Over the past 1 1/2 months, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has wreaked never-before-seen havoc on the U.S. economy and labor market. With roughly a third of the 2.9 million worldwide confirmed cases of COVID-19 originating in the United States, drastic action to curb disease transmission has been taken. This has included mandated stay-at-home orders in most states, as well as the shutdown of nonessential businesses. Ultimately, it's cost more than 26 million people their jobs in a four-week stretch.
But unique times have called for an even more unprecedented response.
On March 27, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law. At $2.2 trillion, it's the largest economic stimulus bill in history and demonstrates the lengths lawmakers will go to in order to support businesses and working Americans during this pandemic.
Will you qualify for an Economic Impact Payment?
While the headline figures for the CARES Act include $500 billion in loans for distressed businesses and nearly $350 billion in small business loans (which were doled out in their entirety in two weeks), the most-watched aspect is unquestionably the approximately $300 billion set aside for direct payouts to American workers and Social Security beneficiaries. These stimulus checks are officially known as Economic Impact Payments.
In total, somewhere around 140 million households and 175 million Americans are going to receive a stimulus check, with the maximum possible payout being $1,200 per individual or $2,400 for a married couple filing jointly. Dependents aged 16 and under can also add $500 (per child) to their parents' stimulus checks.
At the same time, tens of millions of people won't receive a dime from the largest stimulus package in history. Eligibility primarily will be determined by a trio of factors: adjusted gross income (AGI), most recent tax-filing status, and citizenship.
In order to net the largest Economic Impact Payment possible, single, married, and head-of-household filers will need to have AGIs below $75,000, $150,000 and $112,500, respectively. But if single, married, and head-of-household filers' AGIs top $99,000, $198,000, and $136,500, respectively, they'll receive no payout at all. For taxpayers whose AGIs fall in between these upper and lower bounds, $5 in stimulus money will be removed for every $100 in AGI above the lower bound.
Aside from high income, other disqualifying factors include dependents aged 17 and older, which includes senior dependents, non-citizens who don't have a pathway to legal citizenship, and persons in arrears on child support.
Families in these states are likely to have the smallest average stimulus checks
But to some extent, where you live can have an impact on what you'll receive in stimulus money.
Two weeks ago, home-sales insight company Ownerly.com released a report that estimated the average stimulus payout for families in all 50 states. It did so by analyzing U.S. Census Bureau data for average family size and number of children, and compared these figures to income distributions by population within each state.
Earlier this week, I highlighted the five states likely to receive the juiciest Economic Impact Payments. Now, let's take a closer look at the five states where qualifying families are projected to take home the smallest average stimulus check payouts. These states are:
- Massachusetts: $1,897
- New Hampshire: $1,899
- Maryland: $1,918
- Connecticut: $1,920
- New Jersey: $1,931
For the sake of comparison, the five states with the largest average payouts ranged between $2,501 and $2,659.
You're probably wondering why families in the Northeast and Chesapeake region of the country won't be receiving stimulus payouts that are on par with the national average. The answer to that question almost entirely boils down to income.
Remember, couples filing jointly need to have earned less than $150,000 in AGI in their most recent tax filings to net the full $2,400 payout, prior to accounting for any qualifying children. However, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire are respectively first, second, fourth, sixth, and seventh in median household income, with ranges of $74,057 in New Hampshire to $81,868 in Maryland. This suggests that, for qualifying families, quite a few could see reduced payouts.
Unfortunately, many of the families in these states could be subjected to a double whammy. Not only will their incomes result in a lower average payout, but cost-of-living in these states tends to be above the national average. For instance, Ownerly notes that the average monthly cost of rent plus bills in Massachusetts is $2,880, which compares unfavorably to the average stimulus payout of $1,897 to qualifying Massachusetts families. Thus, Economic Impact Payments are only expected to cover about 66% of the expenses of Massachusetts families for a single month.
The story is somewhat similar for qualifying families in New Jersey and Maryland, where stimulus money is expected to cover a respective 75% and 84% of expenses in one month.
Additionally, New Hampshire and Massachusetts are two of the five states with the lowest average number of children per family (ranging between 1.7 and 1.8). Fewer children means less likelihood of receiving the $500 kicker for each dependent aged 16 and under.
Obviously, everyone's financial situation is going to be unique, leading to a broad range of stimulus check payouts. But if you happen to the live in the Northeast or the Chesapeake region, don't be shocked if your payout is lower than the national average.