While politicians, researchers, advocates and ordinary Americans have called for additional direct payments for most Americans, the government is already providing additional support to those struggling to make ends meet and deal with debt as the effects of the pandemic continue.
More than $20 billion in COVID aid was disbursed in the past week alone. Some of it may be on its way to you.
$15 billion from the expanded child tax credit
On Thursday, the IRS began handing out instant payments to households with children as part of a inflated child discount.
A one-year extension of the maximum amount per child of the credit from $2,000 to $3,600 was a key part of the latest pandemic relief package, which President Joe Biden signed in March.
Most parents receive direct monthly payments of up to $300 for each child under age 6 through the end of the year. For kids ages 6 to 17, the monthly payout is $250.
The direct deposits and paper checks represent half of the total credit. The other half can be taken as a refund when families file their 2021 taxes next year.
Biden has proposed maintaining expanded child credit until at least 2025, and leading Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, want to make the change permanent.
The IRS says the first payments of child tax credits, totaling about $15 billion, will go to about 35 million families. The IRS recently introduced a handy portal where parents can check their eligibility and track their payments.
Over $5 Billion in COVID-Related Tax Refunds
Biden’s COVID rescue law allows Americans who claimed unemployment benefits in 2020 to protect much of that money — $10,200 for individuals, $20,400 for couples filing jointly — from taxes.
Because the president signed the stimulus package in the middle of this year’s tax season, many Americans had already filed and paid their taxes before the change took effect.
If your income was less than $150,000 last year and you received unemployment, you may have overpaid in taxes. If so, you qualify for: a surprise tax refund.
The IRS on Wednesday began handing out another round of 4 million restitutions to people who were unemployed last year. Officials say the repayments have an average value of $1,265, equating to a total of about $5.06 billion in cash back.
The IRS says it will continue to refund taxes paid on unemployment throughout the summer. If you’ve already filed your taxes and are eligible for a refund, you’ll automatically get yours.
But keep in mind that the IRS is struggling with a backlog of 35 million tax returns, so delays in refunds are possible.
Also available: emergency housing assistance
Whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, the federal government has set aside a mountain of money to help you in the coming months.
For tenants unable to meet housing costs, $46.6 billion has been made available in emergency aid rental at state and local level. Eligible tenants can get an exemption to cover up to 18 months of missed and future rent.
The amount of aid varies from state to state. Some states offer eligible renters up to $4,600 per month. Others offer lump sum payments of as much as $25,000. In order to receive housing benefit, you must demonstrate that you are in need.
Homeowners facing the prospect of foreclosure due to the inability to make their mortgage payments may also seek stimulus relief.
The March COVID Relief Act created a $10 billion homeowners relief fund, with a $50 million minimum for each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. You can apply via the housing agency for your state or territory.
Applicants must prove that they are under financial stress due to the pandemic. You also cannot earn more than 150% of your area’s median income, and your home loan balance cannot exceed $548,250.
Other ways to boost your finances
If you don’t qualify for child support, unexpected tax refund or housing benefit, you have plenty of options to create some more financial breathing room.
If you carry multiple credit card balances and other high-interest debt, consider replacing them with a single debt consolidation loan. The lower interest rate will reduce the total cost of your debt and help you pay it off faster.
If you’re a homeowner who hasn’t refinanced your mortgage in the past year, you may be leaving money on the table. With mortgage rates below 3%, mortgage technology and data provider Black Knight estimates 13.9 million Americans could save on average $293 per month through refinancing.
To cut even deeper into your housing costs, little comparative shopping can reward you with savings the next time you renew or buy homeowners insurance. The same strategy can also save you save hundreds of dollars a year on car insurance.
Do you ever get that nagging feeling that you might be missing out on bargains when you shop online? Avoid overpaying by download a free browser add-on which automatically searches for lower prices and coupons before you check out.
And even if money is tight, you can still get a slice of today’s red-hot stock market. A wildly popular app helps you invest in a diversified portfolio with little more than “change” from daily purchases.