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Stimulus checks may arrive as soon as next week

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This Friday (March 12), President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill that will officially launch actions associated with his administration's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, a plan meant to propel the nation's economy forward as it struggles to recover from the devastating impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The relief package includes a plan to get stimulus checks into the bank accounts and/or mailboxes of most Americans as quickly as possible. 

For some, the question of exactly when these checks will arrive and who will receive them may be confusing. 

The information below, provided by CNN, aims to address these questions and more by outlining how most Americans can expect to be benefited from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus package.  

If your family makes less than $160,000 a year

The bill provides direct payments worth up to $1,400 per person to married couples earning less than $160,000, heads of households earning less than $120,000 a year, and individuals earning less than $80,000 a year.

The stimulus payments will phase out faster this time than they have in the past -- but for those who do qualify, the new payments will top up the $600 checks approved in December, bringing recipients to a total of $2,000 apiece.

Individuals earning less than $75,000 will receive the full $1,400. Married couples earning less than $150,000 a year will receive $2,800 -- and families with children are eligible for an additional $1,400 per dependent. Heads of households earning less than $112,500 a year will also receive the full $1,400 plus another $1,400 per dependent.

The income thresholds will be based on a taxpayer's most recent return. If they've already filed a 2020 return by the time the payment is sent, the IRS will base eligibility on their 2020 adjusted gross income. If not, it will be based on the 2019 return or the information submitted through an online portal set up last year for people who don't usually file tax returns.

If you are unemployed

The jobless will receive a $300 weekly federal boost to unemployment benefits and get those payments through September 6. Also, two key pandemic jobless benefits programs will be extended for the same period.

The bill also calls for making the first $10,200 of unemployment payments tax-free for households with annual incomes under $150,000.

Freelancers, gig workers, independent contractors and certain people affected by the pandemic can receive benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, while the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program increases the duration of payments for those in the traditional state unemployment system.

Out-of-work Americans will start running out of benefits in the two programs this weekend, when provisions in December's $900 billion relief package begin phasing out.

The $300 enhancement that was part of the December deal also ends this weekend.

If you lack sufficient food

Food stamp recipients will see a 15% increase in benefits continue through September, instead of having it expire at the end of June.

And families whose children's schools are closed may be able to receive Pandemic-EBT benefits through the summer if their state opts to continue it. The program provides funds to replace free- and reduced-price meals that kids would have been given in school.

If you're behind on your rent or mortgage

The bill will send roughly $20 billion to state and local governments to help low-income households cover back rent, rent assistance and utility bills.

It authorizes about $10 billion to help struggling homeowners pay their mortgages, utilities and property taxes.

The bill also provides $5 billion to help states and localities assist those at risk of experiencing homelessness by providing safe, socially distant housing, for example. Another $5 billion goes to emergency housing vouchers for those who are homeless.

If you have children

Many families with minor children will be able to claim a larger child tax credit for 2021. Low-income parents, in particular, would benefit.

Qualifying families can receive a child tax credit of $3,600 for each child under 6 and $3,000 for each one under age 18, up from the current credit of up to $2,000 per child under age 17.

The enhanced portion of the credit will be available for single parents with annual incomes up to $75,000 and joint filers making up to $150,000 a year.

The tax credit will also become fully refundable so that more low-income parents could take advantage of it. Plus, households can receive payments monthly, rather than a lump sum once a year, which is aimed at making it easier for them to cover their expenses.

Families paying for child care services can receive some additional aid. The bill will provide $39 billion to child care providers, some of which must be used to help families struggling to pay the cost.

If you're sick

If you're sick, quarantining or caring for an ill loved one or a child whose school is closed, the bills may provide your employer an incentive to offer paid sick and family leave.

Unlike Biden's initial proposal, the bill does not reinstate mandatory paid family and sick leave approved in a previous COVID relief package. But it will continue to provide tax credits to employers who voluntarily choose to offer the benefit through October 1.

Last year, Congress guaranteed many workers two weeks pay if they contracted Covid or were quarantining. It also provided an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave to those who were staying home with kids whose schools were closed. Those benefits expired in December.

If you need health insurance

More Americans can qualify for heftier federal premium subsidies for Affordable Care Act policies for two years.

Enrollees will pay no more than 8.5% of their income towards coverage, down from nearly 10% now. Also, those earning more than the current cap of 400% of the federal poverty level -- about $51,000 for an individual and $104,800 for a family of four in 2021 -- will become eligible for help.

Lower-income enrollees can have their premiums eliminated completely for two years, and those collecting unemployment benefits can sign up for coverage with no premiums in 2021.

Also, laid-off workers who want to remain on their employer health insurance plans through COBRA will not pay any premiums from April through the end of September.

If you own a small business

The bill provides $15 billion to the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan program, which provides long-term, low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration. Severely impacted small businesses with fewer than 10 workers will be given priority for some of the money.

It also provides $25 billion for a new grant program specifically for bars and restaurants. Eligible businesses may receive up to $10 million and can use the money for a variety of expenses, including payroll, mortgage and rent, utilities and food and beverages.

The Paycheck Protection Program, which is currently taking applications for second-round loans, would get an additional $7 billion and the bills would make more non-profit organizations eligible.

Another $175 million would be used for outreach and promotion, creating a Community Navigator Program to help target eligible businesses.

Who is unlikely to see much assistance from the relief package?

There will not be a boost in pay for workers who earn at or just above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

The Senate parliamentarian ruled in late February that increasing the hourly threshold to $15 does not meet a strict set of guidelines needed to move forward in the reconciliation process, which would allow Senate Democrats to pass the relief bill with a simple majority and no Republican votes.

Click here for more information from the White House's website on the bill. 


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