President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan on Friday, and some taxpayers had already received direct payments into their bank accounts by the past weekend, the first flow of economic relief to come from the $1.9 trillion (with a T) committed by the new administration to combat the economic and health effects of COVID-19.
States, counties, and cities might not receive their coronavirus recovery funds quite so quickly, but they’re getting far more than the $1,400 going to individuals. Nationally, federally recognized tribes will receive $20 billion (with a B). California’s economy will “roar back from the pandemic,” Governor Newsom stated, with the help of roughly $42 billion from the U.S. Treasury. Santa Barbara County will receive $86.6 million (with an M) directly, to be spent by the end of 2024. Its cities will get a total of $88 million to help make up shortfalls in revenue:
Santa Maria — $40.61 million
Santa Barbara — $22.59 million
Lompoc — $13.19 million
Goleta — $5.62 million
Carpinteria — $2.52 million
Guadalupe — $1.46 million
Solvang — $1.10 million
Buellton — $0.96 million
FOR INDIVIDUALS: Santa Barbara County residents’ median income level in 2019 was just under $75,000, the number that qualifies individuals for a direct Rescue Plan payment of $1,400, which is based on 2019 or 2020 income tax records. The same goes for heads of households earning up to $112,500. Married couples filing jointly and earning up to $150,000 will receive up to $2,800. Dependents also receive $1,400, and the Rescue Plan allows families to claim dependents who are over 17 or elderly for the first time. This is the third stimulus payment, and for those who didn’t file, the payment can be claimed through a 2020 tax form.
More relief comes in the form of an increase of 15 percent in the food-stamp maximum to the end of September; $800 million to the Women, Infants, and Children program; $37 million for a food program for seniors; plus $1.1 billion to states for admin costs.
In voting for the American Rescue Plan (ARP), Santa Barbara Congressmember Salud Carbajal pointed to its wide social benefits: “The direct payments, unemployment benefits, tax credits, and health-care subsidies will help lift nearly 12 million people out of poverty,” and he called the bill a “bold investment” in vaccines, schools, and small business. (The bill, HR 1319, can be read in full here.)
WORKPLACES AND WORKERS: The county’s unemployment rate is up from a depth of 14 percent in April 2020, rising to November’s 5.8 percent, closer to the pre-pandemic figure of 4.9 percent. But January 2021 was 7.7 percent, which represents roughly 7,400 jobs lost since the previous month and 18,700 since one year before. A majority of the jobs lost since January 2020 are in the restaurant and hotel trades, 11,600 in all. The Rescue Plan — which contains dollar amounts to be disbursed nationwide — includes aid to the hospitality industry, live venues, farmers, food banks, transit, and more:
- $28.6 billion in grants for restaurants and bars through Small Business Administration; $5 billion is earmarked to those making less than $500,000
- $350 billion to keep frontline workers on the job, and also water, sewer, and broadband workers
- $4 billion in block grants for mental-health and substance-abuse programs, including $280 million for first-responder “burnout”
- $7.25 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program, and $15 billion to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program
- Weekly federal unemployment benefits of $300 set to expire March 14 are extended to September 6. (Up to $10,200 of 2020 benefits could be federal-income-tax exempt)
FOR SCHOOLS AND STUDENTS: Nearly $130 billion goes to improve ventilation, reduce class sizes, buy protective gear, and hire support staff to increase safety at schools. Another $7.1 billion will reimburse schools and libraries for internet service, hotspots, and computers for students. Also,
- $800 million to help homeless students, $5 billion in an electronic payment system for school and summer meals
- $3 billion for individuals with disabilities
- $1.3 billion each for after-school and summer enrichment programs
- $40 billion for revenues lost by higher education, with at least half to be emergency financial aid to hungry and homeless students
- Student loans forgiven between December 2020 and January 2026 are nontaxable income.
FOR FAMILIES: A study by Columbia University estimated the ARP’s child tax credit alone would cut child poverty in half. For 2021, it rises from $2,000 per child to $3,000, and to $3,600 for a child under age 6. Families that don’t file can claim a credit refund instead. Also,
- The childcare tax credit for 2021 doubles to $8,000 for one child and $16,000 for two or more children.
- $39 billion goes to childcare provider block grants.
- Head Start programs receive $1 billion for safety measures.
STAYING HOUSED: As much as $10 billion goes to states for rental, mortgage, utility, tax, and insurance help for those affected by COVID. Also, state and local governments can access $4.75 billion for the HOME Investment Partnership program, affordable housing, and acquisition of non-congregate shelter spaces.
INSURANCE: The Affordable Care Act (a k a Obamacare) capped subsidies at 400 percent above the poverty level. The American Rescue Plan now subsidizes Obamacare’s silver plan to 8.5 percent of income. For those below 150 percent of the poverty level, the payment is zero (down from 4 percent).
Also, anyone on unemployment in 2021 can claim 113 percent of the poverty level and qualify for a fully subsidized silver-level ACA health plan. And, for those who lost their job and employer’s insurance plan and are on COBRA, the subsidy is 100 percent.
TO ‘CRUSH THE VIRUS’: Van Do-Reynoso, director of Public Health for Santa Barbara County, called herself “thrilled” to know $55.5 billion would be invested in the nation’s COVID-19 response. “I am looking forward to seeing the flow of dollars into Santa Barbara County,” she said, so that “all members of our community will have access to testing, isolation and quarantine, case management and vaccines.”
The Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund gets $10 billion to enable “work, education, and health monitoring, including remote options, in response to the public health emergency.” Each state is to receive $100 million, with $4.7 billion to be split based on rural population and poverty level. Another $51 billion goes to testing, contact tracing, and surveillance, including:
- $20 billion to vaccination programs through the Centers for Disease Control, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Indian Health Services
- $7.6 billion to Community Health Centers
- $7.6 billion to hire 100,000 more full-time public-health workers
- $1.75 billion to surveil for coronavirus mutations
- $10 billion for the domestic manufacture of protective gear
- $8.7 billion in Global Health Funding to slow the virus and its mutations.
To check the status of your 2021 Economic Impact Payment, visit irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment.