Even while being hailed as the heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic, many physicians are struggling. In addition to concerns about inadequate PPE and burnout, the crisis has significantly impacted their employment as well. A recent CHG Healthcare survey of more than 1,000 physicians, PAs, and NPs found that 13% had recently been laid off or furloughed, and of those still working 74% reported they were working less than before the outbreak.
For locum tenens physicians, the financial burden may be especially severe due to cancelled or postponed assignments as healthcare facilities rushed to adjust staffing plans and halt elective procedures. If you’re a locums who has been unable to work or has experienced a loss of income due to COVID-19, you may be able to qualify for one or more of the following federal assistance programs.
Part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), this fund provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals — including self-employed or independent contractors — who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits and are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work due to certain health or economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This program offers eligible individuals $600 per week plus half the average unemployment benefit in their home state. Because this program is managed on a state-by-state basis, the total amount you receive will vary based on where you’re located. Benefits are available retroactively starting with unemployment beginning on or after January 27, 2020.
Locums providers are likely eligible for these benefits, but it may depend on how your state chooses to implement the CARES Act. For more information, contact your state unemployment insurance office.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a temporary program administered through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) that provides loans to cover payroll and other certain expenses, such as health care premiums, for affected small businesses. The amount you receive is based on your average payroll salary from 2019, and up to eight weeks of expenses will be forgiven provided you follow the loan’s requirements.
Locums physicians file taxes in a variety of different ways, and the PPP covers many different business entity types. Locums physicians who operate a sole proprietorship, who file as an independent contractor, or who are self-employed should qualify.
You’ll need to apply for this loan through an SBA-approved lender, and remember to keep all documentation related to your employment, payroll, and expenses during this time, as you will need to prove how you used the loan in the future to qualify for loan forgiveness. It’s also important to note that you are not eligible for this program if you have filed for unemployment assistance.
This tax credit is available for eligible self-employed individuals who are unable to work or telework due to specific COVID-19-related reasons (for example, if you are ill with COVID-19 or need to stay home to care for a child who is out of school).
This credit may reduce payments of estimated income taxes, which can assist locums who file as a self-employed individual on Form 1040. Determining eligibility and calculating the amount of this credit can be complicated, so it’s best to contact a tax professional to find out if you qualify.
This benefit allows locums who are self-employed to defer the payment of 50 percent of their Social Security tax on net earnings from self-employment income beginning on March 27, 2020, through the end of 2020. If you anticipate your work picking up again later in the year, this may be a good way to keep more money in your pocket until you are back to work. For more information, contact the IRS or a tax professional.
The EIDL is another program offered by the SBA to provide economic relief to businesses that are experiencing temporary difficulties. This program offers low-interest loans, with the possibility of principal and interest deferment, to cover a gap in income due to COVID-19-related situations.
As with the PPP, locums physicians who are independent contractors, self-employed, or who have a sole proprietorship are eligible to apply. However, there are specific regulations that need to be followed if you apply for and are awarded both EIDL and PPP loans.
Individuals who are eligible for the EIDL may also apply for the EIDL advance loan, for which funds will be made available within days of a successful application. Additionally, the loan advance does not need to be repaid.
While there are many financial resources that may be applicable to locums affected by COVID-19, keep in mind that the qualifications for these programs vary, and using one program may disqualify you from taking advantage of another. Due to the complexity and frequent changes that these programs are experiencing, we recommend consulting a financial advisor when making personal finance decisions.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. Tax information contained in this document is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, by any person as a basis for avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed by the IRS or any state. For legal or financial advice, consult your attorney and/or tax advisor. Information may have changed since publication.