American Rescue Plan Offers Hope and Help

The newly enacted $1.9-trillion American Rescue Plan offers the possibility of widespread transformation, providing major, direct help to low-income families and individuals battling poverty. There are many provisions and programs that will benefit the more than 17,000 people served by Interfaith Works.

The sweeping law will provide relief to people facing eviction and homelessness, expand Federal programs to help individuals and families live lives of greater dignity and stability, and give state and local governments much-needed resources to close fiscal gaps and expand their services and programs. The law also will give relief to small businesses, including restaurants, which will help stabilize the employment situation for hourly wage workers who have suffered due to reduced hours and lost jobs.

Many thanks to President Joe Biden, U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Benjamin L. Cardin, and Reps. Jamie Raskin, John Sarbanes, and David Trone for supporting this historic plan to combat poverty as well as provide economic stimulus in response to COVID-19.

Here are some key issues addressed in the new law:

Housing and homelessness: The new law provides expanded emergency rental assistance, expanded availability of housing vouchers, rental assistance, and supportive services to expand access to affordable rental housing, assistance to homeowners to avoid foreclosures, and utility assistance. The new law does not extend the Federal eviction moratorium, which expires March 31. However, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has instituted a state moratorium while the COVID state of emergency is in place.

Direct stimulus payments: Roughly 2.5 million low- and moderate-income Maryland households will receive direct stimulus payments, totaling $6.25 billion.

Unemployment assistance: The law extends the availability of unemployment assistance through Sept. 6, with a $300/week supplement maintained through that date. The relief plan also exempts $10,200 of unemployment benefits received in 2020 from income taxes to avoid unexpected tax bills that many do not expect and cannot afford.

Federal child tax credit, Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): The Act makes the Federal Child Tax Credit available for children in families with low earnings or that lack earnings in a year, and it increases the credit’s maximum amount to $3,000 per child and $3,600 for children under age 6. According to information from Sens. Van Hollen and Cardin, expansion of the child tax credit in 2021 will benefit 85 percent of Maryland’s children, and lift 52,000 Maryland children out of poverty. The EITC will be expanded for workers who do not have children. The law raises the maximum EITC for workers without children from $540 to about $1,500.

Access to food: Benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as the food stamps program, will increase through September, and states will receive more funding to respond to expanding needs.

Health care access: The law includes several provisions to help more people get access to health care. It expands eligibility for premium subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, so more people will pay reduced rates to get coverage.

Behavioral health support: The law will direct billions to behavioral health funding, including $3 billion to curb substance abuse and $420 million for behavioral health clinics, along with new grants to support community-based and behavioral health organizations.

Learn more here from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Courtney Hall
Interfaith Works CEO

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