The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is another economic relief package and the first major legislative victory for Joe Biden. The $1.9 trillion bill was signed by the President on March 11, 2021 and amounts to about 27% of the GDP.
Like previous stimulus packages, key areas of the bill address healthcare crisis and economic crisis that was caused by the pandemic. However, one of the biggest differences of the American Rescue Plan is how it provides the economic relief. Specifically, a big portion of the relief bill is administered through the tax code via direct payments made by the IRS.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the key provision of the new bill.
The bill provides $1,400 direct payments to qualifying individuals. The majority of American will be eligible to qualify, but unlike in the CARES Act and the December bill, there were some changes to income limits. This time, in order to qualify for the full payment, single filers with income less than $75,000 would receive $1,400 and married couples earning less than $150,000 would receive $2,800. Children are also eligible for a $1,400 direct payment.
Child Tax Credit
Prior to the bill, single parents earning less than $200,000 and married couples earning less than $400,000 were eligible to claim a full child tax credit (CTC) of $2,000 per child under age 17. The American Rescue Plan made some important changes to the CTC and for the first time the USA has joined other western countries in helping low-income families financially to cover the cost of raising children. Firstly, the bill included children who 17 years old (previously there were excluded). Secondly, the bill expanded the benefit from $2,000 to up to $3,600 per child. Under this bill, the IRS is directed to send advance parents payments of up to half the credit amount periodically throughout 2021, starting as early as July. If you have a child that is under 6 years old, you will receive the credit of $3,600 and $3,000 per child who is 6 years and older. Since the direct payments will last for 6 months only, you will receive only a half of the above limit in direct payments and will claim the remaining half when you file your 2021 taxes. To qualify for the full credit, the annual income should be:
Filing single: below $75,000
Filing jointly: below $150,000
Above the limits your CTC will phase out. Those families whose income is too high to qualify for the new CTC will be able to the standard $2,000 tax credit (subject to income limit of $200,000 when filing single and $400,000 when filing jointly). This new program will last for only one year for now, although some experts assume it may be extended.
The bill has extended the unemployment benefits through September 6, 2021 but has kept the payment amount unchanged, at $300 per week. The first $10,200 in unemployment benefits are not taxable for households whose income is below $150,000.
Support for Low-Income Families
The bill has allocated $4.5 billion towards the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to help families cover home heating and cooling costs. In addition to that, the bill has allocated $1.4 billion in funding for various program under the Older Americans Act. Such help includes nutrition programs and National Family Caregiver Support Program.
The bill has set aside $25 billion for emergency rental assistance.
Affordable Care Act Subsidies
The bill has reduced health care premiums for low- and middle-income families and provided premium subsidies (in the form of premium tax credits) for individuals purchasing health insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges through 2022. Individuals will not pay more than 8.5% of their income in accordance with the bill for a health insurance purchased on the health insurance marketplace.
Paycheck Protection Program
The Paycheck Protection Program has received an injection in the amount of $7.25 billion in new money and would allow not only small businesses to apply for loans but also to more nonprofit organizations. The expiration date of the program remained the same, March 31, 2021.