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A new secret stimulus benefit has been approved, and most people haven’t even heard of this

Updated May 28th, 2021 7:41PM EDT
New stimulus check
Image: Jason Raff/Adobe

All of the previous stimulus checks that Americans have received since March of 2020, with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, have shared at least one thing in common — from the $1,200 and $600 checks distributed by the Trump administration to the direct payments that included $1,400 checks sent out following President Biden’s signing of the $1.9 billion American Rescue Plan into law back in March. For most Americans, all of those stimulus checks showed up in mailboxes or in bank accounts automatically, with no action needing to be taken on the part of the recipient.

That’s one thing that makes this new stimulus benefit we’d like to tell you about, which many of you probably weren’t even aware existed, so different.

The American Rescue Plan that kicked off a high-profile round of $1,400 stimulus checks, which the IRS has been sending out in waves since the law’s passage, also made possible an expansion of the federal child tax credit — which, among other things, provides millions of families starting in July with payments of up to $3,600 over the course of a year for each eligible child. That’s actually one of the highest-profile features of the stimulus law, with direct payments that will start showing up in recipients’ bank accounts in mid-July. Meanwhile, there are also plenty of additional somewhat hidden and more obscure benefits of the stimulus legislation, as we alluded to above.

Among them is something called the Homeowners Assistance Fund, which the name ensures is pretty self-explanatory. The idea here is for a pot of money to be available to help homeowners struggling with things like mortgage payments as well as taxes, association dues, and other payments associated with homeownership. Even the payment of things like utility bills and insurance costs. “The American Rescue Plan provides nearly $10 billion for states, territories, and Tribes to provide relief for our country’s most vulnerable homeowners,” a fact sheet from the Treasury Department explains.

“Applicable funding uses include delinquent mortgage payments, allowing Americans across the country to take a step in the right direction toward household stabilization. These necessary actions will minimize foreclosures in the coming months, alleviate emergency shelter capacity, and mitigate potential COVID-19 infections.”

Here’s who qualifies:

It should go without saying, based on the name of this pool of funding, that you need to be a homeowner. You’ll also need to be working to pay off a mortgage balance of less than $548,250, and your first step toward obtaining the funding should be to reach out to your state housing agency. Information on all 50 of those can be found here.

Among other somewhat surprising benefits of the American Rescue Plan, along these same lines, is something called the State and Local Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Fund. As we noted previously, this funding is meant for states, counties, and cities, which will be allowed to distribute it to households that have experienced hardship because of the pandemic. As of the time of this writing, there isn’t a way for homeowners to request this financial aid directly from the federal government. Homeowners can check with their local housing finance agency to be made aware of an update as this money is parceled out around the country.

Here’s what the US Treasury has to say about that pot of money: “Local governments will receive funds in two tranches, with 50% provided beginning in May 2021 and the balance delivered approximately 12 months later. States that have experienced a net increase in the unemployment rate of more than 2 percentage points from February 2020 to the latest available data as of the date of certification will receive their full allocation of funds in a single payment; other states will receive funds in two equal tranches.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.