More Americans are eligible to withdraw money from their retirement plans if they have been affected by COVID-19, according to the IRS.

The Internal Revenue Service announced Friday that it has expanded eligibility to "take into account additional factors such as reductions in pay, rescissions of job offers, and delayed start dates." 

The updated criteria, part of the CARES Act, also allows spouses or household members to take these distributions if someone in the home was affected.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act has made it easier for Americans struggling with economic hardship from the coronavirus pandemic to withdraw money from their retirement accounts. 

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The act allows investors of any age to withdraw as much as $100,000 from retirement accounts including 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts this year without paying an early withdrawal penalty of 10%.

They can avoid taxes on the withdrawal if the money is put back in the account within three years. If it isn't returned, taxes can be paid over a three-year span. 

Experts typically advise against taking money out of retirement accounts, but the fallout from the crisis has left many people scrambling to pay their bills after being laid off or furloughed.

The IRS clarified in Friday's announcement that employers can choose whether to implement "these coronavirus-related distribution and loan rules" but says "qualified individuals can claim the tax benefits of coronavirus-related distribution rules even if plan provisions aren't changed."

Contributing: Jessica Menton

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko