On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021” into law. The $1.9 trillion dollar COVID-19 relief package contains economic stimulus provisions for a number of sectors, including housing and homelessness, health care, state and local government, small businesses, transportation, and more. The bill also contains unprecedented increases to anti-poverty measures, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. Below is a list of the key housing, homelessness, and anti-poverty provisions included in the bill:
$5 billion for homelessness assistance;
$21.55 billion for emergency rental assistance;
An increase to the Child Tax Credit equal to $3,600 for each child under age 6 and $3,000 for each child between the ages of 6 and 17 (which is up from $2,000 for each child under age 17);
An additional $300 per week in unemployment benefits and the expansion of unemployment benefits to gig workers, freelancers, and independent contractors until September 6, 2021;
An increase in the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit from $543 to $1,502; and
$1,400 stimulus checks to individuals making below $75,000 a year, heads of households making less than $112,500 a year, and married couples earning less than $150,000 a year.
You can find further detail on these provisions and more in LAHSA's memo on the key homelessness, housing, anti-poverty, and state and local funding provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act.
How to Access the Benefits in the American Rescue Plan
Even if you or your clients are experiencing homelessness, you may still be eligible for and receive your stimulus check. To receive your payment directly, you need to:
Have a valid SSN,
Not be a dependent of another taxpayer, and
Be a U.S. citizen or a resident alien.
Please note that eligibility rules differ for the most recent $1,400 stimulus payment as for the previous stimulus payments of $1,200 and $600. For example, eligibility rules for mixed status households are more flexible for the American Rescue Plan stimulus compared to the previous stimulus payments.
If you lack a bank account, you can receive payment via a check or debit card, but these will need to be mailed to an address or P.O. box. Addresses may include a shelter, a religious organization, or the home of a friend or family member, as long as these organizations/individuals agree to receive mail on your behalf.
You will also need to file a 2020 income tax return if you don’t have existing tax returns on file, even if you have no income to report. Individuals who earn under $12,400 annually are typically not required to file a tax return. The Internal Revenue Services (IRS) does offer a free filing service, but you will need internet access via a computer or smartphone to complete the online forms as well as an email address to make an account. You may also need additional documentation such as any income statements or records of governmental aid received.
If you received one of the first two stimulus checks (in the amounts of $1,200 and $600) or you receive Supplemental Security Income or State Disability Insurance, you may not need to file a 2020 tax return because your information may already be in the IRS system. If this is the case, you should check the status of your $1,400 stimulus check here, prior to filing a 2020 tax return.
If you missed out on your first or second stimulus checks, it’s not too late. You can claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 tax return to ensure you receive that money.
For information on free tax assistance services in Los Angeles County for individuals and households making $57,000 a year or less, please click here. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has also put out a guide on assisting individuals with claiming their stimulus checks – you can find that resource here.