Memorial Day 2020

Dear American Legion Family Members and Friends,

Memorial Day, for most of us, will be different this year. The meaning, however, does not change.

I’m calling on The American Legion Family to encourage communities far and wide to pay tribute to our nation’s fallen heroes at dusk May 25, Memorial Day, by lighting candles of honor and placing them on front porches. Such a display will remind everyone that our resolve to honor those who served before us will continue even as social-distancing measures limit our ability to perform traditional Memorial Day remembrances.

We must adapt and overcome the pandemic in order to pay our respects to the true meaning of Memorial Day.

The manner and placement of the candles of honor are up to each individual. If possible, I recommend using a front porch as a visible reminder of the price that was paid for freedom.

Color options for consideration could include: A red candle to remember the blood shed in battle for the protection of our freedoms. A white candle to keep our POWs/MIAs ever in our thoughts and prayers as we await their return home A blue candle to salute the memories of those who made it home but are no longer with us. However you choose, whether it’s one candle or three, I ask that photos of those candles be shared on social media, tagging The American Legion National Headquarters and using the hashtag #candlesofhonor so our message will reach families everywhere. An additional option is to show your gratitude by having each member of a family or group hold up a sign spelling out a message of Memorial Day. WE SHALL NEVER FORGET would be a good choice.

Also, this year, remember our Virtual Memorial Day page on legion.org/legiontown. Please share with our national audiences the story of someone who served in the Armed Forces who holds special meaning to you. Share who you will be remembering this Memorial Day on social media using hashtag #VirtualMemorialDay.

And let’s not forget that Friday is National Poppy Day. While our poppy distribution plans may be different this year, it’s also an opportunity to innovate. The American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters is planning a Facebook watch party May 22 at noon EDT. American Legion Family members across the country are also planning other low-contact ways to remember the fallen and keep faith with the disabled through the symbol of our official flower, the red poppy.

No matter how we remember this year, the most important message we need to send is that we will never forget. 
For God and country,

James W. “Bill” Oxford
National Commander

Government Programs Summary

The following is a summary of some (but not all) of the programs and benefits available due to COVID19 pandemic. This is for information only. Please do your own research. And keep in mind, many of these programs are new, rules and processes will need to be put in place, and many government employees are also working remotely.

Everyone

·       All U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 ($150,000 if married) who are not a dependent of another taxpayer are eligible for a $1,200 “rebate,” $2,400 if married. In addition, they are eligible for an additional $500 per child.  The rebate is reduced after these income limits and phases out completely for individuals with incomes over $99,000 and married taxpayers over $198,000 (higher if you have children).  The IRS will use the most recently filed tax return (2018 or 2019) for your income.  Anyone with direct deposit instructions on file with the IRS (from a tax return, social security benefits, etc.) should receive these funds electronically.  Everyone else will get a check.  If you’re ineligible based on 2018 or 2019 income but would have been eligible based on 2020 income, you will most likely receive this benefit as a credit on your 2020 tax return. 

·       For 2020, all taxpayers taking the standard deduction can deduct up to $300 for charitable contributions in addition to their standard deduction.

·       For those with federal student loans, loan payments are suspended through September 30, 2020 and no interest or penalties will accrue during this suspension period.

·       If you are an employee, your employer (until 12/31/2020) can pay up to $5,250 towards your student loans as a tax-free benefit.

·       The deadline for filing a 2019 tax return was moved from 4/15/2020 to 7/15/2020.  In addition, the deadline to make 2019 IRA contributions and 1st quarter 2020 estimated taxes was similarly extended.

·       There is a new exception for “coronavirus-related distributions” from retirement plans and IRAs in 2020.  This basically applies to those diagnosed with the virus, those having a spouse or dependent diagnosed with the virus or those experiencing adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, furloughed or laid off because of the pandemic. Taxpayers can withdraw up to $100,000 in 2020 from their qualified retirement plans.  If they keep the funds, the income can be spread over a three year period with no early distribution penalty.  If they do not need to retain the funds, taxpayers can recontribute the amount withdrawn to the retirement plan within three years. 

·       For taxpayers over 70 or those owning an inherited IRA, required distributions for 2020 have been eliminated.

Small Businesses

·       For purposes of this Act, all businesses with less than 500 employees are eligible for a Paycheck Protection Program loan through the SBA.  Most likely, the employee limit will be based on your average monthly employee count over the last 12 months. There are some exceptions for larger companies if the SBA guidelines still consider the business to be “small” based on revenue or employee count in their industry but in general, the 500 person limit will apply to most.

·       Nonprofits and individuals who operate under a sole proprietorship or as an independent contractor are also eligible.

·       If your business meets the employee test, Congress simplified the remaining SBA eligibility rules and basically if you were operational on 2/15/2020, had employees or independent contractors and your business was substantially impacted by COVID-19, you are eligible.  The last guideline is a subjective standard. All other usual SBA requirements including detailed underwriting, borrower fees and personal guarantees are waived. 

·       The maximum amount of your loan is equal to 2.5 times your average monthly payroll costs for the trailing 12 months prior to receiving the loan (or $10 million, whichever is less).  Payroll costs include wages, commissions, tips, paid leave, healthcare payments and retirement benefit payments.  However, if you have employees earning in excess of $100,000/year, only the first $100,000 is considered for these workers.

·       The loan proceeds can be used to maintain payroll, make rent payments, cover the interest on mortgage payments or for utility payments. 

·       For any amounts expended on the purposes in the bullet above during an 8 week period following loan issuance, the government will forgive a comparable amount of the original loan.  This forgiveness is not taxable.  The loan forgiveness may be reduced by the following:

o   The business employee count during the 8 week period following loan issuance is less than the employee count during the period 2/15/19-6/30/19 or 1/1/20-2/29/20 (employer’s choice). 

o   The business reduces the salary of anyone (except a high earner making over $100,000) by greater than 25% during the 8 week period following loan issuance.

o   **These two rules will not apply to reduce principal forgiveness if the employee count or original salary is restored by 6/30/20

·       I’ve focused the points above on the loan forgiveness features.  However, for businesses who won’t spend the full loan proceeds during the 8 weeks following loan issuance, there are favorable rules for the ongoing, unforgiven loan (i.e. rate, term, etc.).

·       As mentioned in my opening, the process for loan application has not been released but if you’re interested, I recommend you start gathering historical payroll reports, up to three years of business income tax returns and three years of personal tax returns for owners (owning >20% of the company). 

Unemployed

·       The CARES Act extends unemployment insurance benefits to those not traditionally eligible including the self-employed and independent contractors.

·       The extension excludes those able to telework (work from home) or receiving paid leave.

·       At a high level, those receiving these enhanced benefits will receive the amount ordinarily paid by their home state (variable based on past earnings) and a flat $600/week from the Federal government through 7/31/2020.  For many low/medium wage earners, these benefits will be as much or even greater than the amounts earned when employed. 

·       The normal one week waiting period for benefits is waived.

·       The benefit period may be extended to a total of 39 weeks for the period 1/27/20-12/31/20 but the additional $600/week benefit from the Federal government only covers up to four months and ends on 7/31/20.   

·       Although the details for proving this continue to evolve, eligibility also depends on the need for a benefit attributable to a COVID-19 related circumstance.

Happy Birthday USO!

February 4 is the official birthday of the organization known as United Service Organizations or USO. The USO has been a fixture in military life for more than seven decades. Founded in 1941, the agency is a private, not-for-profit organization working in cooperation with the Department of Defense.

The next USO birthday will be on Tuesday, February 4, 2020.

The USO has a congressional charter and receives funding through donations, philanthropy, and corporate support. More than 12 thousand volunteers work with the USO at locations worldwide including military bases, airports, and major metro areas.

The USO, compared to similar non-profit organizations, has a unique and complex history. It actually has roots in six separate organizations including the Salvation Army, the YMCA and YWCA, Catholic Community Services, National Travelers Aid Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board.

These six agencies combined resources to begin the USO, and troops fighting in World War Two were the first to benefit from the existence of the organization.


A Brief History Of The USO: World War Two And Beyond

When the USO was formed, organizers wanted program events and services with an eye on boosting troop morale while promoting American involvement in World War Two. As these plans unfolded, the idea of a traveling USO show performing at forward deployed locations would not only prove successful, but would at times be the main activity some associated with the agency.

These traveling shows were held in China, Russia, Burma, and elsewhere during the war; the same kind of USO shows were offered to troops in later conflicts including Vietnam and Korea.

About seven thousand performers took part in the early USO traveling shows and featured some of America’s greatest star power at the time; the late comedian Bob Hope would eventually become synonymous with the USO to some thanks to his continued efforts with the agency; his legacy stretches all the way to the first Gulf War where Hope did his final USO tour.

The USO Shuts Down After World War Two

History is full of lessons about the nature of impermanence; after Axis powers surrendered at the end of World War Two, some felt the USO mission had been fulfilled and it had finished the job it set out to do. In the wake of the surrender of both Germany and Japan, the USO was disbanded.

But in 1949, America was seeing the beginnings of what would come to be known as the Cold War; the six founding organizations responsible for creating the USO got together once more to revive the agency and begin serving U.S. troops. But funding issues kept the agency from continuing; the USO fell dormant again until the advent of the war in Korea. The Defense Department needed the USO once more; $13 million was earmarked for USO operations as a result. Once the war was over, similar funding issues plagued the agency. Yet again, it went dormant until Vietnam operations started.

Vietnam was a new beginning of sorts, but the agency learned that peacetime operations would have the USO keeping a lower profile. At the end of the 1970s, the USO received a government charter; over the coming decades a greater emphasis would be placed on adding quality of life improvements for military families while retaining the entertainment and morale boosting activities it was famous for.

Today the USO offers help for military families including being an emergency contact resource for troops stationed overseas; if there is a death in the family or other crisis, family members can contact troops stationed overseas via the USO and get financial assistance with travel back home to attend funeral services, be present for sick or injured loved ones, and more.


Celebrating The Birthday of the USO

During the month of February, the USO itself will organize activities and events to honor its long history, and military bases all over the world-more than 200 locations-will have local activities to show their appreciation. From Darwin, Australia to Afghanistan, there are likely to be hundreds  of individual local celebrations.

Read more: https://militarybenefits.info/uso-birthday/#ixzz6D07w9LMQ

Post 29 Oratorical Winner Does it Again!

Audrey McNeal, the winner of our Oratorical Contest on January 18, represented us proudly at the District Contest Saturday, taking first place once again. Audrey is a senior at Harrison High, a Girl’s State  and Nation alum in 2018, and a member of the National Honor Society. She is a member of Youth Leadership Cobb, and has published a book of poetry,” A Lake of Stars.” She intends to become the U.S. Secretary of State someday. Talk about a resume!

Roy Lantz, Oratorical Chairman

Constitutional Speech Contest 1.18.2020

                        Almost time for the High School Constitutional Speech Contest

Saturday, January 18, right here at Post 29 marks the start of a journey that could culminate in over $23,000.00 in cash and scholarships for an area high schooler. Some of the best and brightest students from throughout the area will be competing in the 83rd annual American Legion High School Oratorical Speech Contest. You are strongly encouraged to attend, not only to support the students, but to be treated to an amazing display of patriotism and oratorical excellence.  You will leave even prouder to be an American. The program starts at 2 pm. The Legion Auxiliary will be providing refreshments. Please contact Roy Lantz, roy@roylantz.com or 770-906-6175 with any questions.