CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS

Can I qualify for Biden's American Rescue Plan if I have already received the stimulus check?

President-elect Joe Biden presented his American Rescue Plan on Thursday which includes a new round of direct payments to top up the $600 payments to $2000.

Can I qualify for the American Rescue Plan from Biden if I have already received the stimulus check?
ANGELA WEISS AFP

After months of negotiations Congress was finally able to pass a middle-of-the-road bipartisan coronavirus relief package to carry over into the early months of the incoming Biden administration. The yawning gap between the two sides reflected the entrenched positions of the divided chambers of Congress. However soon both chambers of Congress and the White House will be in Democratic control perhaps easing the road to President-elect Joe Biden’s expansive American Rescue Plan, $1.9 trillion plan designed to "rescue the American economy and start beating the virus," announced on Thursday.

The plan is the first part of a two-pronged approach to tackling the once again deepening economic crisis brought on by covid-19. The proposal follows along the lines of the CARES Act, the over $2 trillion stimulus plan passed in March, providing funding for small businesses, state and local governments, reopening schools, vaccination distribution, and direct financial relief to Americans suffering from the aftermath of coronavirus pandemic.

Boosting direct stimulus payments to $2000

The $900 billion bipartisan stimulus bill passed at the eleventh hour in December originally lacked any direct payments to Americans, but a last-minute add-on gave $600 payments to qualifying adults and children. The amount was criticized for being too paltry but President-elect Joe Biden supported the idea, along with the rest of the package, as a “down payment” for a more ambitious plan once in office. President Trump’s last-minute push for much larger payments of $2000 brought Republicans, mostly averse to the payments, on board with the idea.

One of the more popular ideas among Americans, included in Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, is boosting those $600 payments to $2000 by adding a third-round stimulus payments of $1400. The direct payments would go out to adults with an aggregate gross income (AGI) of roughly less than $75,000 a year (or $115,000 per year for heads of households), with smaller payments for individuals who earn over that amount. In addition, Biden’s plan includes households with mixed immigration status and gives $600 to families for any dependent regardless of age, unlike before when only child dependents 17 or under qualified.

Other financial relief for Americans

The American Rescue Plan includes additional measures to help American families and individuals besides the direct stimulus checks. The plan calls for a federal minimum wage hike to $15, along with enhanced jobless benefits until at least September, tax credits for families with children, more eviction protections, more money for nutritional assistance programs and healthcare support.

Enhanced jobless benefits

Under Biden’s plan additional jobless benefits would be funded through at least September 2021, which in many cases were set to expire as soon as 14 March, 2021. More than 18 million are claiming some type of benefit, according to the Department of Labor.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) payments would increase to $400 per week, up from $300 passed in the covid-19 relief package signed into law in December. Individual workers who are still jobless after exhausting their weekly benefits and typically ineligible, such as independent contractors and those that work in the gig economy, would also be eligible for UI through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program established in the CARES Act.

Expanded Paid Sick and Family Leave

Biden calls on Congress to require employers to provide expanded and strengthened paid sick and family medical leave through 30 September, 2021 and eliminate exemptions that existed under the first round of paid sick and family leave. His plan would cover workers who need to quarantine, provide care to family members with covid-19, or take care of children when daycare or schools are closed. Expanded leave would include a maximum paid leave benefit of $1,400 per week for eligible workers, up to a full wage replacement of up to $73,000 annually.

Expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC)

Biden wants to increase a tax credit for U.S. households with children and to be fully refundable for the year and not subject to an income-based phase-in. The credit currently provides $2,000 for qualifying child dependents under the age of 17. Now households will receive $3,600 for children under age 6 and $3,000 for children ages 6 to 17. Individuals earning up to $200,000 annually and married couples making up to $400,000 a year would be eligible for the full credit.

Expanded Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC)

The proposal would increase the child care tax credit that parents can use to help subsidize child care costs covering up to 50 percent of qualifying childcare expenses. Families making less than $125,000 a year would be eligible for reimbursement worth up to $4,000 for one child or $8,000 for two or more children. Households earning between $125,000 and $400,000 would receive a partial credit. Under current law, a credit of up to 35 percent of $3,000 for one child or 35 percent of $6,000 for two or more children can be claimed.

Expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

The American Rescue Plan would also expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for 2021 and allow workers over the age of 65 to claim the credit. It would increase the maximum credit for adults without children to nearly $1,500 from $530 and the income limit to roughly $21,000 from $16,000.

Housing assistance and eviction protections

Biden will push for Congress to extend the federal eviction and foreclosure moratorium and continued forbearance for federally guaranteed mortgages through 30 September, 2021. The plan provides $30 billion in extra rental assistance funds for low- and moderate-income households and includes funds for certain utility costs. An additional program provides $5 billion to house the homeless.

Nutritional assistance programs

The American Rescue Plan extends the 15 percent SNAP benefit increase though September 2021. It also provides additional $3 billion in funding for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The plan also earmarks $1 billion to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Healthcare support for individuals

Biden wants to support health coverage for those who lose their employer-sponsored health insurance through 30 September, 2021 through subsidizing continuation health coverage (COBRA). The plan would also ensure individuals pay no more than 8.5 percent of income for health insurance coverage by increasing the value of the Premium Tax Credit used on individual health insurance exchanges

Funding for vaccination and testing

The plan includes $20 billion in a national vaccination program covering 100 percent for the administration of vaccines and another $50 billion to expand testing capacity.

Funding for state and local governments

The American Rescue Plan earmarks $350 billion in flexible aid for state and local governments, $20 billion for tribal governments, and $20 billion to support public transit.

Education Relief

Biden’s plan allocates $170 billion to support reopening schools, he wants to have the majority of schools reopened in his first 100 days, and funding for post-secondary education and $25 billion in support of childcare providers.

Small Business Grants & Loans

The plan also gives more relief to small businesses providing $15 billion in grants to help recover from the pandemic as well as using government funding to provide loans.

Will the bill pass?

With both chambers of Congress soon to be in the control of the Democrat party the plan, or at least parts of it, has a fighting chance. The price tag is an eye-popping $1.9 billion and Biden has yet to announce the other part of his stimulus package. He will be presenting the second prong for tackling the economic crisis with an infrastructure plan Build Back Better Recovery Plan sometime next month.