On March 10th, the House voted to pass the latest stimulus package and, the following day, President Biden signed it into law. The American Rescue Plan provides direct relief to residents, small businesses, schools, non-profits, and municipalities in New York’s 16th Congressional District. Below are some frequently asked questions and answers about how to access federal COVID-19 relief.

STIMULUS CHECKS

The American Rescue Plan delivered another round of up to $1,400 in nontaxable relief checks to adults with incomes up to $75,000 and families with incomes up to $150,000. Adults earning more than $75,000 but no more than $80,000 are eligible for a reduced relief check. 

You can check the status of your third stimulus payment here: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment 

Am I eligible for a stimulus check this round?

  • If you make $75,000, are head of household with an income of $112,500 or joint filers with an income of $150,000 you will receive the maximum stimulus check. 

  • Those who fall somewhere in between the cap will receive a stimulus smaller than $1,400. Dependents ages 19-24 are also eligible if their parents meet the above stipulations. 

  • Adult dependents: Adult dependents (those who are 19-24, retirees, or adults with disabilities who rely on another person for more than half of their expenses) are now eligible for payments, as long as the filer who claims them as a dependent meets the eligibility requirements listed above. The check will be sent directly to the filer who claims the dependent, not the dependent.

  • Mixed status or undocumented families: For families of mixed status or with an undocumented parent, if one family member has an Social Security Number (SSN) and qualifies based on the above stipulations, the individual with an SSN is eligible to receive a stimulus of $1,400. For undocumented parents with children born in the United States, their children can receive a check as long as the parents filed taxes with individual tax identification numbers (ITINs). 

What tax return year is the government using to determine eligibility for a stimulus check?

Under the bill, the IRS is directed to make payments initially based on people's 2019 tax returns or their 2020 returns if they've already been filed.

What if I never received my first or second stimulus check?

If you were eligible to receive the first or second stimulus check and didn’t receive it, you must claim the Recovery Rebate Credit when you file your 2020 taxes. This form is for paper filers. E-filers should have the option in whatever software they used to file. For more information, visit the IRS Recovery Rebate Credit webpage.

Are stimulus checks tax free?

Yes, stimulus checks are not considered taxable income; therefore, they will not be taxed and also will not affect your eligibility for any federal government assistance or benefit program.

CHILD TAX CREDIT

The American Rescue Plan expands the Childhood Tax Credit (CTC), and this expanded and improved Child Tax Credit will lift an estimated 9,200 children in New York’s 16th Congressional District out of poverty.The expanded tax credit applies to the 2021 tax year. However, starting in July 2021 and running through December 2021, eligible families will receive half of the credit in advance through refundable monthly payments. The remaining half of the credit can be claimed when you file your 2021 tax return.

Am I eligible for the Child Tax Credit benefits?

  • Under the expansion of the CTC, families with children under the age of 6 will receive $3,600 per child. Families with a child between 6-17 will receive $3,000 per child. Credit will also be available to children who turn 17 in 2021. 

  • For married couples filing a joint tax return with incomes of $150k, heads of households filing with an income of $112,500 and all others with incomes of $75,000, the CTC will be lowered or phased out accordingly. 

  • If you had a baby in 2021, you are eligible for the child tax credit. The bill includes a provision that allows any person who gives birth in 2021 to receive the third $1,400 stimulus check for that child after filing their tax return in 2022.

How do I qualify for the advanced monthly CTC payments?

To qualify for advanced Child Tax Credit payments, you — and your spouse, if you filed a joint return — must have:

  • Filed a 2019 or 2020 tax return and claimed the Child Tax Credit on the return; or

  • Given us your information in 2020 to receive the Economic Impact Payment using the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool; and

  • A main home in the United States for more than half the year (the 50 states and the District of Columbia) or file a joint return with a spouse who has a main home in the United States for more than half the year; and

  • A qualifying child who is under age 18 at the end of 2021 and who has a valid Social Security number; and

  • Made less than certain income limits, as specified above.

If you have not yet filed a tax return or provided relevant information to the IRS, see here for how to provide the information needed to receive advanced CTC payments: https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/advance-child-tax-credit-payments-in-2021 

For more information on the Child Tax Credit, visit https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/advance-child-tax-credit-payments-in-2021 

EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT 

For tax year 2021, the American Rescue Plan raised the maximum EITC for workers without children from roughly $540 to roughly $1,500 and raised the income cap to qualify from about $16,000 to about $21,000. It also expanded the age range of eligible workers without children to include younger adults aged 19-24 (excluding those under 24 attending school at least part time), as well as people aged 65 and over.

The EITC temporary expansion includes young adults formerly in foster care who can now access this tax credit beginning at age 18, as well as young adults experiencing homelessness. This applies to the taxable year December 31, 2020 to January 1, 2022. This expanded EITC allows foster and youth experiencing homelessness to claim the EITC even if they are full-time students and working (previously that would have limited access to EITC).

RENT AND MORTGAGE RELIEF

The American Rescue Plan included over $5 billion in rent relief and over $500 million in mortgage assistance for struggling renters and homeowners in New York State. 

What type of rental assistance can I receive?

The rent relief provision includes assistance for rental arrears, temporary rental assistance and utility arrears to low and moderate-income households. Households may receive:

  • Up to 12 months of rental arrears payments for rents accrued on or after March 13, 2020

  • Up to 3 months of additional rental assistance if the household is expected to spend 30 percent or more of their gross monthly income on rent

  • Up to 12 months of electric or gas utility arrears payments for arrears that accrued on or after March 13, 2020

Am I eligible for rental assistance? 

New York residents are eligible for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • Your household income is at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI); or

  • On or after March 13, 2020, a member of your household received unemployment benefits or incurred significant costs or experienced financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; or

  • The applicant is obligated to pay rent at their primary residence and has rental arrears (overdue rent) at their current residence for rent owed on or after March 13, 2020; or

  • Household is at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability

There are no immigration status requirements to qualify for the program. For the first 30 days of the program, priority will be given to applicants who meet certain requirements, which you can read more about here. After 30 days, applications will be processed on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

How do I apply for rental assistance?

You can apply for New York’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program at this link: https://otda.ny.gov/programs/emergency-rental-assistance/ 

What type of mortgage assistance can I receive? 

The COVID Homeowner Assistance Fund provides financial assistance to homeowners at risk of mortgage delinquencies, loss of utilities or home energy services, or displacements. 

The NYS Homeowner Assistance Fund program is not yet accepting applications. If you would like to be notified when the program opens for applications in summer 2021, please email HAF@NYSHCR.ORG. For more information, visit https://hcr.ny.gov/node/22021#covid-homeowner-assistance-fund 

UNEMPLOYMENT SUPPORT

The American Rescue Plan extends federal unemployment benefits, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), until the week ending September 5, 2021. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) is also extended an additional 25 weeks, and New Yorkers will receive an additional $300 in weekly benefits through September 6, 2021. Workers who lost their jobs or had their hours reduced during the pandemic are also eligible to have their COBRA health insurance premiums fully subsidized from April 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021. 


How do I learn if I am eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance? 

You can find the full eligibility requirements for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance here: https://dol.ny.gov/pandemic-unemployment-assistance 

Claimants must continue to certify unemployment every week to receive the extended benefits. If you are already receiving unemployment benefits, there is no need to reapply or contact the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) unless you are told to submit a new application or your Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefit year has ended and you have received ten times your weekly benefit rate in wages since you first filed for unemployment. 


How do I apply for unemployment benefits?

Constituents can apply for unemployment benefits online by clicking here. You will be asked if you want to receive benefits by debit card or direct deposit when you apply. 

For COBRA premium assistance, you should receive a notice from your healthcare plan or issuer on your eligibility to elect COBRA continuation coverage and receive premium assistance. Please see here for FAQs about COBRA premium assistance

 

FUNERAL ASSISTANCE

Those who lost loved ones to COVID-19 will be able to apply for retroactive reimbursements for burial costs. Applicants can receive up to $9,000 per burial.  The deceased's documentation status is not considered, but the applicants must be U.S. citizens, legal residents, asylees, refugees, or non-citizen nationals.

How do I apply for the funds?

To apply through the FEMA Disaster Assistance Helpline, you must call 844-684-6333.  The call center is open from 9am to 9pm ET.

Before you call, please collect relevant documentation. The applicant(s) must provide: 

  • a copy of the death certificate. The death certificate must indicate the death "may have been caused by" or "was likely a result of" COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms. Similar phrases that indicate a high likelihood of COVID-19 are also considered sufficient.

  • proof of funeral expenses incurred. Documentation (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) must include the applicant's name as the responsible person for the expense, the deceased individual's name, the amount of funeral expenses, and that funeral expenses were incurred after January 20, 2020

Please note, FEMA will only award COVID-19 funeral assistance for a deceased individual on a single application. If multiple individuals contribute toward funeral expenses, they should register under a single application as applicant and co-applicant. 

What are eligible funeral expenses?

You can find a full list of eligible funeral expenses and more information about funeral assistance funds here

EMERGENCY BROADBAND BENEFIT

The Emergency Broadband Benefit provides a household with up to a $50/month subsidy on your broadband service and associated equipment rentals. In addition, it provides a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer. 


Am I eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit? 

You are eligible for this benefit if you or someone in your household meets at least one of the criteria below:

  • Participate in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline, or are at 135% of the federal poverty level; or

  • Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program; or

  • Received a Federal Pell Grant this year; or

  • Experienced a substantial loss of income due since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or

  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider's existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

How do I apply for these funds? 

You can apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program here: https://www.checklifeline.org/lifeline/?id=nv_flow&ebbp=true. If you live in Westchester, you can also apply by calling 914-371-9220. If you live in the Bronx, you can apply by calling 718-530-7710.

SMALL BUSINESS RELIEF

Federal relief for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic have come through several different programs. 

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides a loan backed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that helps businesses keep their workers employed. The SBA is no longer accepting PPP applications. If you need assistance with an ongoing PPP application, please contact our office. 

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund provides grants of at least $1,000 to at most $10,000,000 to restaurants and other eligible related businesses to keep their doors open. Grant awards are calculated as follows:

  • You can find a list of eligible business entities here: https://esd.ny.gov/sba-restaurant-revitalization-funding-program 

  • Due to overwhelming response, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund application portal is closed for new applicants. When it reopens, applicants can submit an online application here. Applicants can also apply through SBA-recognized Point of Sale vendors such as Square and Toast. For more information on the application form and necessary documentation, please click here

Shuttered Venue Operators Grant provides grants of up to $10,000,000 to shuttered venues. Grant awards are calculated as follows:

Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance provides loans of up to $10,000 to small businesses in low-income communities. The Small Business Administration is actively reaching out to EIDL applicants who qualify. Applicants are eligible if their business is located in a low-income community, can demonstrate a more than 30% reduction in revenue during an eight-week period starting March 2, 2020, and have 300 or fewer employees. Please click here for more eligibility details. Applications are currently by invitation only. SBA is reaching out to EIDL applicants who are eligible to apply for Targeted EIDL Advance and Supplemental Targeted EIDL Advance payments. Constituents can submit an application for the EIDL program here

FOOD AND NUTRITION

The American Rescue Plan included a 15% SNAP maximum benefit increase through the summer 2021. The increase amounts to about $28 more per person per month for all participating households, or just over $100 per month in additional food assistance for a family of four.

How do I check SNAP eligibility? 

To see if you are eligible for SNAP in New York: https://mybenefits.ny.gov/screening/ScreeningWelcome_input.nysmybw

How do I apply for SNAP?

Once you check eligibility, apply for SNAP here: https://mybenefits.ny.gov/mybenefits/NewAccountCreation!input.nysmybw

The American Rescue Plan also extends the Pandemic EBT program and includes $5 billion nationwide to ensure help children who would typically receive meals in schools can still access meals even when schools are closed through a state-issued, SNAP-like benefit card. 

For New York-specific information, including an FAQ available in Spanish at the bottom of the page, please go here: https://otda.ny.gov/SNAP-COVID-19/Frequently-Asked-Questions-Pandemic-EBT.asp 

Before the American Rescue Plan, the Women, Infants, Children (WIC) program provided $9/month for children and $11/month for women for fruits and vegetables of their choosing. ARP made funding available for a four-month increase in the benefit of *up to* $35/month for fresh fruit and vegetables. 

How do I apply for WIC? 

To apply for WIC: https://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/nutrition/wic/how_to_apply.htm

For a listing of all local agencies providing WIC Services in the Bronx and Westchester: https://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/nutrition/wic/local_agencies.htm