The biggest stimulus checks yet (and no frustrating cut-offs for dependents at age 17), more weeks of expanded unemployment benefits and the biggest helping hand for low-income families with children in decades. All of that — and more — is in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. If you’ve been watching the back-and-forth, we now know what’s coming your way. Here’s a look at everything you need to know about the new stimulus bill.
- Another round of stimulus checks. These total $1,400 for individuals making up to $75,000, heads of household making up to $112,500, and couples filing jointly making up to $150,000. At that point they start to taper off — faster than in the prior rounds — and at incomes of $80,000 for individuals, $120,000 for heads of household and $160,000 for couples, they’re gone entirely. Families will receive an additional $1,400 for dependents — a change from prior rounds where only children under 17 years of age brought them on. (These, too, taper based on taxpayer income) Importantly: These payments are going to be based on the most recent income the IRS has on file for you — 2020 if you filed early, and otherwise 2019. If you, like many people, earned too much to qualify in 2019 but were eligible in 2020, filing quickly may help. You can also request a refund of money you were owed but didn’t receive (say you had a baby the IRS didn’t know about) when you file your 2020 return.
- Federal unemployment payments will continue at the current rate of $300 a week and they’ll extend until September 6. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for gig workers, contract workers, self-employed and freelance workers will also be extended until that date. (And there’s still an additional $100 available in addition to the $300 on the logic that these folks aren’t likely to get much from their state unemployment benefits.) Speaking of…
- State unemployment benefits will be extended for another 29 weeks, bringing the total available weeks to 79.
- The PPP — which was turned back on in the last round of stimulus — will be topped up. Some companies that have struggled particularly hard are still eligible to apply for second loans. Additionally, there is $28.6 billion in this bill earmarked as debt relief for restaurants. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund will provide grants of up to $5 million for small restaurants and $10 million for restaurant groups. (Meanwhile, although the Federal government is not taxing PPP loans, your state may be. Here’s a map.)
- The American Rescue Plan doesn’t extend the halt of evictions in place until the end of March, but there is $27 billion for rental assistance (atop the $25 billion in December’s package) and another $10 billion for mortgage relief. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has more.
Of course, we know you’ll have questions. Here are a few likely answers, although information is changing in real time. We’ll update you at HerMoney.com as we have it.
WHEN WILL I RECEIVE MY NEW STIMULUS CHECK?
We’re thinking soon. The December payments started to go out within a couple of days after the law passed (the IRS has much more information than it did about where to find you and your bank account than it did the first time around). Most payments will be made by direct deposit, some by check and some, likely by pre-paid debit card. If you received less than you were eligible under prior stimulus bills, you can claim a tax credit on your 2020 tax return. Reminder: Credits are better than deductions. They’re a dollar-for-dollar write-off against your taxes. As the IRS notes: Generally, this credit will increase the amount of your tax refund or lower the amount of the tax you owe.
WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET THOSE UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS?
If you’re already receiving unemployment, likely nothing. If you’re not – because your benefits have lapsed – check your state’s unemployment website for instructions. Be prepared that it may take a few weeks (if not more) for lapsed benefits to resume, USA Today warns.
CAN I STILL GET MORTGAGE RELIEF?
The mortgage forbearance tee’d up by the CARES Act program that allows for 6-month periods of forbearance (once one is over you can request another) for federally-backed mortgages is still available. In February, President Biden authorized an extension through the end of June and added an additional possible 6-month period of forbearance for borrowers, bringing the total number of months to 18. You have until the end of June to get in touch with your lender and request this.
WHAT ABOUT MY STUDENT LOANS?
Payments on federal student loans are now on pause until January 31 – meaning you don’t have to make them – and interest rates have been set to 0%, meaning if you do make them, the money all goes to principal, so it makes a bigger dent. Earlier versions of this new bill extended that deadline until the end of April, but that provision doesn’t seem to have made the cut. The new bill wipes away the worry of having to pay income taxes on any forgiven student loan debt. This was seen as a stumbling block in the President’s effort to wipe clean any amount of debt itself for borrowers. Will he be successful in eliminating $10,000 per borrower? Stay tuned.
WHAT IF I CAN’T PAY MY BILLS IN GENERAL?
Don’t wait. Call your lenders. And look into state and local programs, as well as those from your utility companies. Here’s a good roundup of connections and a guide for where to find financial help if you just can’t manage to pay all your bills right now.
MORE FROM HERMONEY ON LIVING THROUGH COVID:
- Jean lays out the questions you need to ask before you make any changes to your portfolio.
- Dayana looks at how long stock market crashes, dips, recessions and corrections have historically lasted and what to expect going forward.
- Becca answers the tax questions that are keeping you up at night…or at least causing you to make that face.
JOIN US in the judgement-free zone with our free weekly newsletter. Sign up today!