- The $1.9 trillion Biden stimulus law was enacted last week.
- Some elements could strengthen the nation’s social safety net in the wake of the pandemic.
- Provisions include larger tax credits and enhanced unemployment insurance.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
President Joe Biden signed a $1.9 trillion stimulus law last week, among the largest government rescue measures in American history.
Many of its provisions are directed at keeping individuals and families afloat as vaccinations become more widely available. Still, some aspects of the law may end up dramatically remaking the social safety net.
“This package sets a new and powerful precedent, especially for helping children and their families when they have limited or no income,” Indivar Dutta-Gupta, co-executive director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, said in a recent interview with Insider.
(1) $1,400 stimulus checks
The relief law includes a $1,400 direct payment for most taxpayers. Those will be distributed over the next few weeks, and some are already going out the door.
Individuals earning up to $75,000 and couples making up to $150,000 qualify for full checks. A married couple, then, can get $2,800. People can also collect an extra $1,400 per adult dependent, a change from the first two federal payouts.
People earning above those thresholds still qualify for a smaller direct payment. But eligibility is capped at individuals earning more than $80,000 and joint filers bringing in more than $160,000, meaning people and households making above those amounts are paid nothing.
(2) $300 federal unemployment benefits through Labor Day
The law provides $300 in weekly federal unemployment benefits until September 6. The measure renewed the government supplement to state unemployment checks for an extra six months.
It extends the length of various programs, such as the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for gig workers and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation for long-term unemployed people. Both will expire in September without additional action in Congress.
(3) Expanded tax credits
The law also beefs up the child tax credit for millions of families. For the next year, it provides $3,600 per child aged 5 and under, and $3,000 for each kid aged 6 to 17.
Payments were designated as “periodic” to clear Senate procedural hurdles, but Democrats want to implement advance monthly checks to families of up to $300, although it’s unclear if the IRS can accommodate that request. Advance checks could start going out on July 1, the legislation indicates.
Other tax credits are augmented as well, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. The law nearly triples the maximum amount a childless worker can receive, from $540 to $1500. The income cap for adults is also lifted from $16,000 to $21,000, a step widening its reach.
(4) Bigger SNAP benefits
The measure also aims to address hunger and food insecurity through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. It renews a 15% boost to SNAP benefits through September.
Put another way, the increase is equal to $27 more in SNAP benefits per person each month, or just over $100 monthly for a family of four, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.