It’s a scary moment in history. The recession has affected the livelihoods of everyone.
Many of us have pinned some hope on President Obama’s stimulus plan — the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — signed on Feb. 17.
The stimulus plan will inject a total of $787 billion into almost every area of the economy. (To see the exact figures and read the law itself, see a special Web site that the government has set up at www.Recovery.gov.)
There are provisions for everything from expanded funding for food stamps to NASA research.
But how does President Obama’s stimulus plan really affect you as an individual? The details are still being understood, but here are some preliminary notes:
- The government may help you keep your health insurance if you’re laid off. Let’s say you sub on a Broadway show and earn the union’s health plan. But then the Broadway show closes and you are low on union work and fall off the plan. Under the stimulus package, the federal government may cover 65 percent of the cost of maintaining your health insurance, for a limited amount of time. This will be handled through the existing federal COBRA law and some restrictions will apply. The Local 802 Health Department will administer this program.
- The stimulus plan includes multi-million dollar funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, with 60 percent appropriated for competitive grants from the NEA. Individual musicians who want to apply for NEA grants should see www.NEA.gov and look under the grants section.
- If you’re collecting unemployment, you should see a $25 increase in your weekly check. You also will be able to exclude from taxation the first $2,400 received in unemployment compensation benefits in 2009. For more information, see www.dol.gov. For more information on collecting unemployment as a musician, Local 802 recommends you call the Workers Defense League at (212) 627-1931.
- If you’re on food stamps, benefits will go up. Call the MAP office at (212) 245-4802, ext. 181 for details.
- If you’re buying a condo, co-op or house for the first time, you’ll get a tax credit of up to $8,000.
- You may be able to deduct the sales tax when you buy a car.
- There will be a new payroll tax credit of $400 per worker and $800 per couple in 2009 and 2010. Also, there will be a one year increase in the “floor” of the alternative minimum tax in 2009. It will rise to $70,950.
- The stimulus includes an expanded child credit and an expanded earned income tax credit for families with at least three children.
- Expanded college credit: $13 billion to provide a $2,500 expanded tax credit for college tuition and related expenses for 2009 and 2010.
- Homeowners can recoup 30 percent of the cost (up to $1,500) of numerous projects, such as installing energy-efficient windows, doors, furnaces and air conditioners.
- Businesses buying equipment such as computers can speed up their depreciation through 2009.
- Companies can use current losses to offset profits made in the previous five years — instead of two — making them eligible for tax refunds.
WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
As the stimulus plan takes effect, we want to hear from Local 802 members. If you find yourself affected — positively or negatively — in any way from the stimulus, please contact Allegro editor Mikael Elsila at Allegro@Local802afm.org or (212) 245-4802, ext. 179.