What’s in the $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan?
A Breakdown of Congress’s Latest Relief Package
On March 11, 2020, President Biden signed a third major stimulus package into law, providing much-needed relief to the millions of struggling American families, businesses, as well as state and local governments. Called the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the $1.9 trillion stimulus package provides a third round of direct payments to qualifying individuals and families, extends and replenishes funding for important jobless benefits enacted under the CARES Act last year—including Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)—and bolsters aid for sole proprietors and small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
We are especially grateful for the increase in funding for libraries and the arts, including the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, which will receive $135 million each, and the Institute for Museum and Library Service, which will receive $200 million. The Guild had especially lobbied on behalf of increased funding to libraries, which have suffered billions of dollars in losses, forcing cuts in staffing, purchases, and programming. This new injection of funds will provide fiscal stability to our nation’s most vital cultural agencies—which were often subject to threats of budget cuts under the previous administration and have been facing unique pandemic-related challenges—enabling them to pursue their missions of supporting libraries, museums, organizations, and working artists.
Below is a breakdown of the key provisions of the new package that authors should be aware of. As always, we will continue to update the COVID-19 Resources page on our website with more information about these programs in the coming days as new information becomes available.
DIRECT ECONOMIC IMPACT PAYMENTS
- The ARP provides direct economic impact payments of $1,400 per eligible individual and $2,800 for couples making up to $150,000 per year. Eligible families will also receive an additional $1,400 payment per child and adult dependent, amounting to $5,600 for an average family of four.
- Benefits will start phasing out for individuals earning more than $75,000 ($150,000 for couples) and will be eliminated for individuals earning $80,000 ($160,000 for couples) per year. The direct economic impact payment elimination threshold under the ARP is lower than the thresholds in previous relief bills, which eliminated benefits at annual earnings of $100,000 per individual and $200,000 per couple.
PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE
- PUA benefits for self-employed and gig workers have been extended through September 6, 2021.
- The ARP increases the number of total weeks for PUA benefits from 50 weeks to 79 weeks—for a possible total of 86 weeks of eligibility—following the increase from 39 to 50 weeks under the second stimulus bill that was passed in December.
PANDEMIC EMERGENCY UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION
- The ARP Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides additional weeks of assistance to traditional workers after the exhaustion of their state unemployment benefits, has been extended through September 6, 2021.
- The number of total weeks for PEUC benefits has been increased from 24 to 53 weeks (PEUC benefits were increased from 13 to 24 weeks in the preceding December 2020 relief bill) to cover people who have almost used up all their benefits.
FEDERAL PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION
- Unemployed individuals will continue to receive an additional $300-per-week FPUC benefit in addition to their state benefits through September 6, 2021. The benefit amount is a continuation of the lower FPUC benefit passed in the second COVID-19 relief bill, a decrease from the $600 per week initially provided under the CARES Act.
- The ARP makes $10,200 in unemployment benefits (per individual filer) nontaxable for households making less than $150,000.
- The child tax credit has been increased to $3,600 for children under six, and $3,000 for children aged between six and 17.
- The earned income tax credit for adults without children has been increased from $543 to $1,500, and the income limit to qualify has been increased from $16,000 to $21,000.
MIXED EARNERS UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION
- The $100 supplemental unemployment benefit for mixed earners has been extended through the month of September, increasing the total amount that Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) recipients can receive this year to $3,600. The MEUC benefit was included in the December relief package following strong lobbying by the Guild and partner organizations, both individually and as part of a coalition, to allow freelance creative professionals who received income from both W-2- and 1099-based sources to receive the PUA benefits that many states were denying them. MEUC allowsindividuals who have at least $5,000 per year in self-employment income, but are disqualified from receiving PUA because they are otherwise eligible for regular state unemployment benefits, to receive a federally funded $100-per-week additional benefit—if their state opts in. Unfortunately, the ARP doesn’t increase the weekly benefit amount from $100 to $150 as we had hoped, but we will keep pushing for more forms of relief for mixed earners and swift implementation of the benefit. For updates on this particular benefit, we recommend following the Mixed Earner Coalition’s updates.
PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM
- $7.25 billion has been added to the PPP, and eligibility has been expanded to include certain types of non-profits (including some labor organizations) and internet publishing organizations, especially those focused on local and regional news.
Note: The ARP did not extend the application deadline. The Small Business Administration will stop accepting applications for both first- and second-draw PPP loans on March 31, 2020. The Guild and other organizations are working to get this extended and will send out an update if the situation changes.
OTHER TARGETED ASSISTANCE THROUGH THE SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION
- Additional funds have been allocated for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program. Businesses, with the exception of those who received a PPP loan prior to December 27, 2020, are allowed to apply for and receive both a PPP loan and the SVOG.
- $15 billion have been added for Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance payments, including a new $5 billion for Supplemental Targeted EIDL Advance payments for those hardest hit.
- $28.6 billion has been added in new funding for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund for industry-focused grants.
- $100 million has been added in new funding to establish a Community Navigator pilot program; grants will go to eligible organizations supporting efforts to improve access to COVID-19 pandemic assistance programs and resources.