Beyond providing a once-in-a-generation pipeline of funding for all local governments, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and the prior stimulus measures, support implementation of a holistic strategy that links housing stability with income security, food assistance, unemployment insurance, childcare benefits, and other resources. The most important tasks for local government leaders is to use the information resources from NLC and their state league of cities to understand the eligibility and application process for these funds, build a plan to access these dollars or to support the access by citizens and other institutions, and to hold the city accountable to the highest degree for the beneficial use of these Federal stimulus resources.
While there is significant and important attention being given to the $65 billion recovery fund from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, other financial resources also are flowing from the Commerce and Agriculture Departments, from Health and Human Services, and from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Understanding the variety of available resources and creating a plan to interweave these multiple streams of Federal funds, will allow local governments to make significant progress in solving their community challenges.
Direct Payment to Individuals
Three stimulus payments, unemployment insurance, and tax credit adjustments over a nine month period delivered cash payments directly to individuals and households. While local governments were not directly involved in this process, community leaders should help ensure that everyone who was entitled to receive these payments is aware of their eligibility and the amounts available, connect them to nonprofit partners that can help residents claim these funds, and work with financial institutions that connect residents to banking.
Payments in 2020 came first under the CARES Act ($1,200 per adult with $500 per child). The second stimulus under the Consolidated Appropriations Act was smaller ($600 for both adults and children). The ARPA provided a third direct payment of $1,400 to individuals. All these measures had a variety of income caps for eligibility. For tax filers who did not receive a direct payment (via direct deposit or paper check) but were entitled to one, they can ask for it as part of their 2020 Federal tax return.
The ARPA also includes more generous provisions for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). Under the traditional rules, the maximum EITC for 2021 for a taxpayer with no qualifying children was scheduled to be a $543. Thanks to the ARPA, the maximum 2021 EITC is upped to $1,502. For 2021, the maximum EITC can range from $1,502 for someone with no qualifying children to $6,728 for someone with three or more qualifying children. The ARPA also expanded eligibility to those over 65 or between the ages of 19-25.
Under ARPA, the CTC will be worth up to $3,600 for children under 6 and $3,000 for children up to 17. The credit will be phased out for individual parents earning more than $75,000 and couples making above $150,000.
In the case of Unemployment Insurance, the ARP made several changes that will help family financial stability. For example, unemployment insurance payments will be increased by $300 per week and extends Emergency Unemployment Compensation from 24 to 53 weeks. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits for those who are self-employed, freelancers and gig workers, are also extended through September 6, 2021 and increases the total number of weeks from 50 to 79.
Of the $27.4 billion provided for rental assistance in the American Rescue Plan Act, $21.55 billion will be funded through the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. These funds are in addition to the $25 billion provided for the Treasury ERA Program through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (passed by Congress in December 2020). Together, the COVID-relief bills provide $46.5 billion for emergency rental assistance. States and localities must prioritize households with incomes below 50% of AMI or those who are unemployed and have been unemployed for 90-days. States and localities can provide additional prioritization of funds.
The Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) provides emergency assistance funds to assist low-income households pay for drinking water and wastewater utility bills. From both the American Rescue Plan Act and Consolidated Appropriations Act passed last December, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is aiming to provide over $1.1 billion in fund to states for subsequent distribution to community partners and households. LIHWAP funding must be obligated by grantees (States) by September 30, 2023, and funding must be expended by grantees by December 30, 2023.
Food & Nutrition
The ARPA extends the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) 15% increase in benefits through September 2021.This increase provides roughly $28 more per person, per month, or more than $100 more per month for a family of four, in additional SNAP benefits. USDA estimates that the extension will provide $3.5 billion in relief directly to over 41 million people. Additionally, monetary funds have been sent to states to support the administrative costs of increased SNAP participation. City leaders can work with nonprofits and county governments to help their residents apply and get the SNAP benefits they are eligible for. These funds will help cities keep their residents fed and create an additional stimulus for local food businesses.
Beyond this, there is another $400 million from the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Program for Individuals plus $100 Emergency Humanitarian Assistance (that includes food and shelter for local governments and organizations that are helping immigrants along the southern border). These are programs that require direct application to FEMA.
The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), also known as the Child Care Development Block Grant is $15 billion in one-time emergency funds to support childcare, including funding for childcare for essential workers. These funds will be awarded to states based on a formula and distributed through standard mechanisms. Healthcare workers, sanitation workers, and others deemed essential during the response to the pandemic can receive childcare assistance regardless of typical income eligibility requirements. City leaders have an opportunity to connect with state agency partners to discuss how these funds will be used and how the city can provide additional support to help residents and providers.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained here is not legal advice. It will be subject to change based on updates from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and any recipients should confirm applicability to their specific situation.