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Message from the Representative

Dear Community Members of NY-14,

Tonight, the House voted on the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion dollar legislative package designed to provide financial relief to communities and families.  Though imperfect, I voted for this bill because it finally included some of the key provisions I’ve been calling for since this crisis began. 

Namely,  the Act includes $175 billion in renting and housing assistance, funds to reduce incarceration, and much needed financial relief for many in the immigrant community. Additionally, and perhaps most critically, the bill provides state and local funding to New York. Our emergency responders in New York are at a breaking point. The City and the State is considering cuts to schools, healthcare and other essential services because they are simply out of money. We have no choice - to stave off further, long-lasting harm, we must bring home this local funding.

Our work is not done, however. This bill now heads to the Senate and I will actively lobby Senate Democrats to make three key changes. First, we must remove the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) and replace it with the Paycheck Guarantee Act. This change already has bipartisan support because it guarantees that Americans will continue to receive a paycheck, whereas the ERTC makes no such promise.  

Second, the bill should include emergency burial funds. This week, I introduced a bill that would provide up to $10,000 to cover the funeral expenses of those that have passed due to COVID-19. Too many families are facing financial ruin trying to pay for funerals - the bare minimum Congress can do is provide them the means to bury their loved ones with dignity. 

Finally, instead of subsidizing the unpopular COBRA program, we should expand Medicare to cover the unemployed. Subsidizing COBRA is a more expensive and less effective alternative to Medicare expansion - both for the federal government and for American families.

While this bill makes it way through the Senate, my office is also committed to doing all we can to keep you informed. On Thursday, May 21, at 6PM, we are holding our monthly town hall. You can sign up to join here. Questions can be submitted in advance to AOC.TownHall@mail.house.gov. For help signing up, please call (718) 662-5970. 

As always, this newsletter also contains information about COVID-19 that we hope will be helpful. This week, we included frequently asked questions about Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, a serious condition which presents in children and may be linked to COVID-19. We’ve also included an FAQ about financial planning after a job loss, as well as what to do if your stimulus check is less than expected.

The newsletter also contains the latest Census information. Filling out the census takes just 10 minutes and is a great way to honor essential workers - many of whom would directly benefit from the resources afforded by a full and complete count. Everyone can fill out the Census at my2020census.gov. You can also complete the census by phone (844-330-2020) or by returning the questionnaire you received in the mail. Language assistance is also available here

For more resources on COVID-19 and other information, please check out our website: ocasio-cortez.house.gov or call our office at 718-662-5970.  We are also now providing this newsletter in Spanish each week. You can sign up to receive the Spanish version of this newsletter HERE

In thanks,

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

 

Census FAQ

Just 47.7% of NY-14 constituents have responded to the Census, compared to the national response rate of 59.1%, the state’s response rate of 53.7%, and the city’s response rate of 48.4% (cite).   Sadly,  in some NY-14 neighborhoods, the response rate is even lower than the district wide average.  Allerton, Pelham, Van Nest, College Point, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, and Corona are all at 40 percent or below. Woodside, Morris Park, Throggs Neck, Astoria, Lefrak City are also below the national and state averages at 50%. 

Help your neighborhood catch up by filling out the Census at my2020census.gov. You can also complete the census by phone (844-330-2020) or by returning the questionnaire you received in the mail. Language assistance is also available here

Below are frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the Census. You can find more here

What if I’ve been displaced? Where should I indicate my residence?April 1 is the magic date. Wherever you were residing on April 1, is where you should report, even if you are now staying elsewhere. 

How do I respond for multiple people or families at a single address? 
Each ‘household’ should complete a single Census. So if you are filing out the Census for your ‘household,’ you should include everyone who shares your address, even if they are not a member of your family. The Census Bureau has ways to resolve duplicate responses if multiple people at the same address respond separately.

If I live or stay in a garage or added structure at a property, how do I respond? 
To respond with a physical location on a property that does not have a separate address, utilize the “Street Address” option, enter the address, and include the description of the structure (e.g., “garage”) in the apartment/unit number field. If you reply by phone, you will be prompted to provide the same description

 

Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome

The following information is courtesy of the New York City Department of Health

What is pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome? 
Pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (PMIS) is a new health condition appearing in children in New York City (NYC) and elsewhere. Some doctors think the condition is related to having coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but the connection is still not clear.

PMIS is like other serious inflammatory conditions such as Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome. Children with PMIS can have problems with their heart and other organs and need to stay in a hospital to receive support in an intensive care unit.

PMIS is a rare condition. However, because it is life-threatening, it is important that parents know the signs and symptoms, so they can get help right away.

What are the signs or symptoms of PMIS?
Most children have fever (temperature of 100.4 degrees F or 38.0 degrees C or greater) lasting several days, along with other symptoms.

Common symptoms include:

  • Irritability or sluggishness •
  • Abdominal pain without another explanation
  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting
  • Rash
  • Conjunctivitis, or red or pink eyes

When should I call my child’s doctor or get emergency care?
You should call your doctor immediately if your child becomes ill and
Tel them about any signs or symptoms your child has. Your doctor will use that information to recommend next steps. If your child is severely ill, you should go to the nearest emergency room or call 911 immediately.

Is PMIS contagious?
PMIS is not contagious. However, it is possible your child has COVID-19 or another underlying infection that may be contagious. Until we know more, hospitals in NYC that are treating children with PMIS are taking the same precautions they take for patients with COVID-19.

Is there a treatment for PMIS?
Currently, children with PMIS are being treated with different therapies, including intravenous immunoglobulin and steroids. These drugs help reduce the body’s immune response that causes the inflammatory syndrome. Children are also being given other medications to protect their heart, kidneys and other organs.

How can I prevent my child from getting PMIS?
Although we do not know yet if PMIS is related to COVID-19, taking steps to prevent your child from being exposed to COVID-19 is important. Face coverings, hand hygiene, and physical distancing are the best way to prevent COVID-19.

 

Why is My Stimulus Check Less Than Expected?

See below for some common scenarios that may explain why you received a different payment amount than expected. This information is provided by theIRS

You have not filed a 2019 tax return, or the IRS has not finished processing your 2019 return
Payments are automatic for eligible people who filed a tax return for 2018 or 2019. Typically, the IRS uses information from the 2019 tax return to calculate the Economic Impact Payment. The IRS will use the 2018 return if the taxpayer has not yet filed for 2019. If a taxpayer has already filed for 2019, the agency will still use the 2018 return if the IRS has not finished processing the 2019 return. Remember, the IRS accepting a tax return electronically is different than completing processing; any issues with the 2019 return mean the IRS would've used the 2018 filing.

If the IRS used the 2018 return, various life changes in 2019 would not be reflected in the payment. These may include higher or lower income or birth or adoption of a child.

In many cases, however, these taxpayers may be able to claim an additional amount on the 2020 tax return they file next year. This could include up to an additional $500 for each qualifying child not reflected in their Economic Impact Payment.

Claimed dependents are not eligible for an additional $500 payment
Only children eligible for the Child Tax Credit qualify for the additional payment of up to $500 per child. To claim the Child Tax Credit, the taxpayer generally must be related to the child, live with them more than half the year and provide at least half of their support. Besides their own children, adopted children and foster children, eligible children can include the taxpayer's younger siblings, grandchildren, nieces and nephews if they can be claimed as dependents. In addition, any qualifying child must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or other qualifying resident alien. The child must also be under the age of 17 at the end of the year for the tax return on which the IRS bases the payment determination.

A qualifying child must have a valid Social Security number (SSN) or an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN). A child with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is not eligible for an additional payment.

Parents who are not married to each other and do not file a joint return cannot both claim their qualifying child as a dependent. The parent who claimed their child on their 2019 return may have received an additional Economic Impact Payment for their qualifying child. When the parent who did not receive an additional payment files their 2020 tax return next year, they may be able to claim up to an additional $500 per-child amount on that return if they qualify to claim the child as their qualifying child for 2020.

Dependents are college students
Pursuant to the CARES Act, dependent college students do not qualify for an EIP, and even though their parents may claim them as dependents, they normally do not qualify for the additional $500 payment. For example, under the law, a 20-year-old full-time college student claimed as a dependent on their mother's 2019 federal income tax return is not eligible for a $1,200 Economic Impact Payment. In addition, the student's mother will not receive an additional $500 Economic Impact Payment for the student because they do not qualify as a child younger than 17. This scenario could also apply if a parent's 2019 tax return hasn't been processed yet by the IRS before the payments were calculated, and a college student was claimed on a 2018 tax return.

However, if the student cannot be claimed as a dependent by their mother or anyone else for 2020, that student may be eligible to claim a $1,200 credit on their 2020 tax return next year.

Claimed dependents are parents or relatives, age 17 or older
If a dependent is 17 or older, they do not qualify for the additional $500. If a taxpayer claimed a parent or any other relative age 17 or older on their tax return, that dependent will not receive a $1,200 payment. In addition, the taxpayer will not receive an additional $500 payment because the parent or other relative is not a qualifying child under age 17.

However, if the parent or other relative cannot be claimed as a dependent on the taxpayer's or anyone else's return for 2020, the parent or relative may be eligible to individually claim a $1,200 credit on their 2020 tax return filed next year.

Past-due child support was deducted from the payment
The Economic Impact Payment is offset only by past-due child support. The Bureau of the Fiscal Service will send the taxpayer a notice if an offset occurs.

For taxpayers who are married filing jointly and filed an injured spouse claim with their 2019 tax return (or 2018 tax return if they haven't filed the 2019 tax return), half of the total payment will be sent to each spouse. Only the payment of the spouse who owes past-due child support should be offset.

The IRS is aware that a portion of the payment sent to a spouse who filed an injured spouse claim with his or her 2019 tax return (or 2018 tax return if no 2019 tax return has been filed) may have been offset by the injured spouse's past-due child support. The IRS is working with the Bureau of Fiscal Service and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement, to resolve this issue as quickly as possible. If you filed an injured spouse claim with your return and are impacted by this issue, you do not need to take any action. The injured spouse will receive their unpaid half of the total payment when the issue is resolved. 

Garnishments by creditors reduced the payment amount
Federal tax refunds, including the Economic Impact Payment, are not protected from garnishment by creditors by federal law once the proceeds are deposited into a taxpayer's bank account.

What if the amount of my Economic Impact Payment is incorrect?
Everyone should review the eligibility requirements for their family to make sure they meet the criteria.

In many instances, eligible taxpayers who received a smaller-than-expected Economic Impact Payment (EIP) may qualify to receive an additional amount early next year when they file their 2020 federal income tax return. Everyone should keep for their records the letter they receive by mail after their payment is issued.

When taxpayers file their return next year, they can claim additional credits on their 2020 tax return if they are eligible for them. The IRS will provide further details on IRS.gov on the action they may need to take.

The EIP will not reduce a taxpayer's refund or increase the amount they owe when they file a tax return early next year. It is also not taxable and is therefore should not be included in income on a 2020 return.

 

FAQ ABOUT FINANCIAL PLANNING AFTER A JOB LOSS

The following Questions and Answers are provided by the Internal Revenue Service to clarify the tax implications of financial issues faced by workers who have lost their jobs.

Is severance pay taxable?
Yes, severance pay is taxable in the year that you receive it. Your employer will include this amount on your Form W-2 and will withhold appropriate federal and state taxes. 

Is accumulated leave (vacation and/or sick pay) taxable?
Yes, annual leave/vacation pay, and sick pay are calculated as wages by your employer and will be included in your Form W-2.

Is unemployment compensation taxable?
Yes, your state unemployment insurance benefits (up to 26 weeks) and your extended benefits are taxable. You may choose to have 10% withheld for federal taxes by completing Form W-4V. The State will provide you with a paper Form 1099-G or make it available electronically by January 31st of each year, showing the amount of taxable benefits paid in the prior year.

If I am eligible for public assistance or food stamps, is it taxable?
No.

When will I get my final Form W-2 from my employer?
Your employer must provide your Form W-2 by January 31st after the close of the calendar year. As an example, 2020 Forms W-2 are due to employees by January 31, 2021.

What if my employer filed bankruptcy or went out of business, how do I get my Form W-2?
In either case the employer must file and report your wages and withholding on a Form W-2 at year’s end. If you do not receive your Form W-2, try to contact your employer or their representative. If you are unsuccessful, the IRS can assist you in filing a substitute Form W-2 using your records. A good precaution is to keep year-to-date records or pay stubs until you receive your Form W-2.

Can I file an early tax return and receive any refund due?
No. Individual income tax returns are based on a calendar year and cannot be filed earlier than January of the next calendar year. By law, Internal Revenue Service cannot issue refunds claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) before mid-February. This applies to the entire refund − even the portion not associated with the EITC or ACTC.

If I sell other assets like stocks, bonds, and investment property, are they immediately taxable?
Not necessarily, however the sale of such assets should be reported. If you have a gain on the sale, it may generate an income tax liability. You should review your overall tax situation and make sure you have paid your taxes as required to avoid any estimated tax penalty. 

What can I do if I owe taxes and cannot pay them?
Contact the Internal Revenue Service as soon as possible to request a payment plan. Communication is the key to minimizing problems.

Payment options include a short-term payment plan (paying in 120 days or less) or a long-term payment plan (installment agreement for payments longer than 120 days). You may qualify to apply online for one of these payment options.

Is special assistance available on unresolved tax matters that create hardships?
Yes, if you are experiencing economic harm, a systemic problem or are seeking help in resolving tax problems that have not been resolved through normal channels, you may be eligible for Taxpayer Advocate Services (TAS) assistance.

What if I withdraw money from my qualified retirement plan or Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA)?
Generally speaking, if you withdraw the funds before you reach eligible age, and do not roll it over into another qualified retirement plan or Individual Retirement Account (IRA) within 60 days, that amount will be taxable income in the year in which it is withdrawn. You may also have to pay an additional 10% tax on those early distributions. 

Are there any “hardship” exceptions to the early distribution penalties?
Yes, there are two exceptions specifically related to job loss. The additional 10% tax does not apply for distributions from a qualified retirement plan if you are age 55 (age 50 for qualified public safety employees) in or after in the year after you’ve been separated from your job. Also, you do not have to pay the additional tax on distributions during the year from an IRA that aren’t more than the amount you paid during the year for medical insurance for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents. To qualify, you must have:

  1. lost your job,
  2. received unemployment compensation paid under any federal or
    state law for 12 consecutive weeks because you lost your job,
  3. received the distributions during either the year you received the
    unemployment compensation or the following year and
  4. received the distributions no later than 60 days after you have been
    reemployed.

Can I move money from my qualified retirement plan into another qualified retirement plan or IRA?
Yes, this is called a “rollover”. You can choose to have any part or all of an eligible rollover distribution paid directly to another qualified retirement plan that accepts rollover distributions or to a traditional or Roth IRA.

If you choose the direct rollover option, or have an automatic rollover, no tax will be withheld from any part of the distribution that is directly paid to the trustee of the other plan. If any part of the eligible rollover distribution is paid to you, the payer must generally withhold 20% of it for income tax.

However, the full amount is treated as distributed to you even though you actually receive only 80%. You generally must include in income any part (including the part withheld) that you don’t roll over within 60 days to another qualified retirement plan or to a traditional or Roth IRA. 

If I made an IRA contribution during the current tax year, can I withdraw it before the close of the year?
Yes. Contributions returned before the due date of the return can be withdrawn without penalty. You must take the contribution and any interest or dividend it may have earned. This is a tax-free event if:

  1. you do not take a deduction for the contribution and
  2. you withdraw any income or interest the investment made while in
    the IRA and include that amount in your income. 

If I take my pension and transfer it to an IRA, are there any special rules or restrictions?
Rolling over your pension distribution to a financial institution: (i.e., bank, credit union, brokerage house, etc.) is straightforward. Prohibited transactions with an IRA include:

  1. borrowing money against it,
  2. selling property to it,
  3. using it as security for a loan or pledging the IRA account as
    security or
  4. buying property for personal use (present or future) with IRA funds.
    In general, there is a 15% tax on the amount of the prohibited transaction and a 100% additional tax if the transaction isn’t corrected.