California Residents: Top 5 Things to Know About the Latest Stimulus
With the second stimulus bill now in action, let’s make sure you get the stimulus money you’re eligible for! If you’re a California resident, there’s some key information you need to know. (But if you’re not, make sure to read Beyond the Check: How the Second Stimulus Bill Will Benefit You.)
The coverage can be confusing. So to get all the money that’s due to you, take advantage of the changes from the new stimulus bill, and maximize your tax refund, there are five key pieces of information that pertain specifically to Californians.
1. Earned Income Tax Credit: CalEITC
Do you want to know more about how the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) can help your family this year?
The great news is, more families are eligible for the CalEITC this year. And the federal EITC has made it easier to get a larger rebate. When filing your 2020 tax return, you’ll have the option of using your 2019 income to claim an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). This change ensures that families who lost employment income in 2020 don’t lose eligibility for EITC and CTC or have their EITC/CTC payments reduced.
In California, ITIN filers and their families are also now eligible to receive the EITC.
Tip: For help, visit caleitc4me.org.
2. Stimulus check
Have you received a stimulus payment this month?
If you’ve heard about the stimulus check, but thought, “I probably won’t qualify,” take another look. A recent poll of SaverLife members showed that 8% mistakenly thought they weren’t due a check for inaccurate reasons such as not paying taxes or receiving government benefits. Just because you haven’t gotten a check, direct deposit, or EIP card yet doesn’t mean you aren’t due a payment. But you may have to file your 2020 taxes to receive it — even if you earned $0 in 2020.
Tip: We wrote about eligibility for the second federal stimulus here.
In fact, you may be eligible to receive a stimulus check from the federal government and from the State of California. Your household is eligible for a $600 payment if you qualify for the CalEITC, if you have an income below $75,000 including households with ITINs, enrolled in the CalWORKS program, receive SSI/SSP, or the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI). Some of these payments will start going out in mid-April, so watch out for more information.
In addition, there may be more federal funds coming your way, so keep an eye out as we update information.
3. Housing assistance
Do you need help paying rent or mortgage?
Be on the lookout for more rental assistance programs that will help both renters and landlords with payments. In the meantime, there are guidelines in place to protect tenants and homeowners during the pandemic. For instance, right now there is a ban on all COVID-related evictions in California through June 30, along with help to pay back rent. Tenants need to pay 25% of their rent each month by June 30, and declare that they had COVID related financial hardship. Keep an eye out for more information. In the meantime, learn more about what you can do to protect yourself and your family at Housingiskey.com and The United Way of CA.
And if you’re behind on your energy bills, visit the California Department of Community Services & Development to see if you qualify and to apply for help paying your bills.
4. Student loans
Are you struggling to make student loan debt payments?
Federal student loan payments are on pause through at least September 30, 2021. That date may be extended further. You may already have received notice from your student loan servicer with a notification that you need to pay, but stay tuned for more news on that front.
There is also more you can do to lower your monthly payments in the long term. This includes switching to an income-driven repayment plan.
More good news is on the way for Californians, specifically. On July 1, 2021, in California, a Student Borrower Bill of Rights will go into effect. This Bill of Rights will help protect borrowers from predatory lenders. In the meantime, borrowers may begin to file complaints against loan servicers through California’s Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI). And after July 1, borrowers will be able to get clearer answers from their services on repayment plans, loan forgiveness options, and how to avoid default.
5. Unemployment insurance
Have you lost your job or had your hours reduced?
Help is on the way. If you’ve already received payments in the past, California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) will automatically recalculate your payments, either online or via mail or text. What this means:
- You’ll receive an additional $300/week through March 13, even if you have already reached the 30-week limit from past payments. EDD will automatically recalculate and notify you.
- If you are self-employed or a contractor, you will need to submit proof of employment or self-employment.
- A new $100 per week benefit is now available through March 13 to self-employed individuals who received at least $5,000 in annual income but were eligible for regular state unemployment benefits, not Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
Keep an eye out for notices in the mail from EDD. These notices may require immediate action to trigger these additional benefits. For information on how to file a claim, go here. We strongly recommend you apply online.
Note: If you have not applied for unemployment benefits before, you will need to register.
Tip: EDD can also help you look for work.
Note: You will need to pay taxes on your unemployment income when you file!
It’s a lot of information taking the time to look into any of these areas that apply to you will pay off. We want to make sure you get the money you’re eligible for, so you can come out of this pandemic in great financial shape!