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Coronavirus Information

Updates on IRS Responses to COVID-19

Updated May 3rd

The Bugs are Starting to Get Worked Out. Stimulus payments are rolling and many of the early problems with the IRS website allowing direct deposit information and similar have been worked out.  Not all of them, but many of them.  PPP and EIDL loans are being funded though there is a great deal of talk on changing key components of the programs.  We have we have updated all below sections to reflect our most current knowledge including more specific answers for the IRS website.

Non-Business Provisions:

Filing Due Dates Announced

Treasury has announced that July 15th will replace April 15th as filing deadline for all personal tax returns.  Likewise, your 2019 tax payment (if you owe) is also not due until July 15th.  Please find some obvious takeaways in the form of FAQs:

When is my personal tax return filing due?  July 15th.

I have already completed my return and I owe the IRS for 2019.  When is my payment due to avoid any penalties and interest?  July 15th.

I make estimated payments throughout the year to the IRS.  When are those payments due?  Many clients pay the IRS quarterly.  The due dates for those payments are traditionally April 15th, June 15th, September 15th and January 15th (following year).  The 1st Q ES & the 2nd Q ES payments are now both due July 15th.  The Q3 & 4 payment dates have not changed.

I run a business through an LLC (owned by more than 1 owner) or an S-corp.  When are those returns due?  Our office has already filed extensions for those entities.  Their extended due date remains September 15th.

Stimulus Checks

FAQs:

 Who gets one and how much do they receive?   Single taxpayers (or those filing Married Filing Separately) will receive $1,200 if their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is less than $75,000.  Head of Household filers receive $1,200 if their AGI is less than $112,500.  Married taxpayers filing jointly will receive $2,400 if their AGI is below $150,000.  There is a phaseout provision that if your income slightly exceeds the above amounts, you will still receive some money.  For every $100 you make over the threshold, your check will decrease by $5. 

Is the check amount increased if I have kids?  Yes, you will get an additional $500 for each qualifying child.  The stimulus rules follow the eligibility rules for the Child Tax Credit meaning that the child must be under 17 years of age to receive the additional $500.  The child must also have a Social Security Number.

I did not receive my stimulus payment around April 10th-15th.  When will I get my payment?  We do not know.  Every situation is different.  NOT GETTING YOUR PAYMENT DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE BEING LEFT OUT.  Be patient as more information is provided.  The IRS website now has a much more robust FAQ section than it did a few weeks ago.  We strongly recommend you visit that site to see if you can find answers that apply to your situation.

How will the IRS know how much to send me?  If you have filed your 2019 return, the Service will base your payment on that information.  If you have not, they will base it on your 2018 return.

If I have not filed my 2019 return yet, should I hurry up and file it if it would lead to a bigger stimulus payment?  If you’ve recently filed your 2019 return electronically, be patient. It takes 7 – 10 days to process the return. If you’ve recently paper filed the 2019 return, the IRS is currently not processing those returns.  We have no idea when they will start processing them.  Though it is not clear to us how this process will play out in the real-world regarding timing of payment etc. as of the beginning of May, many more clients were receiving their payments compared to two weeks ago.

What do I do if the IRS does not have my direct deposit information?  On Wednesday, April 15th, IRS launched its “Get My Payment” link on its irs.gov website.  According to the New York Post, it crashed an hour later….  It is up and running.  Per the IRS, this link will allow you to:  1. enter your Direct Deposit Information; And, 2. track your stimulus payment.   

I cannot seem to get the IRS’s website portal “Where’s My Payment” to accept my information.  What do I do?

Be patient.  The site was overloaded when the portal opened but is getting MUCH better.  IRS is continuing to confirm who is eligible to receive a stimulus check. Once they have confirmed you are eligible, the site it will allow you to enter your banking information.

Check the site once a day. It updates overnight. If you r information is rejected three times, the system will lock you out for 24 hours…not just overnight.

Once your stimulus is confirmed, you will need the following to be able to enter your banking information:

  • Either your 2018 or 2019 tax return, whichever was most recently posted.
  • Your bank’s routing number and your bank account number

If you are utilizing the 2018 return:

For the Adjusted Gross Income:

  • Enter line 7

If you received a refund:

  • Enter line 20a

If you were scheduled to receive a refund but chose to have apply it to the next tax year (or a portion of the refund):

  • Enter line 20a

If you owed:

  • Enter total from line 22

If you are utilizing the 2019 return:

For the Adjusted Gross Income:

  • Enter line 8b

If you received a refund:

  • Enter line 21a

If you were scheduled to receive a refund but chose to have apply it to the next tax year (or a portion of the refund):

  • Enter line 21a

If you owed:

  • Enter line 23

 If I have not filed my 2019 return yet. What if my 2018 return provided a bigger stimulus payment than I would have received if I had filed my 2019 return?  As of now, there is no indication that you will have to pay the overage back as part of your 2020 return. 

Do I need to fill out separate direct deposit information for my spouse and myself?  No.  Only fill out information for the person listed at the top of your tax return (“Taxpayer”).  If Tom is the “Taxpayer” and his wife is the “Spouse’, only his bank information is necessary (unless the IRS site specifically requests information on the “Spouse”). However, if you are not required to file a tax return, both spouses should provide their information as the IRS system will not know you are married.

My parents generally are not required to file tax returns. Do they need to file a return to receive the stimulus payment?  This answer has changed.  The Treasury Department announced April 1st that Social Security recipients that do not have a filing requirement do NOT need to file a return to get their stimulus check.  However, we advise that you utilize the “Get My Payment” link at IRS.gov and enter direct deposit information for quicker payment?  This is the instance that both spouses would likely need to enter their banking information.

How do I know whether the IRS has my direct deposit information on file?  If you received a refund that was direct deposited on your most recently filed return (2018 or 2019), you may assume that the IRS has your correct information.

I have not received a refund in the last few years but my tax preparer has my bank information.  Do I need to provide the IRS my direct deposit information?  Yes.  If you want the payment direct deposited, go to IRS.gov and utilize the “Get My Payment” link. 

I do not want the IRS to have my bank information and/or I do not want to enter that kind of information through its website.  When will I get my check?  This is a moving target so take it with a grain of salt.  IRS says that checks will start going out in May and beyond – whatever that means.  But we do know that the IRS is releasing paper checks based on income, with the lowest earning taxpayers receiving their checks first.  That means that some folks will not get their checks until the middle of Summer. 

I have moved since my last filing and the IRS does not have my direct deposit information.  What should I do?  This is a case where we strongly recommend you provide your direct deposit information to the IRS.  A check sent to the wrong address will take six months to find its way to you.  Currently, IRS recommends you file a Change of Address Form (Form 8822).  However, our experience is that that form takes months to process.  I cannot imagine it would be faster now.

My child, who is over 16 but is still claimed as a dependent, works and files a tax return.  Will he/she get a stimulus check?  No.  We know it’s not fair.

What if I have not filed either a 2018 or 2019 return?  What should I do?  To get the stimulus payment, you will need to file one of those returns.  We strongly recommend that you take this opportunity to get current and file both years’ tax returns.

I owe the IRS for past year’s returns.  Will I get a stimulus payment?  Yes.  The IRS has been instructed to not offset a stimulus payment against old tax debts. 

Retirement Account Items

Early distributions from a retirement account will not be subject to the 10% penalty for early distribution (up to $100K of distribution) if you are adversely impacted by Covid-19.  Please discuss the definitions of “adversely impacted” with your financial planner. However, the distributions will be subject to regular taxation.  In a nice twist, the tax on the distribution will not be paid in year one.  Instead, it will be taxed ratably over three years of returns.  This means that if you distribute $X amount, you will report a portion of that income in each of the next three years.  However, you also have three years to re-contribute those distributions back into the retirement account – at which time you will get a deduction for the repayment to the extent you have paid taxes on the distribution.

Required Minimum Distributions have been suspended for 2020.  You do not need to take an RMD this year.  If you have already taken yours for 2020 and it has been less than sixty days since that distribution, please discuss with your financial planner whether putting that money back into the retirement account is appropriate for your situation.

The maximum loan availability from a 401(k) have been increased from $50,000 to $100,000. 

Expansion to Unemployment Eligibility

Historically, filing for unemployment benefits was reserved for employees who lost their job for no fault of their own – were not fired for cause.  The new bill expands access to federal unemployment benefits to those that are self-employed, independent contractors or with limited work history who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus. Benefits are also available for individuals who are unemployed, partially unemployed or unable to work.  As important, the Feds are kicking in extra money so that the unemployment benefit is considerably higher than normal.  These benefits are administered by the Texas Workforce Commission and your employer.  Please direct questions related to unemployment to those folks.  They will likely have the answers for your situation.  Important note – If you are a sole proprietor or someone that reports their business income on Schedule C of your personal tax return.  You CANNOT both apply for unemployment benefits and apply for the PPP loan.  Care will need to be taken on which route is best for you.

 IRS Collections and Installment Agreements Suspension

 The IRS announced today relief on a variety of issues for taxpayers that have back taxes or related issues. 

If you are in an existing installment agreement with the IRS, payments due between April 1st and July 15th have been suspended.  The IRS will not default any agreements for lack of payment during this time.  ***However, if you are in a direct debit installment agreement, IRS will continue to debit your account until you stop the debit with your bank.  If you do stop the payments, do not forget to restart them in July.

If you are currently in collections with the IRS – meaning you have not arranged a payment agreement – IRS is suspending liens and levies and will not initiate additional liens or levies between April 1st and July 15th.

Mortgage & Renter Relief

  • Borrowers with federally backed mortgage loans—loans under Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—who are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 can request forbearance on their payments for up to six months. Borrowers must submit a request to their servicer and affirm that they’re experiencing a financial hardship during the crisis. Additionally, no foreclosures or evictions from properties with federally backed mortgages can occur during this period. 
  • During the mortgage forbearance period, interest will still accrue. However, additional fees, penalties or extra interest cannot be added to mortgages.
  • Renters have some eviction protection, but only if they live in a multifamily building or single-family home that has a federally backed mortgage. Landlords cannot evict tenants of these buildings or charge any late fees, penalties or other charges for late rent payments. 

Student Loan Relief

  • Interest will not accrue on federal student loans from April through September 30 and no payments are required. 
  • Even though payments are suspended during this time period, the Department of Education will treat it as if the borrower made a payment toward public service loan forgiveness or other forgiveness programs.
  • Borrowers who are in loan rehabilitation programs will also have the suspension period count toward rehabilitation. These programs are for borrowers working to pull their loans out of default. 
  • Credit reports and scores will not be impacted during the suspension of payments period for student loans.
  • Wage garnishment and tax refund seizures will be halted during the forbearance period for student loans. 

Paid Family Leave

  • The new law expands the family leave provided in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that President Trump signed into law on March 18. That bill covers workers in businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Those covered by the act can get up to 12 weeks of family leave (with the first two weeks unpaid) if they must stay home with children whose schools and day care centers have closed because of the pandemic. 
  • The expansion allows individuals who were laid off on or after March 1, but then rehired before the end of 2020, access to this family leave. (To be eligible for this leave, they need to have worked in that job 30-60 days before the initial layoff). 
  • The benefit paid to individuals eligible for this family leave is two-thirds of pay, with a maximum of $200 per day, or an aggregate $10,000 per worker. In other words, it can be a maximum of $1,000 per week. (Employers cut the family leave checks and then get reimbursed by the federal government through the IRS.)

Paid Sick Leave

  • Employees (both part-time and full time) will get 80 hours of paid sick leave at full pay, capped at $511 per day, or an aggregate $5,110 per worker, with part-timers receiving a proportionate number of hours. Individuals who are unable to work or telework because they are under medical quarantine or treatment for COVID-19, suspect they have the illness or are ordered to quarantine at home are eligible for the pay. 

  Business Provisions

 For my clients that are employers, I strongly urge that you address questions related to Family Leave, Paid Sick Leave, Payroll Credits and related to your payroll company.  If you do not have a payroll company, I urge you to consider employing one.  They are best suited for providing detailed guidance on how these provisions will impact you – both to the timing of your cashflow, the proper filings, your duties to your employees and compliance with government dictates. 

Employee Retention Credit for Employers Subject to Closure Due to Coronavirus

All eligible employers are permitted to claim a 50 percent credit against wages paid.  The credit is provided for first $10,000 of compensation, including health benefits, paid to an eligible employee.  The credit offsets employment taxes (Medicare, Social Security, etc.) otherwise paid during a calendar quarter with any excess refundable by the federal government.

The employer is eligible if its operations are fully or partially suspended during a calendar quarter due to a government order or gross receipts for a calendar quarter are less than 50 percent of gross receipts from the same quarter in the prior year.  The credit is based on qualified wages paid to the employee. 

For employers with 100 or fewer full-time employees, all employee wages qualify for the credit, whether the employer is open for business or subject to a shut-down order.  The credit applies to tax-exempt organizations as well.

Employer Payroll Taxes

Entities may postpone most employer payroll taxes during this time.  Self Employed folks may postpone 50% of social security taxes. (This would impact your Estimate Payments). 50% of the deferred taxes are due by December 31, 2021; the remainder is due by December 31, 2022.

Net Operating Losses

The “Trump tax changes” that began in 2018 eliminated a person’s ability to carry back Net Operating Losses (NOLs).  Beginning in 2018, taxpayers could only carry those losses forward to offset future income.  In addition, the law limited the NOLs benefit in those future years.  The new legislation allows for the carryback of NOLs to the prior five years and eases the abovementioned limitations.  If you ran an NOL in 2018 or 2019, you should consider revisiting whether to carry back those losses now that that is available.

Paid Sick Leave for Workers

  • For COVID-19 related reasons, employees receive up to 80 hours of paid sick leave and expanded paid childcare leave when employees’ children’s schools are closed or childcare providers are unavailable.
  • Employers receive 100% reimbursement for paid leave pursuant to the act.
  • An immediate dollar-for-dollar tax offset against payroll taxes will be provided.
  • Where a refund is owed, the IRS will send the refund as quickly as possible.
  • Small Business Protection.  Employers with fewer than 50 employees are eligible for an exemption from the requirements to provide leave to care for a child whose school is closed or childcare is unavailable in cases where the viability of the business is threatened. 

Lending Programs for Small Businesses

There are currently two kinds of loans for small business loans:

    1. EIDL – Economic Injury Disaster Loan
    2. PPP – Paycheck Protection Program

 These are two very different loans and I am receiving the most questions about them.  Please do additional research to confirm you are eligible for these loans.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan – EIDL:

Important Notice – If you filled out the SBA online application before March 30th, please fill it out again!!!  They have streamlined the process and it is much quicker to complete.

This is a loan written directly from the SBA and is designed to cover the expenses you would have been able to pay but for the Coronavirus.  In addition, the EIDL also provides for a $10K grant.  To apply for it, go to the SBA website (https://www.sba.gov/). 

The EIDL has remained a bit of a mystery.  We are not aware of the formula for determining the amount a business will eligible for, whether a business is eligible for the grant, or even an update on when processing will begin.  However, we now know that the grant is limited to $1000 per employee with a maximum of $10,000 per applicant.

Here are some important FAQs:

How much can I borrow?  It appears that the SBA will use the financials you submit to determine the amount for which you are eligible, but not to exceed $2M.

What is the interest rate?  3.75%

What is the term of the loan?  Up to 30 years.

When is the first loan payable?  One year after the loan origination, but interest accrues from the origination date.

What can I use the loan proceeds for?  Financial obligations and operating expenses that could have been met had the disaster not occurred.

What collateral is required?  The SBA will place a UCC lien against the assets of your business.

 Is a personal guarantee required?  Yes, but no liens will be taken against real estate owned by the guarantor.

Can this loan be forgiven?   No.

Do I need to have filed my 2019 tax returns?  No.

How long with the loan application take?  2-3 weeks for processing plus up to five days for funding – but I am having serious doubts about this timeline.

When can I apply and how?  Go to the SBA website (https://www.sba.gov/) and fill out the online application now.

Can I roll this loan into my PPP loan if I chose to get one?  Yes, but the details are not clear.  You should discuss this with your banker at the time you apply for your PPP loan – if you can actually talk to a banker right now.  Good luck.

Paycheck Protection Program – PPP

This loan is designed to help you meet your payroll and payroll related expenses.  The lender will be a bank that already writes loans that are underwritten by the SBA.  Your first step should be to contact your bank about applying for the loan.,  It appears that most banks are not taking on new clients for the purposes of writing PPP loan, However there are now some that seem to be specializing in the loans as a way of gaining market share.  Though we have generally recommended starting at your own bank, if you bank at one of the “Big Banks”, you might want to look for a smaller bank that is soliciting for PPP applications.

Unlike the EIDL, this loan can qualify to be forgiven.

Here are some important FAQs:

How much can I borrow?  Although the maximum is $10M, the calculation on what you can borrow is 2.5X the average monthly payroll costs, measured over the previous 12 months.  There are some exceptions for seasonal businesses.  Payroll includes salaries, commissions, tips, certain employee benefits (including health insurance and retirement benefits), state and local taxes.  Importantly, payments to independent contractors are NOT allowed in this computation.  Employer’s matching payroll taxes are not included.  Also, payroll costs exclude compensation of an individual employee in excess of $100,000.

Banks are requiring a sizable amount of information.  You must check with your bank to determine exactly what it requires.  Be ready though; when it comes to the payroll element of the equation, the banks are requiring employment tax filings, payroll journals, federal tax returns and more.  If your situation is unusual or your documentation is not solid, this may be a very frustrating process.

Beginning on April 10th, applications for self-employed individuals began being accepted.  Details are still a little fuzzy, but it appears that “monthly payroll” for the purposes of a self-employed person is defined as 2019 net profit (up to $100,000) divided by 12 multiplied by 2.5.  Over time, we should begin to see if the business’ actual distributions to the self-employed person are part of that equation and what the self-employed person should do to insure they qualify for the loan to be forgiven.  Note, for self-employed persons that do not have employees, the maximum loan amount (where net profit is > $100,000) is just under $21,000.  Most clients I have spoken with are seeing projected loan amounts of around $10,000.

We are starting to see a new wrinkle to the application process.  Some banks are requiring an estimate on how much of the loan will likely be forgivable after the eight-week look back period.  I had assumed that this information would help them prepare in administering the non-forgivable part of the loans.  Alas, one bank has already informed a client that they will only issue funds to cover the expected forgivable portion of the loan!  That is in contravention of the clear wording and intent of the law.  I expect that nonsense to be remedied in the future.  But in the meantime, you need to be as thorough as possible if you are requested to provide an estimated forgiveness amount.

What is the interest rate?  Not to exceed 4%.

What is the term of the loan?  10 Years.

When is the first loan payment due?  At least six months after the loan origination date.  But interest accrues from the origination date.

What can the loan be used for?  Payroll costs (see above), group health benefits, insurance premiums, and interest (but not principal) on mortgages incurred prior to Feb. 15th, 2020, rent on any lease in force on Feb. 15th, 2020 and utility payments.

Is collateral required?  No.

Is a personal guarantee required?  No.

Can this loan be forgiven?  Yes.  We are going to get a little in the “weeds” here.  The amount that can be forgiven is calculated as the amount spent by the borrower during an 8 week period after the origination date of the loan on:  payroll costs, interest payments on any mortgage incurred prior to Feb 15th, 2020, payment on any lease in force prior to Feb. 15th, 2020, and payment on any utility in service before Feb 15th, 2020. (But see above on banks only loaning the forgivable portion.)

However, in general the amount eligible to be forgiven will be reduced by amounts that you cut your payroll.  Remember, the primary purpose of this loan is to keep people employed.  To be more specific, the following will reduce the amount of loan eligible to be forgiven:

The amount forgiven is reduced based on failure to maintain the average number of full-time equivalent employees versus the period from either February 15, 2019, through June 30, 2019, or January 1, 2020, through February 29, 2020, as selected by the borrower. The amount forgiven is also reduced to the extent that compensation for any individual making less than $100,000 per year is reduced by more than 25% measured against the most recent full quarter. Reductions in the number of employees or compensation occurring between February 15, 2020, and 30 days after enactment of the CARES Act will generally be ignored to the extent that reductions are reversed by June 30, 2020.

Will any amounts of the loan forgiven be considered “Discharge of indebtedness Income”?  No.

Do I need to have filed my 2019 returns?  It will depend on your bank’s requirements.

March 25th Post

The IRS announced today relief on a variety of issues for taxpayers that have back taxes or related issues.

If you are in an existing installment agreement with the IRS, payments due between April 1st and July 15th have been suspended. The IRS will not default any agreements for lack of payment during this time.

If you are currently in collections with the IRS – meaning you have not arranged a payment agreement – IRS is suspending liens and levies and will not initiate additional liens or levies between April 1st and July 15th.

We will keep you posted.

March 24th Post – Updated 2:30 P.M. CST:

Our office is open for business.

Like everyone else, we are conducting business in compliance with the health directives coming from the Federal, State and Local authorities as well as using common sense – some of our staff is working remotely and we are trying to limit our in-person interaction as much as possible. But aside from that, we are still in tax season. Below, please find some thoughts on how we hope you will proceed (we know it runs a little long):

Please do not delay turning in your material to us. This is especially true if you are expecting a refund. But even if you owe, please do not delay. Considering the tenuous employment situation for so many folks, the sooner we know the balance owed, the sooner we can start planning how we will handle it. The closer we get to the deadline, the harder it will be for us to arrange payment agreements, deferrals, etc. After all, if you’re stuck in the house, what better way to pass the time than getting your tax package together? I did try to write that with a straight face.

If you can scan and email your material to us, that will be best. Please include any questions that you have. We will contact you once we have gotten your information inputted into our system. If you prefer dropping off your material, our doors will be open during regular business hours – 8:30 to 5:00. All electronic tax return information should be emailed to Kathy – kathy@marclewistax.com.

For our clients, we are still following tax and relief provisions as they are being released by the relevant government offices. But as of now, there has been no guidance on most issues. Like so much else with the pandemic, it is a fluid situation. However, if you have employees, I strongly urge you to keep your eye on the Texas Workforce Commission’s website as well as staying up to date on IRS announcements regarding your employees and tax breaks designed to help you keep your employees employed. If you utilize a payroll company, they should be your first resource on all things related to payroll breaks.

For those who do not know it, our office is shared by another CPA. We share the same phone lines. She has opted to close her office and work entirely remotely. As such, if our phone message indicates that “we are closed” or there is a sign on our door stating “we are closed” or similar, do not be confused. We are open.

March 20th Post – Updated 12:00 PM CST

Today, the Treasury Secretary announced that July 15th will replace April 15th as filing deadline for all personal tax returns. Likewise, your 2019 tax payment (if you owe) is also not due until July 15th. As you can imagine, we have very few details. But here are some obvious takeaways in the form of FAQs:

When is my personal tax return filing due? July 15th.

I have already completed my return and I owe the IRS for 2019. When is my payment due to avoid any penalties and interest? July 15th.

I make estimated payments throughout the year to the IRS. When are those payments due? Many clients pay the IRS quarterly. The due dates for those payments are traditionally April 15th, June 15th, September 15th and January 15th (following year). Though we are waiting on some more guidance, it appears that the first and second quarter payment will be moved at least July 15th. We will provide more details as they become available.

I run a business through an LLC or S-corp. When are those returns due? Our office has already filed extensions for those entities. Their extended due date remains September 15th.

I owe tax for prior years and am making payments on an installment agreement. Is there any relief for me? As of now, there has been nothing related to past year balances, installment agreements or similar released by Treasury. We do not anticipate any changes to IRS policy. But we are keeping our eyes open.

Stay Safe.

Marc

March 18th Post – Updated 3:00 Pm CST

On March 17th, Treasury Secretary Steven Munchin announced the Trump administration was “giving individuals and some businesses 90 extra days. Individuals can defer up to $1 Million. All you have to do is file your taxes. You’ll automatically not get charged interest and penalties”.

My friends, this is not yet formal and exactly what the above quote means is not entirely clear. As we await formal guidance, I think it safe to make some sweeping generalizations. First, it appears that the filing date for your 2019 personal return will not change. As of now, April 15th is still the filing due date. Second, it appears that the April 15th payment date has been replaced with July 15th. Treasury appears to be extending the equivalent of a “bridge loan” to Americans by letting them delay their tax payment. In addition, the Treasury Secretary is encouraging you to file ASAP so your money is in your pocket.

It also appears the individuals’ 2020 first quarter estimated payments will also be moved back to July 15th. Of course, this ironically moves your 1st payment due date to a month after the June 15th deadline for the second quarter estimated payment. How this due date change might impact other tax responsibilities is still a mystery. I will be updating the website post as more information becomes available.

Stay Safe.

Marc