good idea to buy a house during a pandemic?

A: The coronavirus outbreak that has swept through the world while wreaking havoc on the national and global economy has given rise to dozens of financial questions. The uncertainty that characterizes this time is confusing the average American and financial experts alike. No one can say when this pandemic will come to an end, or what kind of lasting impact it will have on the economy. Experts can only look at past economic crises and downturns to try to predict what the short-term and long-term financial future will look like in the United States.

Let’s take a look at the mid-pandemic housing market and explore the wisdom of purchasing a home during a time of economic instability.

 

What does the current housing market look like? 
In a twist of irony, the home sales of February 2020 were the strongest they’ve been in the country since 2007, topping 5 million sales. Factors like falling interest rates and a booming economy contributed to the thriving housing market, but two months later, experts already are seeing a decline in the buying trend.

Lawrence Yun, the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, says the market has turned sharply, adding, “The coronavirus has undoubtedly slowed buyer traffic and it is difficult to predict what short-term effects the pandemic will have on future sales.”

This downturn has likely been triggered by the economic devastation caused by the outbreak, including widespread job insecurity, thousands of shuttered businesses and millions of employees on leave from work for an indefinite period of time due to statewide and self-imposed quarantines.

The decrease in home sales is also likely due to practical reasons. When people are worried about their health and they’re trying to create a semblance of normal life while essentially being confined to their homes, it’s difficult for them to think about purchasing a new one. Meeting with potential sellers and real estate agents and looking at properties is also complicated when trying to maintain social distancing.

No one knows when the spread of the coronavirus will ease, but when it does, and normal life resumes, the market may see an increase in sales.

Does it make financial sense to buy a house now?

A dwindling housing market does not automatically mean this isn’t a good time to buy a house. In fact, times of financial uncertainty generally lead to falling mortgage rates and the ease of credit qualifications. Mortgage rates have already reached a record low of 3.13 percent in the beginning of March, prompting some buyers to rush into new home purchases. The rate, however, has since jumped back up to 3.65 percent, though it is still relatively low and may fall again.
It takes more than just a favorable mortgage rate to make a home purchase a sensible decision.

Some market experts believe the coronavirus pandemic will cause an eventual spike in home sales as buyers, fearing a recession, will want the stability and control that homeownership brings. A fixed-rate mortgage will not be subject to the peaks and valleys of a volatile national interest rate. It can also help the owner feel secure if job loss and unemployment become the norm.

Before you jump into a home purchase at this time, you may want to take a step back and look at your entire financial picture. Consider the following factors:

  • How stable is your income? If you have any reason to believe you might be facing a layoff, you may want to hold off on your purchase. Your mortgage will need to be paid each month, regardless of your employment status.
  • How long do you plan on living in this home? If you anticipate living in your new home until you’ve paid off your mortgage, it can be a great time to buy a house at a low interest rate; however, if you plan on selling within the next few years, you may come out at a loss due to a falling housing market and an unstable economy.
  • Will you have savings left after going through with the purchase? As the economy heads toward a probable recession, this is not the best time to be without a savings cushion.

The coronavirus outbreak has destroyed all kinds of plans, from vacations to weddings, parties and more. That doesn’t mean you need to put your plans of buying a house on hold. If you can comfortably afford the purchase and your income isn’t threatened by the economic instability, the favorable interest rates and looser qualifications can make this a good time to buy a new home.

Your Turn: Are you on the market for a new home? Tell us about it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. @FreedomFedCU