New stimulus checks are continuing to be distributed at a pretty regular clip around the US, with more than 2.3 million stimulus payments having just been sent out by the IRS totaling more than $4.2 billion. And a little over a month from now, the first of what will be a monthly series of stimulus checks will start arriving in millions of families’ mailboxes and bank accounts, providing the first tranche of payments as part of an expanded federal child tax credit that will be split up over a series of monthly payments starting on July 15.
In the meantime, there’s much more than the $1.9 trillion stimulus legislation which President Biden signed back in March also makes possible, beyond the stimulus checks that have gotten so much attention. For example, the stimulus legislation known as the so-called “American Rescue Plan” also exempts from federal taxation the first $10,200 in unemployment benefits that middle- and lower-income taxpayers received last year (normally, the entirety of a person’s unemployment benefits is subject to federal taxes). The stimulus law also includes billions of dollars in aid set aside for struggling renters, who have run into trouble paying their rent and utilities as a result of challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the US Treasury Dept., first making reference to legislation passed during the final weeks of the Trump administration: “The December appropriations bill provided $25 billion of federal relief to be administered by the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program for disbursement to existing state and local government programs. The American Rescue Plan nearly doubles the initial funding to expand the reach and impact of the existing ERA program, taking additional steps to mitigate the financial harm caused by the pandemic and keeping Americans safe as the country addresses the virus.”
The American Rescue Plan, this summary goes on to note, “provides $21.6 billion for states, territories, and local governments to assist households that are unable to pay rent and utilities due to the COVID-19 crisis.”
This funding is important to note because according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, almost 6 million renters collectively owe around $20 billion in back or unpaid rent. “The Treasury (Emergency Rental Assistance) program includes an unprecedented amount of funding for emergency rental assistance to help renters stay stably housed,” notes the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the website for which maintains a list of a few hundred rent assistance programs that are either open now or will be soon in order to help get this federal money into the hands of people who need it.
For example, here’s a link to the coalition’s hub showing programs that offer assistance directly to tenants, as opposed to their landlords (click “see programs” under the heading, “Programs allowing direct-to-tenant assistance).
For an idea of the kind of stimulus-related aid available herein, Texas is offering help with unpaid rent and utilities going as far back as March 13, 2020. And in Illinois, that state’s Housing Development Authority is overseeing the administration of $1.5 billion in rental assistance, whereby tenants and landlords can apply for grants of up to $25,000 to cover as many as 15 months of rent payments between June of last year through August of this year.
“The Illinois Rental Assistance Program is a testament to how good government can make a life-changing difference for people when our dollars follow our values,” Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker said during an announcement about details of the program, which you can read more about here.