Even though we’ve stressed on several occasions now, in multiple posts, that 2021 is very much the year of the stimulus payment, there’s also more to the story that must likewise be shared. Because it’s not just IRS stimulus checks that are flowing to millions of Americans from the federal government. States and localities are also getting in on the act, crafting their own stimulus-related programs.
In this post, we’re going to take a brief look at several different federal programs that are putting money into Americans’ hands and bank accounts in a variety of ways. While none of these technically counts as a fourth IRS stimulus check, these programs kind of accomplish the same result, anyway. And they cover everything from rental aid and financial assistance to homeowners, to government checks for parents of eligible children.
Child tax credit
Let’s start with the latter, the checks for parents. The federal government has sent out three standalone stimulus checks thus far during the pandemic. Two during President Trump’s time in office, and one so far under President Biden. Also under President Biden, the IRS in July started sending out monthly checks to parents of eligible children.
You can check out our earlier coverage of these payments. Basically, the six checks in total comprise an advance payment of half of a family’s federal child tax credit that they’re eligible for. The second half will come next year, in the form of an actual tax credit when they file their income taxes. Congress structured the advance payments to come this year, in recognition of the fact that many families couldn’t wait until 2022 for the aid.
The IRS sent out the fourth of six child tax credit checks just last week. That wave of payments delivered about $15 billion to approximately 36 million US families.
Aid for homeowners and renters
Two other stimulus-related programs involve assistance with living expenses.
The stimulus law that President Biden signed earlier this year, as well as the final stimulus legislation from the Trump administration, set aside a total of $46.6 billion in emergency aid for rental assistance programs. However, the government has been slow to get that money where it needs to go. According to recent New York Times reporting, only around 7% of the relief ($3 billion out of that nearly $47 billion) had gone out as of a few months ago.
To qualify for this money, generally, your income can’t exceed 80% of your local area’s median income. There are also other local requirements, including related to income, depending on where you live. And recipients of this money must demonstrate some kind of financial hardship stemming from the pandemic. More details are available here.
On a related note, there’s also a federal Homeowners Assistance Fund to know about. As with the rental aid, homeowners must demonstrate a pandemic-related financial hardship. This link includes all the details, including income requirements. And the money can be used for things like mortgage payments, homeowner’s insurance, and more.
No more IRS stimulus checks — what’s coming instead
For a host of reasons, the political dynamic in Congress right now makes the idea of a bill that funds a fourth stimulus check pretty much a non-starter. Nevertheless, here are some additional federal efforts that are pushing out pandemic-related aid, anyway.
Assistance for food workers. US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this pandemic relief payment a few months ago. It’s part of a larger $700 million effort. And it entails a one-time $600 payment going to farmworkers and the US meatpacking workforce. A portion of the $700 million, totaling up to $20 million, will also go toward helping grocery store workers. These new payments won’t come from the IRS, though. Rather, they’ll come from state agencies, nonprofits, and tribal governments.
Money for broadband bills. The Federal Communications Commission also provides low-income households with a temporary discount on broadband. The thinking is that the pandemic has made connectivity so vital for millions of Americans right now. This $3.17 billion effort launched earlier this year, but only $600 million or so of that money has been claimed thus far. This program gives eligible households up to $50 off of their broadband bills (and up to $75 off for households on tribal lands). Some people will also be able to get a one-time discount of up to $100 on buying a computer or laptop.