Coronavirus Task Force Update

PUBLISHED: 1:37 PM 20 Mar 2020
UPDATED: 6:39 PM 20 Mar 2020

Tax Filing Deadline Changed, Student Loan Payments, Testing and Travel Restriction Updates

The government is pulling out all stops to ensure that the economy is not destroyed by the coronavirus.

More inoculation shots for the economy. (Source: Fox News YouTube Screenshot)

During the coronavirus Task Force press briefing today, the president and his team announced massive moves that will further protect and inoculate the economy from devastation brought on by the Chinese virus.

In addition to the tax filing deadline being changed from April 15 to July 15, student loan payments will also be suspended for 60 days, and new travel restrictions were outlined.

Fox News reported:

“At @realDonaldTrump’s direction, we are moving Tax Day from April 15 to July 15. All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties,” Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted.

He clarified that taxpayers could still file for refunds now, tweeting: “I encourage all taxpayers who may have tax refunds to file now to get your money.”

The move had been expected in some form since earlier this month.

President Trump addressed the change in his daily coronavirus task force briefing.

“Hopefully by that time we’ll have people getting back to their lives,” Trump said. “Families and businesses will have this extra time to file with no interest or penalties.”

He continued: “However if you have refunds or credits you would like to claim, you may still file. In other words you can file early if you are owed money by the IRS.”

The administration had announced earlier in the week that it would delay the payments, a move that Mnuchin said would leave $300 billion in the economy at a critical time.

By extending the filing deadline, the government is essentially allowing individuals and businesses to hold on to their money as they deal with lost revenue or paychecks resulting from the economic slowdown as federal and state governments try to keep people home so they don’t spread the coronavirus.

The move comes as Congress and the administration hash out details for a massive stimulus package that, among other things, could send checks worth as much as $1,200 to qualifying individuals amid the crisis, as layoffs mount and more economic uncertainty awaits.

The draft legislation, obtained by Fox News, would provide minimum payments of $600, and aid would be phased down at adjusted gross income thresholds of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 per couple. Additionally, there would be $500 payments for each child.

The rebate amount is slated to then be reduced by $5 for each $100 a taxpayer’s income exceeds the legislation’s threshold. The amount is therefore reduced to zero for single taxpayers with incomes exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers.

The IRS would determine income based on taxpayers’ 2018 tax returns, or 2019 tax returns in cases where there is no 2018 return.

Breitbart News broke down the information passed in the Senate relief package:

The plan largely reflects the proposal outlined earlier by Breitbart news.

  • Cash for Taxpayers. The direct cash payments go to taxpayers based on 2018 tax returns. Individuals will receive up to $1,200, with the amount scaling down for individuals earning $75,000 or more. Those earning more than $99,000 will be ineligible.
  • More for Families. Married couples will get up to $2,400 and an additional $500 for every child. Payments decline after $150,000 of income, with the cap placed at $200,000.
  • Small Business Support. $300 billion for loan guarantees for small businesses.
  • Loan Guarantees for Airlines. $50 billion in loan guarantees for passenger airlines and $8 billion for air cargo shippers.
  • Other Business Sectors Hurt by Coronavirus. $150 billion for other businesses in areas or sectors hurt by the coronavirus, which is pretty much everyone and everywhere now.

Fox News continued:

President Trump on Friday announced that the administration would allow federal student loan borrowers to suspend their payments without penalty for at least 60 days, and that standardized test requirements would not be enforced for elementary and high school students amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The president announced earlier this week that he had waived interest on federal student loans “until further notice,” but took that measure to the next level Friday by suspending payments.

“We’ve temporarily waived all interest on federally held student loans,” Trump said during a Coronavirus Task Force press conference Friday at the White House. “They’ll be very happy to hear that and I’ve instructed them to take that action immediately.”

“Today, Betsy Devos directed federal lenders to allow borrowers to suspend their student loans and loan payments without penalty for at least the next 60 days, and if we need more we’ll extend that period of time,” Trump said.

“Borrowers should contact their lenders, but we’ve given them very strong instructions,” Trump added. “That’s a big thing, that’s going to make a lot of students very happy.”

Trump also announced Friday that there will be no enforcement of scheduled standardized testing for high school and elementary school-aged students.

“There will be no standardized testing,” Trump said. “A lot of students will be happy. Some, probably not.”

The president’s announcement on student loans comes after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and other top Senate Democrats rolled out legislation that would cancel student loan payments for the duration of the coronavirus national emergency.

That plan would provide relief to federal student loan borrowers through an “immediate cancellation” of monthly student loan payments during the national emergency, and would “pay down a minimum of $10K for all federal student loan borrowers.” The plan would also require Congress to authorize the Department of Education to make monthly student loan payments on behalf of borrowers, and would “guarantee” the minimum of $10,000 payoff for all borrowers.

The suspension of payments would be considered a new policy, separate from the deferment and forbearance options that currently exist for borrowers. The plan would also make all payments made by the Department of Education “tax-free” for borrowers.

It is unclear, at this point, if Schumer’s legislation will be folded into the massive stimulus plan currently under negotiation on Capitol Hill.

Fox News outlined the new travel restrictions being executed:

“The United States and Mexico have agreed to restrict non-essential travel across our shared border,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a White House press briefing with other top officials.

Officials emphasized that the restrictions would not affect lawful trade and commerce, as the administration seeks to keep the economic supply chain going amid the ongoing crisis.

Moments later, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced that the Center for Disease Control has directed DHS to “suspend the introduction of all individuals without proper documentation” into the U.S. from both the northern and southern borders.

Those entering the country illegally between the ports of entry are frequently detained for a period of time, particularly if they claim asylum. But under this policy, they will be sent back immediately and not detained in a center where they could possibly spread or catch the highly contagious virus.

Wolf said the restrictions will go into place at midnight tonight, and that anyone caught entering the country illegally would immediately be returned to Mexico, Canada or a number of other countries from where they have originated. The restrictions come amid fears that a wave of migration could bring disease and overwhelm the American health care system.

“These measures will protect the health of all three nations and reduce the incentive for mass global migration that would badly deplete the health care resources needed for our people,” President Trump said.

The press conference threatened to get derailed on a number of occasions. He objected to one question by NBC News reporter Peter Alexander that he deemed “nasty” and called him a “terrible reporter.” That led to a number of other reporters choosing instead to use their questions to ask both Trump and Pompeo about that remark. Trump refused to back off.

In another unusual moment, former Press Secretary Sean Spicer was called on to ask Trump a question.

Trump said Friday the crisis threatens to “create a perfect storm that would spread infections to our border agents, migrants, and to the public at large. Left unchecked this would cripple our system, overwhelm the health care system and threaten national security — we’re not going to let that happen.”