Beyond the Check: How the Second Stimulus Bill Will Benefit You

There has been a ton of news coverage about the second round of stimulus payments. Whether or not you’ve received a stimulus check, there’s more to the bill that could potentially benefit you.

You probably don’t have time to read the 500+ pages of legislation, so we’ve done that for you. This post is a good overview of the elements of the law that might apply to you. And stay tuned, because in the coming weeks, we’ll be providing more information and resources as they come out.

For now, we’ve separated everything about the stimulus bill into:

  • Actions you should take immediately
  • Things you should do soon
  • Policies and programs that may benefit you in the future

Actions to take right now

The last stimulus payments were made on January 15th. If yours was direct deposited or added to your Economic Impact Payment Card, you’ve already received it. If it’s coming in the mail as a check, you may not have gotten it yet. Check your mail or your EIP card to see if you have received it.

Tip: You can check the status of your payment using the IRS Get My Payment tool.

If you already have food stamp (SNAP) benefits, you’re eligible for a 15% higher benefit limit, which you’ll receive automatically. Note that there may be a delay of up to a month. This increase is good through June 30, 2021, so if you’ve been considering applying for SNAP benefits, now’s the time.

SNAP eligibility has also been extended to cover college students who are eligible for a federal or state work study program or with an expected family contribution of zero. Learn more about getting immediate food assistance at usa.gov/food-help, or call 1-844-USA-GOV1 (1-844-872-4681) to ask any question about the U.S. government for free. This line is available 8:00am – 8:00pm Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

If you’re a small business owner or sole proprietor needing extra economic support, you may be eligible to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan and an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) through the Small Business Administration (SBA). However, you can’t use the PPP loan for the same purpose as the EIDL. Find out more about all of your options here. Note that the rules around loan forgiveness have changed, so familiarize yourself with those.

Tip: The SBA has a hotline to answer questions: 1-800-659-2955, 7 days a week from 7:00am to 9:00pm. The SBA also offers free local advice, including info on the EIDL advance. Find a local partner here.

Actions to take soon

In the coming weeks, there are a few more actions you can proactively take to make the most of the new stimulus law.

The most important action is to file your taxes. If you qualify for a stimulus payment, but it has not been issued by January 15th, you’ll need to file your 2020 taxes in order to receive it. Our last article, “Have You Received Your Second Stimulus Payment Yet?” will give you more information about your eligibility.

Filing your taxes may also enable you to receive a tax refund and/or Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which can be helpful. For 2020, the government is allowing you to claim the EITC based on your 2019 income. If you’ve lost income this year, you may be able to use this to get a larger tax refund. SaverLife estimates that 49% of our members should use the EITC lookback to get a larger tax refund, so there’s a high likelihood this applies to you!

Note: Mixed-immigration status families are eligible for the second stimulus payment and retroactively eligible for the first one! If you’re eligible but haven’t received it, you’ll need to file your taxes to receive it.

Tip: If the idea of filing your taxes is intimidating, consider that many people qualify for free brand-name tax prep software. Check out this article on how to file your taxes for free.

A word of warning: Many services offer your tax refund earlier in exchange for a fee or a percent of your refund. These products can cause problems, particularly if you miscalculate your anticipated refund and get a loan for more than you’re due — in which case, you will owe the service money! You also get less money at the end of the day, of course, because these services often have predatory terms of service with high fees. SaverLife wants to make sure you maximize your tax refund instead of paying some of it to a rapid refund or refund anticipation loan company.

Actions to take later

There are also a few things from the stimulus bill you can keep in mind as the year goes along. You don’t necessarily need to take immediate action, but these may be items for your to-do list at some point.

Student loan debt

The federal student loan moratorium has now been extended to September 30, 2021. You may have already received or will soon receive notice from your student loan servicer that it’s time to pay. And there may be more you can do to lower your monthly payments, including switching to income-driven repayment plans.

Rental and mortgage assistance

As housing assistance programs roll out, review your housing and rent status. An eviction moratorium has now been extended through March 31, 2021. We’re waiting to hear more about how to apply for these programs, but you may be eligible for the new rental assistance program if:

  • you’re behind on rent
  • you make 50% or less of your area median income
  • and you have been unemployed for 90 or more days

It’s a good idea to communicate with your landlord or bank to make payment arrangements if you may need extra time or help.

Internet access

Keep an eye out for broadband access opportunities. You may be able to receive better or cheaper internet access soon. We’ll update you as more details become available.

Pell grants

The Federal Pell Grant is typically awarded to undergraduates who have a high degree of unmet financial need. Within this stimulus bill, eligibility for Pell grants has been extended, with wider income eligibility. Additionally, if you previously couldn’t qualify because you were incarcerated, had a drug conviction, or had used up your Pell grant for a for-profit college that has closed, you may now be eligible.

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We’ll post again next week with California-specific policies for residents of that state. And if you’re not a Californian, stay tuned for more updates on the latest stimulus bill soon.

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