A year since the pandemic first started shutting down schools and businesses, the $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus package that Congress has been negotiating since President Biden took office finally became law today—just barely ahead of the impending expiration of unemployment benefits for millions of Americans on March 14.
Millions of parents across the country fought tirelessly for this relief while still struggling to manage the impossible task of raising a family in a pandemic. Between virtual school, social distancing, and millions of lost jobs—parents and caregivers have been some of the hardest hit by this massive disruption of our usual way of life.
The passage of this bill is a huge win for families and children in the US. The benefits from the relief package is expected to have the astonishing effect of cutting child poverty in this country in half.
The American Rescue Plan will provide direct one-time payments of up to $1,400 for most adults and children, renew unemployment aid, and expand the Child Tax Credit to reach millions more families and increase it to $3,600 for children under six and $3,000 for children up to 17 for the year.
So what does this mean for your family? Most importantly—when will you start to see some stimulus money? Here are the basics about the provisions in the new COVID relief package that will impact families most directly (or click a link below to jump directly to that section):
- Individual Stimulus Checks
- #CovidKidCash—the Expanded Child Tax Credit
- Renewed Unemployment Benefits
- Food Assistance Programs
- Healthcare Subsidies
- Housing Assistance
Individual Stimulus Checks
Who qualifies? The long-promised stimulus checks are finally on their way. Individuals with an adjusted gross income under $75,000 per year, those filing as head of household (or “HOH,” like many single parents) who make under $112,500, and married couples earning less than $150,000 will qualify for the full payment of $1,400.
Those with incomes over $75,000 ($112,599 HOH or $150,000 for couples) will receive a smaller amount, up to the maximum income threshold of $80,000 ($112,500 HOH or $160,000 for couples). People with incomes above the threshold do not qualify for this stimulus payment.
What do I get? The maximum possible payment per individual is $1,400. If you make between $75,000 (or $112,500 for HOH, or $150,000 for couples) and $80,000 (or $120,000 for HOH, or $160,000 for couples), your payment amount is on a sliding scale corresponding with your income, with those earning more annually receiving a smaller direct payment. Each dependent you claimed on your taxes will also qualify for an additional $1,400, without an age restriction—including college students, adult children with disabilities, and other adult relatives you might claim.
When will I get it? Fortunately, folks who previously received the other two stimulus payments via direct deposit will start to see payments from the IRS in their bank accounts as soon as within days of the bill passing. Those who receive checks in the mail will start seeing their payments about two weeks after the bill is official.
If you don’t usually file taxes, but received the other stimulus payments using the non-filers tool, you should automatically get this one.
If you didn’t receive your stimulus checks last year, but think you should have, it’s not too late to get the benefit. But if you don’t file taxes, you may need to this year to claim your missing stimulus money. Check out this helpful resource that explains how.
#CovidKidCash—the Expanded Child Tax Credit
Who qualifies? Parents or guardians will qualify for the credit for each dependent child under the age of 18, with the amount decreasing for folks with incomes over $75,000, or $150,000 for couples filing jointly. Regardless of your citizenship status, your child will qualify if they have a Social Security Number.
What do I get? If you’re a parent, you might already be familiar with the existing child tax credit, which provides $2,000 per child in 2020. If the credit on your taxes ends up exceeding the amount you owe, you can get up to $1,400 as a refund.
Under the new law, the IRS will increase the credit to a maximum of $3,600 per child under age 6, and $3,000 per child between the ages of 6 and 17. These credits will not be deducted from your tax liability, meaning you’ll still qualify for any other credits you normally receive. And the entire amount of the tax credit will be refundable—so even people who don’t owe taxes will get this money.
When will I get it? Unlike previous child tax credit provisions, families won’t need to wait until they file their annual taxes to receive this benefit. The legislation allows the refund to be broken down into regular payments—likely $300 per month for kids under 6, and $250 per month for kids aged 6-17. The periodic payments could start going out as soon as this coming July (or as quickly as the IRS can reasonably disperse the funds). Any remaining tax credit not paid by December 2021 will be applied to 2021 income taxes. Since payments don’t start until July, it will be based on people’s 2020 income.
Renewed Unemployment Benefits
Who qualifies? There are a couple of unemployment programs that were set to end on March 14 and are being renewed with this relief package. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program is for self-employed, gig workers and others not typically eligible for unemployment aid. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program is meant for those who have exhausted their other unemployment options and are still jobless due to the pandemic.
What do I get? You will continue to receive the same amount you’re getting right now under the current emergency unemployment programs. This includes the additional $300 per week that was initiated with the passing of the second stimulus package in December. For the first time, the new relief package also ensures that the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits people receive is exempt from taxes to prevent surprise bills for unemployed people at the end of the year. This applies to households with incomes under $150,000.
When will I get it? You should not experience an interruption or delay with the unemployment payments you’ve been receiving. Now, instead of expiring on March 14, these weekly payments will continue through September 6, 2021.
Food Assistance Programs
Who qualifies? Luckily, thanks to states granting temporary flexibility to their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP), if you need help with food, you can most likely receive assistance right now.
What do I get? SNAP benefits will continue to be boosted by 15 percent with this new relief package until September. Additionally, states will have funding to continue providing free and reduced-price meals for kids who would normally receive them at school.
When will I get it? The funding for these food assistance benefits has been extended through September of 2021, providing vital nutritional support to families in need until next school year.
Who qualifies? Under the American Rescue Plan, federal subsidies for health insurance premiums will be available to anyone enrolled in the Affordable Care Act, regardless of income. Help with premiums is also available for folks who lost their jobs but want to remain on their employer health insurance plans through COBRA.
What do I get? Currently, ACA enrollees pay about 10 percent of their income for health coverage. The new plan will reduce this amount to about 8.5 percent of an enrollee’s total income. For lower-income enrollees and those collecting unemployment benefits in 2021, this benefit would eliminate their premiums completely.
When will I get it? These benefits go into effect immediately and will continue for two years.
If you’re concerned about eviction or foreclosure, the bill could help. It allocates $26 billion for emergency rental assistance and $10 billion for homeowner assistance. If you qualify for housing aid (see who can qualify here), it can be applied to back or future rent or utility costs. States will be responsible for rolling out the programs once they receive the money, so contact your state Housing and Urban Development office to find out more.
The benefits of the American Rescue Plan don’t end there. It includes other important relief measures like more money for schools, funds for vaccine production and distribution, and support for small businesses. If you’d like more help finding out how much your family’s payment is likely to be, CNET has a helpful stimulus check calculator.
While this round of COVID relief is a major victory for families, their struggle is not over. Many parents and organizers around family issues are pushing for the expanded Child Tax Credit to become a permanent feature of the tax code.
Dealing with school closures, childcare issues, or other challenges related to coronavirus? Find support, advice, activities to keep kids entertained, learning opportunities and more in our Coronavirus Parents: Parenting in a Pandemic Facebook Group.
For ongoing updates on coronavirus-related issues and questions that impact children and families, please find additional resources here.