In March 2021, the federal government passed the American Rescue Package, and in January, the California state government and federal government made other key relief provisions. These provisions are in addition to the pandemic bill passed by Congress in December 2020. Here, we break down what the relief bills mean for you and your household. For quick reading, we’ve highlighted the key highlights of each provision.
The March bill sends $1,400 direct payments to most Americans and their dependents. The checks start to phase out at $75,000 in income for individuals and are capped at people who make $80,000. The thresholds for joint filers are double those limits. The government will base eligibility on Americans’ most recent filed tax return. Eligible taxpayers will also receive $1,400 for each dependent claimed on their federal return, regardless of age, including college students and disabled adult children. Some people will also get this $1,400 credit for dependent adult parents they care for.
Earlier, the government sent $600 stimulus payments to those who qualify, plus $600 per eligible child. Eligibility for this payment was generally based on your adjusted gross income (AGI) for 2019. Those who made $75,000 or less typically received the full $600.
The IRS has already begun sending payments to most people with direct deposit. For more information on eligibility or your payment status, check out Get My Payment from the IRS.
→ Eligible people (based on the most recent tax filing) will receive an additional $1,400 in April or March. The payments start to phase out at $75,000 in income for individuals and are capped at people who make $80,000. If you’re eligible for a payment, you don’t need to do anything.
The latest bill adds a $300 per week jobless aid supplement (on top of state-provided benefits) and extends programs making millions more people eligible for unemployment insurance until September 6. The plan also makes an individual’s first $10,200 in jobless benefits tax-free for tax year 2020 (for eligible households earning $150,000 or less).
Previously, people receiving state unemployment benefits received an extra $300 weekly for 11 weeks, from the end of December 2020 through March 14, 2021.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program expands jobless benefits to gig workers, freelancers, independent contractors, the self-employed and certain other people affected by the coronavirus. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program provides an additional 13 weeks of payments to those who exhaust their regular state benefits.
Both programs noted above would close to new applicants on March 14, 2021, but benefits will continue through April 5, 2021 for existing claimants who have not yet reached the maximum of 50 weeks of unemployment benefits.
→ People receiving state unemployment benefits will receive an extra $300 weekly, and unemployment benefit provisions for the self-employed (gig workers, freelancers and independent contractors) will be extended.
Small business loans
The December bill reopened the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) so that some of the hardest-hit small businesses can apply for another loan. PPP stopped taking applications for the first round of loans in August.
These additional loans are available only to small businesses with fewer than 300 employees that have seen drops of at least 25% of their revenue during the first, second or third quarter of 2020. Each borrower can receive up to $2 million, and businesses now have more flexibility on how they spend the money. The forgiveness process for loans under $150,000 has been simplified as well. More nonprofits are also eligible for this round of loans.
→ PPP is back for businesses with fewer than 300 employees that have had a revenue drop of 25% or more. Loans are limited to $2 million, and businesses now have more flexibility in how to spend the money.
The March legislation gives bigger tax credits for families in 2021. The bill expands the child tax credit to $3,600 for each child under 6 and $3,000 for each child under age 18. Currently, families can receive a credit of up to $2,000 per child under age 17. The enhanced portion of the credit will be available for single parents with annual incomes up to $75,000 and joint filers making up to $150,000. The credit will also become fully refundable so more parents can take advantage of it.
Plus, families can receive payments monthly, rather than a lump sum once a year, which is aimed at making it easier for them to pay the bills. Here's how that works: This new credit will also be fully refundable for the year and may be paid out monthly, rather than as a lump sum at tax time. Families could receive half their total credit as a periodic payment starting in July and running through the rest of 2021. They could then claim the remaining half on their 2021 tax returns, filed in 2022. The final schedule of payouts will depend on IRS implementation and the Treasury Department.
The package also enhances the earned income tax credit for workers without children by nearly tripling the maximum credit and extending eligibility to more people. The minimum age to claim the childless credit will be reduced to 19, from 25, and the upper age limit will be eliminated.
→ The March legislation makes tax credits for families and certain low-income workers stronger for 2021. The bill expands the child tax credit to $3,600 for each child under 6 and $3,000 for each child under age 18. Currently, families can receive a credit of up to $2,000 per child under age 17. The enhanced portion of the credit will be available for single parents with annual incomes up to $75,000 and joint filers making up to $150,000.
The California government has frozen evictions for struggling tenants impacted by COVID-19 through June 30, 2021. This provision protects tenants as long as they’re paying a total 25% of their rent starting in September 2020, and can prove pandemic-related adversity like job or salary loss.
Federal funds will also be used to help pay the back rent of eligible Californians, and will typically be allocated to households whose income is 80% or less of their area's median income (prioritized for households at 50% or less) and Californians who have been unemployed for at least three months. For eligible tenants, the state will cover up to 80% of the rent missed between April 2020 and March 2021, as long as the landlord forgives the remaining 20% and does not pursue evictions.
Tenants and landlords will be able to apply for this aid through state or local relief organizations. How quickly the assistance becomes available will be dependent on where you live. To find out what’s available in your area, visit the government website for your city or county. The State Rental Assistance Program will begin accepting applications from property owners and tenants in March 2021.
Nationally, the federal government has extended the ban on COVID-19-related evictions through March 31, 2021. The executive order also extends the foreclosure moratorium on government-backed mortgages, including those backed by the USDA, VA, and HUD.
→ California's eviction protection has been extended through June 30, 2021 as long as the eviction would be related to COVID-19 hardships, while the federal eviction protection has been extended to March 31, 2021. The federal government has provided funds to California for rental assistance – check out the website for your city government or county government to learn about what relief is available in your local area and how to apply.
Payments on direct federal loans have been postponed through September 30, 2021. Monthly payments do not have to be made, and any interest will be waived. To see if your loan is eligible under this new break, check out our guide to which student loans qualify.
→ The pause on student loan repayments has been extended – and federal student loans will only start accruing interest again on October 1, 2021 along with payments coming due.
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