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COVID-19 is impacting every South Dakotan right now. On top of worrying about the health and safety of our loved ones and ourselves, many people in our state have been put in a difficult financial position due to the virus. We’re facing a highly unusual situation where many businesses have had to close in order to protect the health of our citizens. To help keep our economy going, Congress passed—and the president signed into law–the CARES Act, a nearly $2 trillion relief bill. It includes resources to help individuals, families, businesses and others weather this storm.

In the coming weeks, money will be distributed to Americans to help keep our economy going. Adults earning less than $75,000 annually will receive $1,200 from the U.S. Treasury, plus $500 per child age 16 and under. Married couples filing jointly will receive $2,400 if their combined income is less than $150,000. Income amounts are calculated based on your most recent tax return. This payment will be disbursed as a direct deposit for taxpayers who have previously received tax refunds via direct deposit. Paper checks will be mailed to those without direct deposit information on file with the IRS. There is no requirement that citizens must earn an income to be eligible, meaning that even people who make $0 in income will receive the money as long as they aren’t the dependent of a taxpayer. Additionally seniors whose only income is from Social Security and veterans whose only income is a veterans’ disability payment are eligible for these funds as long as they aren’t the dependent of another taxpayer.

Businesses with 500 employees or fewer, as well as self-employed individuals, can participate in the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP will provide up to $10 million in loans to businesses that can help them cover payroll costs for employees. The loans can also be used to make payments on interest on mortgages, and pay rent and utilities incurred starting Feb. 15, 2020. If small businesses that receive PPP loans keep their employees on their payroll, SBA will forgive most of the loans. This is an incentive for businesses to keep their workers employed. The SBA and Treasury Department recently issued interim guidance for local lenders. Banks and credit unions in South Dakota are reviewing this information and hope to be able to offer these loans. We understand that the SBA has been tasked with putting together a new, complex program in a short amount of time. Likewise, we understand the concerns of community banks, lenders and borrowers regarding the implementation of the PPP and the urgency of getting this program running to help businesses and employees. We are in discussions with both the SBA and South Dakota lenders and borrowers, around the clock, to relay information in order to make certain the program works as intended. 

Employees who have already been let go due to COVID-19 may be rehired by their employer if the small business applies to the PPP. The intent of the PPP is to make sure workers continue to receive a paycheck and benefits until they can physically return to their workplace. We strongly urge employers to utilize the PPP during this time. In the meantime, individuals who are out of work can file for unemployment benefits. The CARES Act increases the amount of benefits unemployed beneficiaries receive during this time.

We know many people have questions about what benefits they are eligible for and how to receive them. While the CARES Act is now law, the executive branch of the government is continuing to work on implementing it. Families and businesses need relief, and they need it now. I am urging the different federal agencies to work as quickly as they can to implement the CARES Act. Because of the size of the relief legislation, implementation will unfortunately take some time. As new guidance and rules become available, we are sharing it on our COVID-19 webpage: www.rounds.senate.gov/covid19.

We want to make it as easy as possible for South Dakotans to access the resources they need. If you have questions that you haven’t been able to get answered, please contact my offices in Pierre, Sioux Falls, Rapid City and Aberdeen. All our phone numbers are listed on my website, www.rounds.senate.gov. We are working every day to find solutions for South Dakotans during this uncertain time.

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