Now that the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 has been passed by both the House and the Senate and signed by President Biden on March 11, Bronx residents will start to be able to get some relief.
And although having been signed on Thursday, many Bronxites are already reporting deposits of the $1,400 stimulus checks into their accounts.
But what does the plan mean for The Bronx as a whole?
According to Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), an estimated 645,696 Bronx households will receive $1.611 billion in direct payments and is based on 2020 population data for the borough.
Individuals making up to $75,000 a year will receive $1,400 and eligible families will also receive $1,400 per child and adult dependent which can add up to $5,600 for an average family of four.
Also wrapped up into the bill is a much needed extension of the $300 weekly enhanced unemployment benefits which was set to expire tomorrow, March 14 but will now instead expire on September 6, 2021. This is far less than the initial $600 weekly unemployment benefit during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic which was cut in half for the second round to $300.
We wrote last year that any stimulus relief needed to re-enact the $600 original weekly benefit to have any meaningful impact. Progressives in the Congress fought to raise it to $400 but ultimately they caved to pressures from centrist Democrats.
At the very least, unemployed Bronx residents do not have to worry anymore that their enhanced unemployment benefits will expire tomorrow and instead will be extended for another 6 months.
Considering that unemployment in The Bronx reached historic levels of 25% and in some areas even greater, this is some breathing room for many.
Speaking of unemployment, the bill also provides a waiver for the first $10,200 on unemployment benefits so you won’t have to pay taxes on that amount which is another huge relief for residents who at this point wouldn’t be able to pay the full tax bill on benefits received thus far.
Another aspect of the bill that can be transformative for lifting Bronx families and children out of poverty is the Child Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care Credit.
Both of these can potentially leave more money in low income families pockets where they belong by increasing the amount of childcare expenses subjected to the credit from 35% to 50%. That means a one child household can claim up to $8,000 in expenses for that child or dependent and up to $16,000 for multiple children or dependents.
The Child Tax Credit has also dramatic implications for Bronx families as the credit per child went from $2,000 to $3,000 for children and $3,600 for children 5 years old and younger. Given that the median income for The Bronx is barely above $22k a year, most families will get the full amounts which begin to phase out above $75,000 for single filers and $150,000 for joint filers.
All of this together will far exceed the estimated $1.6 billion Schumer reported should be coming into Bronx households which hopefully will begin to ameliorate the precarious financial situation any find themselves in as a result of the economic crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic.
We still need to pass Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, cancel student debt, provide real aid to renters and landlords as well as homeowners if we truly want to avert a crisis not to mention that the stimulus check should be a full $2,000 a month retroactive to the first on a monthly basis through the pandemic.
But it’s a start.