Bristle Software Coronavirus Tips

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Table of Contents (links to this and other pages):
  1. Coronavirus row of Fred's links page
  2. Coronavirus humor
  3. CARES Act -- 3/27/2020 $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus Bill
  4. COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020 and Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 -- 12/27/2020 $900 Billion Coronavirus Bill
  5. Cheap or Free ObamaCare Health Insurance
  6. Webinar, Video Conference, Screen Sharing Services
    1. Jitsi Meet
    2. Zoom
    3. Crowdcast
  7. Buying alcohol
    1. Buying alcohol in PA
    2. Buying alcohol in IL
    3. Buying alcohol in VA
Details of Tips:
  1. CARES Act -- 3/27/2020 $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus Bill

    Original Version: 3/28/2020
    Last Updated: 3/6/2021 (Search for occurrences of "update" below)

    Here's what's in the "CARES Act", the $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus bill.

    This bill is also known as "Phase III" of the various bills passed this month to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic.  There's already talk of a Phase IV bill, since this one was so rushed.  Hopefully much smaller, just to fine tune a few things.

    Date Pages Cost Name
    I Wed
    28 $8.3 Billion Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act
    II Wed
    83 $180 - 350 Billion Families First Coronavirus Response Act
    III Fri
    880 $2.2 Trillion
    ($2,200 Billion)
    CARES Act -- Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act
    - Includes $1,200 refund per family member
    IV Tue
    ??? $733 Billion Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act
    V Mon
    5,593 $915 Billion COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020
    Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020
    - Part of $2.3 trillion budget bill
    - Includes $600 refund per family member
    - See details 
    VI 3/11/21 628 $1.9 Trillion
    ($1,900 Billion)

    Biden's American Rescue Act

    • COVID vaccination and testing
    • Safely reopen schools
    • Economic relief -- $1,400/person checks (but with tighter income limits)
    • Rent, utility and mortgage assistance
    • Food stamps, nutrition assistance
    • Safe and reliable childcare
    • Affordable healthcare -- fix the ObamaCare cliff
    • Additional unemployment insurance -- $300/week (NOT $400/week), and first $10,200 is tax free
    • Free COBRA premiums through September
    • Aid to families with kids -- $300/month/child 6-17, $250/month/child 5 and under
    • $9,000 per COVID funeral since 1/20/2020
    • Support small businesses
    • Aid to state and local governments
    • Protect jobs of first responders, transit workers, etc.
    • NOT $15/hour minimum wage


    Legend: Color-coding of partisan aspects, as I understand them:

    What's in the bill

    1. $2,192 Billion total

    2. $504B: Emergency grants/loans to large corporations
      1. $25B grants (not loans) to passenger airlines
      2. $25B loans to passenger airlines
      3. $17B for companies (Boeing) critical to national security
      4. $425B for other businesses, cities and states
      5. $12B: For what? I couldn't find details.
      6. Restrictions on companies getting money:
        1. No layoffs
        2. No furloughs (reduced hours, mandatory unpaid time off)
        3. No pay cuts
        4. No stock buybacks to raise shareholder value
        5. No dividends to shareholders
        6. No salary increases for execs
        7. No benefit to Trump, Pence, Cabinet members, Congress, or their families (spouse, child, son-in-law, daughter-in-law)
          1. No such restriction on friends, business associates or other family members.  Only on family members listed above.
        8. Restrictions last only 1-2 years.  After that, anything goes, regardless of whether the loans have been repaid.
      7. Oversight of companies receiving money
        1. Administered by the Federal Reserve following their established policies.  Not personally by Mnuchin as he sees fit.  To ensure it doesn't become a "corporate slush fund".
        2. New "Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR)" to watch for fraud and abuse, like TARP had in the 2008 bailout
          1. Note: Immediately after he publicly signed the bill into law on national TV, Trump quietly issued a "signing statement" saying he won't cooperate with the SIGPR.  He's forbidden his administration to comply with requests for documentation.  And he's told the SIGPR not to issue any of the required reports to Congress without his explicit permission.
        3. Congressional oversight panel to evaluate how the money is distributed
          1. Note: Trump also challenged this provision of the bill after he signed it into law.  Says Congress is not allowed to oversee any spending by the Executive Branch.  It's not yet clear what he plans to do with all the money, but he says he's going to defy the Congressional oversight committee and the SIGPR.  Maybe he wants to use all $2.2T to "build the wall" instead?  Or just put it all in his own pocket?  When asked if he would commit to exempting his business interests from bailout funds, he said "Let's just see what happens."
        4. Airlines must report loans within 3 days, others 14 days, not 6 months

    3. $377B: Emergency grants/loans to small businesses

          [4/2/2020 Update]
          [4/3/2020 Update]
          This entire section updated 4/2/2020 and 4/3/2020.  No changes, just additions.  Now more specific about Sections 1102 (Loans), 1106 (Loan Forgiveness), and 1107 (Grants).  Also, more accurate about the loan interest rate.  When I read a max of 4% interest could be charged by lenders, I assumed they'd all charge that.  But they seem to have started at 0.5%, and then moved to 1%.  Thanks to:
          • Mike Tischler, for pointing out the $10,000 Section 1110 Emergency EIDL Grants.  I'd missed that entirely.
          • Craig Rothe, for pointing out the 8 week limit on spending the Section 1102 (Loan) money, to qualify for Section 1106 (Loan Forgiveness).  I'd missed that entirely also.  I guess that's what happens when you read an 880-page legalese document at 3am!

      1. Typically businesses with no more than 500 employees per physical location
      2. Loans: "Section 1102: Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)"
        1. 1% loan up to $10 million
        2. Actual amount is 2.5 times average monthly payroll for previous 12 months
        3. No payments/interest for 6-12 months
        4. Used only for employee salaries, health care, paid leave, company rent or mortgage interest, interest on existing loans, utility payments, necessities, worker protections, higher salaries for tipped employees, etc.
        5. Only for expenses incurred 2/15/2020 to 6/30/2020
        6. Administered by lenders (banks, credit unions, etc.) certified by the SBA (Small Business Association)
          1. Lender can charge up to 4% interest, and limited fees
          2. Federal government pays additional fee to lender:
            1. 5% for loans up to $350,000
            2. 3% for loans up to $2,000,000
            3. 1% for loans over $2,000,000
        7. Non-profits too
      3. Grants: "Section 1106: Loan Forgiveness"
        1. Loans above can be "forgiven" -- converted to grant, not a loan, not paid back.  100% of the loan amount, subject to the following:
          1. Only portion spent in first 8 weeks of loan
          2. Layoffs increase the percent that must be repaid
          3. Salary cuts increase the percent that must be repaid
          4. Except for employees who earn more than $100,000/year
          5. Unless laid off employees are re-hired or replaced, and salary cuts reversed, by June 30, 2020
      4. Grants: "Section 1110: Emergency EIDL Grants"
        1. Up to $10,000
        2. Grant, not loan, not paid back
        3. Keep the money even if you don't eventually qualify for loans above
        4. Used for employee salaries, health care, paid leave (sick leave or other), increased costs of materials due to disrupted supply chain, company rent/mortgage, other costs as needed due to revenue loss
        5. Only for expenses incurred 1/31/2020 to 12/31/2020

    4. $290B: Checks mailed directly to millions of families
      1. Up to $1,200 per adult (less for wealthier families)
      2. Up to $500 per child (less for wealthier families)
      3. Not taxable, since it's officially a "tax credit"
      4. Including families below poverty level who paid no taxes

    5. $280B: Business tax cuts/deferrals
      1. Payroll tax credit
        Effectively, the government pays your total payroll and healthcare costs for up to 8 weeks (2 weeks/quarter)
        1. Claimed for each quarter of the year.  Starts when gross income drops below 50% of same quarter last year.  Ends when it gets back above 80%.
        2. Credit = 50% of total "qualified wages" for that quarter of all employees not working but still being paid
        3. For companies with 100 employees or less, same credit even if the employees ARE still working
        4. Qualified wages of an employee per quarter = one month salary + one month employer healthcare costs.  Limited to $10,000/employee per year.
        5. Applies only to qualified wages paid 3/13/2020 to 12/31/2020
        6. Used to pay employer portion of "payroll taxes" (6.2% to Social Security, plus 1.45% to Medicare).  Employee portion (same percentages) still paid by employee.
        7. Any excess, above payroll taxes for current quarter, rolls over.  Can be used in future quarters.
      2. Deduct 50% of interest on business loans.  Was 30%.
      3. Deduct more losses against taxable income (more than 80% and from more years)
      4. Defer employer payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare)
        1. Was: Due monthly
        2. Now: Half due 2 years from now (12/31/2021), half due 3 years form now (12/31/2022)
        3. All costs to be paid out of the General Fund, not the Social Security Trust Funds
      5. Defer corporate/business taxes
        1. This might be a repeat of the item above (payroll taxes).  Or there might be additional deferring of corp/business taxes.  I'm not sure.  880 pages is a LOT to read.
        2. Applies to Trump hotels/resorts?
      6. Deduct cost of building improvements immediately, not amortized over time
        1. Hospitality industry only (hotels, resorts, casinos, restaurants, bars)
        2. Applies to Trump hotels/resorts?
      7. [4/8/2020 Update]
        Stop payroll, but not benefits
        If you still can't afford to keep paying your employees, consider cutting their salaries but not their health insurance and other benefits.  For employees with low salaries, they may actually come out ahead, due to the additional $600/week being paid in unemployment benefits for the next 4 months.  (See the unemployment section below.)  That's what Elon Musk is doing with his low-income Tesla employees, since he's been ordered to temporarily shut down his factory in California.

    6. $260B: Improved unemployment insurance benefits and eligibility
      1. Additional $600/week for 4 months. 
        1. Was $300-$400/week average.  Now $900-$1,000/week average.
        2. Concern:  Unemployment may pay more than a minimum wage job, which discourages people from working. 
          1. Only for 4 months.  And we're currently all being asked to stay home anyhow.
      2. 39 weeks.  Was 12-28 weeks (varies by state), now 39 weeks.  May be extended further if Coronavirus pandemic persists.
      3. No waiting period.  Previously, no benefits for 1st week unemployed.  Now starts as soon as you apply.
      4. People not laid off.  Now available to people not actually laid off, but who can't work because of Coronavirus:
        1. Too sick
        2. Quarantined
        3. Nursing a sick household member
        4. Forced to stay home w/kids due to closed school or daycare
        5. Unable to get to work (public transit closed, etc.)
        6. Suddenly need a job because breadwinner died
        7. Place of employment is closed
        8. Had to quit for other reason due to Coronavirus
      5. People not previously covered.  All of the above now also applies to the following people who were not previously covered:
        1. Freelancers and other gig workers (independent consultants, contractors, Uber/Lyft/Amazon drivers, etc.)
        2. Part-time workers
        3. People who haven't worked long enough to qualify under the old rules
        4. "Partially unemployed" workers (hours cut by employer)
      6. Restrictions.  All of the above does NOT apply if you are:
        1. Able to be paid for working from home
        2. On paid leave (sick leave or other)
      7. Retroactive to 2019.  If your unemployment ran out in 2019, you can retroactively collect up to 13 more weeks.
      8. Paid by the federal government.  The additional benefits are paid by the federal government.  Not by employers that pay regular benefits, since they may not be able to handle the increase.
      9. Additional benefit goes to employee.  Employers and states are not allowed to reduce regular benefits because of additional benefits.
      10. Expires 12/31/2020.  These changes pretty much all expire 12/31/2020, unless they get extended.

    7. $180B: Hospitals, expanded health-care spending
      1. $100B: Hospitals and providers hit hardest by Coronavirus (especially in rural America)
        1. PPE gear for workers, testing supplies, ERs, etc.
      2. $80B: Community health centers, Medicare, Telehealth/home service, public health agencies like CDC

    8. $175B: Emergency aid for state/local governments
      1. $150B: State/local governments
        1. Min $1.5B per US state
        2. DC and territories get less
        3. $8B: Tribal governments
      2. $25B: Infrastructure grants for states

    9. $45B: FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)

    10. $31B: Schools/colleges

    11. $25B: Transit systems

    12. $25B: School meals, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), food banks, etc.

    13. Miscellaneous: I'm not sure which bucket these fall in, or how much they add up to, but you may be interested anyhow.  If they apply to you, you may have to be aware to benefit.
      1. Student loans 
        1. Payments deferred till Sept 30.  Just skip your payments.  No interest, no penalty.  Applies only to some federally sponsored student loans. 
        2. Payments tax-free when paid by your employer, up to $5,250/year.  Previously, courses taught by your employer, and tuition reimbursed by your employer, were not treated as income.  But student loans paid by your employer were.  Now, none of them are taxable income.
        3. Loans forgiven for payment periods when you had to drop out due to Coronavirus.  Don't have to be paid back.
        4. Grants not returned by you or college to federal government if you drop out due to Coronavirus
        5. Period of enrollment adjusted for federal loans, Pell grants, etc.  Not a problem if you take longer to graduate due to Coronavirus.
        6. "Satisfactory academic progress" calculation ignores credits not completed due to Coronavirus
        7. Foreign study restrictions relaxed regarding loans and grants for foreign students studying here, US students studying abroad, etc.  Can go home to a local school, switch to on-line classes, etc.
        8. Work study restrictions relaxed.  College can pay you for hours not worked due to Coronavirus.
        9. Colleges can increase grants to students impacted by Coronavirus
      2. Early withdrawal of retirement money
        In 2020, you can withdraw up to $100,000 from a retirement plan without a penalty for early withdrawal.  Don't have to wait till age 59 1/2.  Applies to IRA, 401(k), 403(b), etc.  Roth and non-Roth versions.
        • [4/4/2020 Update]
          You can take 3 years to pay back the early withdrawal, if you don't want to pay any taxes on it.  Or spread out the tax payments over 3 years.
      3. $300 charitable contribution tax deduction
        You can deduct up to $300 that you donate to charity, from your federal taxes.  On Form 1040, even if you don't itemize deductions.
      4. REAL ID deadline pushed back a year, till at least Sept 2021
      5. Foreclosure/eviction protection
        1. 2-6 months to pay your mortgage before foreclosure
        2. 4 months to pay rent before eviction
        3. No additional interest, penalties, fees
        4. Applies to federally backed mortgages only.  And to tenants of landlords with federally backed mortgages.
      6. No money for Trump's border wall
        Money is allocated for the National Guard to deal with the Coronavirus.  But it's explicitly NOT allowed to be transferred to the "Counter-Drug" account that pays for the border wall.

    What's NOT in the bill

    Here are additional items that are NOT in the bill.  The Democrats wanted them, but the Republicans blocked them all.  Some of this may show up in the Phase IV bill.  (This was Phase III.)

    1. $1,500 check per adult, not just $1,200.
      $1,500 per child, not just $500.
      Up to $7,500/household
    2. $200/month increase in Social Security
    3. $10,000 in federal student loan debt cancellation
    4. Free health care for those with Coronavirus
    5. Funding for vote-by-mail system for 2020 elections
    6. $25B for the US Post Office

    More info

    Full searchable text of Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III bills, and all US Code:

    1. Phase I: 28-page, $8.3 Billion "Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act", Wed 3/4/2020

    2. Phase II: 83-page, $180-350 Billion "Families First Coronavirus Response Act", Wed 3/18/2020

    3. Phase III: 880-page, $2.2 Trillion "Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act" (CARES Act)", Fri 3/27/2020

    4. US Code of Law.  Useful for looking up details of things like "US Code, Title 26, Internal Revenue Code, Section 72(t), 10-percent additional tax on early distributions from qualified retirement plans" that are referred to so often in Phase III above.

    More info about Phase III (CARES Act):

    1. Good overview, with graphs/charts showing where the money goes

    2. Another good overview, with graphs/charts (a day or two before the bill was finalized, may have some details wrong)

    3. Simple explanation of dozens of items

    4. Brief explanations of hundreds of items (unfortunately, not searchable)

    5. EXCELLENT resource!  Mentions lots of items I didn't see in any other summary (payroll tax credit, student loans, IRA withdrawals, etc.).  I would NEVER have found these otherwise, unless I read the entire 880-page document closely.  And even where I already HAD read the relevant section of the 880-page doc, it pointed out things in plain English that I had missed in the legalese. 

      For example, it tipped me off to the fact that a small business can get the federal government to pay its full payroll for up to 8 weeks, even if it does NOT have idle workers. I had failed to notice that, in section 2301.c.3.A.ii.II of the 880-page doc, where it describes the "qualified wages" of a company with 100 or less employees, it omits the phrase about "not providing services" that it DOES include in the earlier section 2301.c.3.A.i, where it describes the same for companies of 500 or less employees.  Having already read the earlier section which is very nearly identical, I zoned out and missed the few omitted words in the later section.  I couldn't believe this and many other things I found in this excellent summary, so I searched for each one in the 880-page doc, and yes, all true.  Will save me a FORTUNE this year!

    6. What Democrats fought for, won and lost

    7. Details of wrangling about unemployment insurance

    8. Articles about Trump planning to defy Congress after signing the bill

    9. Trump approves of money for Kennedy Center

    If you think these sources are all biased, you can find your own sources with a search engine query like the following.  Email me any other sources that significantly add info, or that contradict what I've said here.  I'll add them to the list and update this summary.  Maybe I'll learn something in the process!


  2. COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020 and Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 -- 12/27/2020 $900 Billion Coronavirus Bill

    Original Version: 2/7/2021
    Last Updated: 2/7/2021

    This is Phase V of the COVID-19 relief bills passed in 2020.  See: CARES Act -- 3/27/2020 $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus Bill

    Here are 2 of the many provisions.  May be useful to small businesses that need more help than just the PPP (Payroll Protection Program).

    1. "Employee Retention Tax Credit"
      • Less than 500 full-time employees
      • Partially or fully shut down by COVID or lost 20% in sales
      • Cash back: 70% of wages paid, including benefits, up to $28,000/year
      • Includes payroll of furloughed employees, not just those still working
      • Retroactive (with different limits) to March 2020
      • Until July 1, 2021
    2. - "Work Opportunity Tax Credit"
      • For hiring veterans, people on welfare, from prison or rehab
      • Also for hiring people who were unemployed more than six months
      • Cash back: Up to $9,600/year per employee
      • For 5 years, through 2025

    They're both "refundable tax credits", so you get all the cash even if it exceeds your taxes owed or taxes paid.


    Check with your accountant.  Could save you a lot of money and help your business to survive COVID until the vaccines kick in.

    Thanks to Brita van Rossum for pointing me to these 2 provisions!


  3. Buying alcohol

    Original Version: 4/22/2020
    Last Updated: 2/15/2021

    Where to buy alcohol in various places, with so many businesses closed due to Coronavirus?  Here are some answers.  Feel free to email answers for more places to

    Per Geoff Wilson:
    Much much easier than your experience of buying wine is:

    They delivered (via doordash) to our doorstep.  No quantity limits as far as I know (I'm hoping this order will see us thru the pandemic!).  Hilary has more info if necessary.


    1. Buying alcohol in PA

      Original Version: 4/22/2020
      Last Updated: 4/29/2020

      In Pennnsylvania, even before the Coronavirus pandemic, the rules were complicated:

      • Beer, no more than 2 six-packs, at any bar or restaurant.  If you want more than 2 six-packs, you have to bring multiple people of legal age, to each carry 2 out of the bar.  Or make multiple transactions, leaving and coming back in each time.

      • Beer, no less than a case, at a "beer distributor".

      • Beer, in recent years, in some grocery stores.  Same volume limits as bars and restaurants.  Some places sell single bottles, or mix-your-own six-packs.  Near me in PA, grocery stores selling it include: Wegmans, Acme, but not Giant.

      • Wine, in recent years, in some grocery stores.  No containers above 3 liters.  No more than 2 liters (or one 3-liter container) at a time.  As with beer from bars, bring multiple people or do multiple transactions for more.  Near me in PA, same grocery stores as beer.

      • Wine and hard liquor at PA state-run "State Stores" (re-named a few years ago to "Fine Wine & Good Spirits Shoppes")

      • Wine and hard liquor, online at:
      • Per Laurie Dameshek:
        Can order wine and spirits from out of state and have them delivered.  Examples:
      • See full rules at the PA Liquor Control Board:

      During the Coronavirus pandemic:

      • Beer still being sold at same places as before, with same rules. 

      • Wine still being sold in grocery stores, with same rules.  The rules, plus the extra Coronavirus caution, can make it tedious to stock up. 

        My experience
        My wife and I buy wine every month or two.  Usually, we're in and out of the state store with a couple 5-liter boxes in 2 minutes.  This time, state store was closed (see below), so I went to Wegmans.  No 5-liter boxes.  Nothing bigger than 3 liters.  And very few of those.  Maybe 20 total, instead of 500.  "New truck in 2 days with 1,000 units, but it won't last long." 

        OK.  I grabbed a few boxes.  Then I learned about the volume limits.  Had to buy 1 box at a time.  Had to go to the car and back each time.  Wait in line briefly to re-enter the store.  Re-sanitize my hands.  Wait in line briefly at the register.  Show my id.  Use my credit card.  Switch to another card when that one stopped working (rapid-fire transactions looked like fraud?)  Leave by the main exit, far from the alcohol checkout lane, but close to my car.  Re-enter by the main entrance, far from my car.  Lather, rinse, repeat!

        I did 6 quarter-mile laps in under an hour.  Missed the Java User Group meeting webinar (but caught the recorded replay the next day).  My wife is a happy camper!

      • No wine or hard liquor at "Fine Wine & Good Spirits Shoppes".  They're all closed.  About to re-open Mon 4/27/2020 for curbside pickup only.  Reduced hours.  May have to place your order in advance by phone and pay over phone by credit card.  See:
      • Wine and hard liquor still online, but can handle limited total volume per day.  The site allows "randomized access" to some users.  Other users see the following.  I guess you can keep trying till you get lucky?

      • Per Laurie Dameshek:
        Can still order from out of state and have it delivered.

      • See full rules at the PA Liquor Control Board:


    2. Buying alcohol in IL

      Original Version: 4/23/2020
      Last Updated: 4/23/2020

      Per Dave Weiss:
      You can (still) buy beer and wine at the supermarkets in Chicago, and I have passed a few liquor stores (well, they sell more than just liquor, but that's their main product) that are open.


    3. Buying alcohol in VA

      Original Version: 4/23/2020
      Last Updated: 4/23/2020

      Per Phil Hostetter:
      Here's the VA story:

      They do tend to close stores if an employee tests positive -- last I heard there were ten closed.  But, as a very long-time MD and DC shopper, I've been pleased to find that VA is now price-competitive, with good monthly specials.  I mostly buy vodka, which I infuse with gin spices to make a good imitation of gin.