In this article, I present current information about the HEROES Act and its progress moving through the House and Senate. I also present information on the states reopening and what it entails for our progress towards COVID-19 containment. Additionally, I provide a snapshot of my May portfolio and picks for the month.
- Overview of the latest stimulus plan introduced by Democrats.
- Insight on states that have been reopening and predictions on future.
- May portfolio snapshot.
HEROES Act: What Progress Has Been Made?
The introduction of the HEROES Act by House Democrats has caused quite a commotion in the House of Representatives and Senate. On May 15th, the House passed the bill by a narrow margin of 9 votes, 208 to 199.
The bill contains provisions that is intended on preventing economic collapse and lifelines to many households that have been affected by the pandemic. Despite this bill being in the best interest for the public, it brings concern to many as well.
Many White House officials are concerned with our already enormous debt and by contributing to larger stimulus plans, eventually our tax rates in the coming years will be larger.
View the bill here.
Provisions listed in the HEROES Act:
- Second round of stimulus checks.
- Extend unemployment benefits.
- Improvement to the employee retention credit.
- Aid to State and Local governments.
- Expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program.
Second round of stimulus checks:
If you are a dependent, this section of the bill will grab your attention. Students like myself were not included in the first round of stimulus checks, but with the HEROES Act dependents are eligible for this round of checks.
Similar to the first round of stimulus checks, the second round is set with the same guidelines to receiving the check.
- Make sure your taxes were filed for 2019.
- You have to make less than $75,000 a year.
- If you’re above $75,000 there will be a 5% tax on top of your stimulus check.
- Joint-filers will have to make less than $150,000 to avoid the 5% tax.
The provision for a second round of stimulus checks is amusing as many Americans have yet to receive the first round. Prioritizing the inclusion of all Americans is great, but the division behind this is that the bill is also planning to include non-citizens, which has made many White House officials call this a wish list rather than a legitimate bill.
Extending unemployment benefits:
Unemployment benefits have been a hot topic for this month, as many states are trying to initiate their reopening procedures. Currently, unemployment benefits pay you more to stay at home compared to someone who is an essential worker.
The bill introduces an extension of up to a year for the unemployed. This has led to White House officials expressing concern about the lack of incentives towards working amidst the pandemic.
Improvement to the Employee Retention Credit:
The Employee Retention Credit is a tax credit that provides businesses up to $5,000 refundable credit for each full-time employee you retain.
The provision encourages employers to keep employees on their payroll and is viewed as an alternative relief mechanism for those businesses unable to take advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program.
- Increasing the qualifying wages from 50% to 80%.
- Increasing the maximum amount of credit from $5,000 to $36,000 per quarter.
- Paycheck Protection Program borrowers may receive the tax credit.
- Expanded large employer threshold from 100 full time employees to more than 1,500 employees.
- Lower reduction required by gross receipts test to 90% from 50%, allowing more affected employers to receive this tax credit.
- Tax-exempt organizations and government entities are eligible if they meet the gross receipts test.
Aid to State and Local Government:
The bill is planning to send $1 trillion to local and state governments. Of the $1 trillion, $915 billion of the provision is for flexible aid, to assist the government with their state programs and to curve revenue losses.
Expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program:
Expanding the Paycheck Protection Program will provide more funding and forgiveness for small businesses. In the bill, they intend on extending the PPP from June 30th, 2020 to December 31st, 2020.
- Allow forgiveness for expenses beyond the eight-week covered period.
- Eliminate restrictions limiting non-payroll expenses to 25% of loan proceeds.
- Eliminate restrictions that limit loan terms to two years.
- Ensure full access to payroll tax deferment for businesses that take PPP loans.
- Extend the rehiring deadline to offset the effect of enhanced unemployment insurance.
In short, I believe the current bill will not make it past the Senate, since some of the provisions are considered radical. However, with this in mind, I am certain that some of the provisions will be taken into consideration over debates within the Senate.
Many states have begun the reopening process, many states are meeting the guidelines provided by the White House and many are ignoring them.
Check out each state’s official announcements about reopening here.
Guidelines provided by the White House:
- Downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) reported within a 14-day period.
- Downward trajectory of covid-like syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period.
- Downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period.
- Downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period (flat or increasing volume of tests).
- Treat all patients without crisis care.
- Robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing.
Interestingly enough, all of the states that are ignoring the recommendations have not even met their peak number of cases. To worsen the situation, these same states do not have testing kits and hospital capacity capable of handling more intakes. Yet, they opened their states for the sake of the economy.
According to The Washington Post, eighteen states have not seen a downward trend but have reopened their economy. These same states that have not experienced a downward trend, ignoring the first criteria to the White House’s guidelines, also have minor restrictions in place.
Let us look into Alabama’s current number of cases and what reopening has done for them.
As we can see, reopening immediately after a slight decline of covid-19 cases has led them to nearly tripling their number of cases. The lack of restrictions implemented by Alabama’s government is careless in curving the pandemic.
Over the next few months, I believe it will be interesting to monitor the states with little to no restrictions, compared to the states with stricter reopening policies. It would not be surprising if the states with little restrictions would see a significant increase in number of cases as time progresses.
Outlook On Future Months
The progress we have made in reducing the number of cases due to shelter in place orders and social distancing practices have been effective. As states continue to reopen with restrictions or limited restrictions, it will be interesting to keep track of this information in the next few months. It would be disappointing and distasteful to see our progress in curving this pandemic wasted due to the urgency of reopening the economy.
I think in the coming months, we will see an increase in cases as people disregard guidelines due to their rights and the lack of self awareness for their community. It is within our best interest to maintain social distancing and proper hygiene levels to continue reducing the number of cases.
Economic stability is of major concern for our government as well, since it would be in our best interest to re-employ the 38.6 million displaced Americans as soon as possible. This does not mean we should disregard public health advisors, as it would be counterproductive to have a second wave of outbreaks after states see a downward trend.
Despite the HEROES Act being unlikely to pass through the Senate, I am certain the provisions will be a strategic point of discussion, when the Senate develops their own stimulus plan. I am hopeful that we will reach another bipartisan bill sometime during the summer.
If you are curious about the pandemic on a global scale, consider going to worldmeters for their quantitative data. They offer real time data and insight on other countries combating the pandemic.
May Portfolio Snapshot
This month I deposited $500 into my main portfolio, raising my stakes in Realty Income Corp, Dominion Energy, LTC and WELL. As you can see it is primarily focusing on REITs this month.
I have also deposited $500 into my Roth IRA and savings, effectively saving $1500 for this month.
My primary brokerage is M1 Finance, there are plenty of other online brokerages available with their own benefits and perks.
M1 Finance benefits:
- Offering retirement accounts, trust and joint accounts.
- Offering fractional shares.
- Borrow against your portfolio for low rates.
- Automated portfolios (Similar to acorns investing pies).
- Automated share buy and sell based on your pie
- $10 referral program, “Give $10, get $10”
Here is a snippet of my buys this month:
Roth IRA Buys:
May’s portfolio snapshot:
Monthly dividend graph:
My Stock Picks For May
As the stock market continues to climb back up, I decided to go with stock picks that were in between conservative and fairly priced. Prioritizing the stocks that are reasonably priced and in the case the stock market continues to go up, they will perform well after covid-19 becomes less of a threat.
Dominion Energy, Inc. (NYSE:D)
Dominion Energy is a utilities company that powers homes and businesses with electricity or natural gas. Their sustainable practices and strong establishment in their industry is what makes them attractive to investors.
Dominion Energy is one of my safer picks, since it is an energy company which is always in demand. I find it as a no brainer to raise my stakes in this company during the stock market’s rise.
Dominion Energy’s current payout ratio is 86.33% and their dividend yield is 4.61%, both respectable numbers for dividend investors to take notice of. They recently announced that they are planning to reduce the payout ratio to 65-70%, similar to their competitors.
This should not deter anyone from purchasing Dominion Energy as it has been a strong dividend stock for many years. Management at Dominion Energy has pushed for 16 consecutive years of dividend growth, which is a commendable record.
Dominion Energy’s dividend safety rating of 75 is the highest of the four stocks this month. Prior to the crisis, Dominion Energy announced that they were planning on reducing their dividend growth to around 2% annually. Given the current condition of the crisis, it would hamper their dividend growth even more but that is expected.
Realty Income Corporation (NYSE:O)
Realty Income Corporation is a REIT, its portfolio consists of high quality tenants. In the month of April, they were able to collect a majority of their rents during this downturn which is reassuring to many investors. Despite movie theaters and gyms being closed in many places currently, once they reopen I see the company having no problems collecting their rents.
Realty Income Corp has developed itself into a dividend aristocrat as many investors acclaim it to be. The company has been consistently paying out its dividends since 1994, throughout the dot com crash and the great recession. The company has reassured investors by paying dividends consistently even through a financial crisis.
Realty Income Corp’s current dividend payout ratio is 84.38% and their dividend yield is 5.05%, both of these numbers are attractive to dividend investors.
Realty Income Corp’s dividend safety score of 70 is reassuring to many investors. They were able to collect 83% of their rents due in April, which is significantly higher than most of their competitors.
Although uncertainty looms across future monthly payments due to lack of customer traffic. Realty Income Corp has established itself as a strong company with an excellent balance sheet, capable of withstanding this pandemic.
LTC Properties, Inc. (NYSE:LTC)
LTC is a REIT focusing on senior housing and skilled nursing facilities, both have been hit hard by the pandemic.
LTC’s current dividend payout ratio is 77.85% and their dividend yield is 5.93%. Both of these numbers are strong contenders for dividend investors as it offers attractively high yield and ratios.
LTC has paid uninterrupted dividends for 17 years in a row. This could be viewed as reassurance for investors who are searching for consistent dividend payments.
LTC has been rated borderline safe by simplysafedividends due to their overall debt level. This might be concerning to investors, but LTC has displayed a stable dividend history which is important when deciding for long term investments.
Despite the low score, I believe that in the long run LTC will prove beneficial to any long term investor who is interested in a higher yielding REIT. Their investments into senior housing and skilled nursing is a demand our society continues to establish at a growing pace.
Welltower, Inc. (NYSE: WELL),
Similarly to LTC, Welltower handles REITS for senior housing facilities. As we have an aging population continue to grow, I see that both of these services will remain in demand for years to come.
Welltower has developed a strong dividend growth history and it continues to provide dividends even in times of crisis. Despite cutting their dividends due to the coronavirus, I see this company surviving and doing well after this ordeal ends.
Welltower’s current dividend payout ratio is 70.62% and their dividend yield is 4.70%. Overall, Welltower’s consistency and high dividend yield is attractive to dividend investors.
Although Welltower has the lowest dividend safety score on simplysafedividends, it is one of the stronger companies in the senior housing industry.
The safety score has been reduced due to the uncertainty management has displayed over its dividends course. Welltower has the balance sheet to maintain their dividend but management might consider to reduce it over coronavirus concerns.
Overall, even if Welltower decides to reduce their dividends or cut it, I will continue to buy and hold this company due to the demand it fills. Retirement homes will continue to be useful for our society and Welltower’s success will return.
The companies listed above are capable of providing excellent returns for future prospects. They offer dividends throughout financial crises and I believe that the REITs are successfully staying afloat during the pandemic.
Dominion Energy’s dividend slowdown might deter investors, but as a long term investor it is a solid option for anyone looking for slow and steady growth.
LTC and Welltower’s investments in senior housing facilities will continue to be useful to investors once the pandemic becomes less of a threat. Senior housing is a demand that will continue to grow as our population ages. Realty income corporation has one of the highest quality buildings and they were able to collect a majority of their rent.
May has been an interesting month for politics and investors. As states loosen their restrictions and summer approaches, I can only hope that conditions continue to improve. Instead of being possessed by uncertainty and fear, I encourage my readers to continue finding hobbies and skills to learn during this time. Try your best to fill your time with productivity and it will make this pandemic seem less dreadful.
Disclaimer: This is intended for entertainment purposes, not financial advice.
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As always, I hope you found my article informative or entertaining. Feel free to reach out to express concerns, questions or feedback, as I am reading through them to improve my writing. Thank you for your time and here is to June being a better month!