More direct checks, rental assistance and expanded unemployment are all included in the massive $1.9 trillion relief package.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that includes, among other provisions, a continued expansion of unemployment as well as more direct stimulus checks and a number of housing protections.

Joe Biden | Photo credit: White House

The bill previously passed the U.S. Senate last week and heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for signature, where he is expected to sign it Friday.

“For weeks now, an overwhelming percentage of Americans — Democrats, Independents, and Republicans — have made it clear they support the American Rescue Plan,” Biden said, in a statement. “Today, with final passage in the House of Representatives, their voice has been heard.”

“This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation — the essential workers, the working people who built this country, the people who keep this country going — a fighting chance,” Biden added.

The bill, which enjoyed major support from the real estate community, includes an additional $1,400 in stimulus checks for individuals making less than $75,000 per the most recent tax return information the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has on file.

The checks phase out more abruptly, which became a point of contention for some progressive lawmakers. Individuals making more than $80,000 or couples filing jointly making more than $160,000 will receive no payment, rather than the reduced payment they received last time.

Also included for the first time is a provision that if you have a child at any point in 2021, you’ll receive an additional $1,400 for that child on your 2021 tax returns if you’re eligible to receive the payment.

The enhanced unemployment provision introduced in the first stimulus bill — which allowed independent contractors to receive unemployment for the first time — was extended at the reduced additional $300 per month that was last passed in December, which is half the $600 included in the original stimulus package passed in March.

The new package also includes an increase to the child tax credit from $2,000 t0 up to $3,600 depending on the age of the children.

The bill also sets up a provision that will allow the Biden administration to create a mechanism to pay out the tax credit as direct payments in advance, rather than having individuals claim the return on their tax refund.

For real estate agents that have relied on the health care exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act, the bill also provides a $34 billion boost to expand the subsidies aimed at lessening the cost of coverage, according to the New York Times.

The bill also includes $21.5 billion in emergency rental assistance — the inclusion of which has been the subject of lobbying from the National Association of Realtors — as well as $5 billion for emergency housing vouchers, $100 million for housing counseling, $100 million in emergency assistance for rural housing and $5 billion in homeless assistance and support services.

For homeowners, the bill sets aside nearly $10 billion for mortgage payment assistance, and assistance with other payments related to homeownership in an attempt to fend-off foreclosures, delinquencies and defaults related to COVID-19.

Additionally, the bill sets aside $20 million, “to ensure fair housing organizations have additional resources to address fair housing inquiries, complaints, investigations, education and outreach activities, and costs of delivering or adapting services, during or relating to the coronavirus pandemic.”

A key component of the bill is also a massive relief package — to the tune of $350 billion — for state and local governments, which is aimed at funding K-12 schools and more vaccination infrastructure. That relief could have a major impact on helping lower the cost of housing and getting more inventory on the market.

“Regarding aid to state and local governments, this provision is a net plus for members,” a spokesperson for the National Association of Home Builders said, in a statement. “Without federal aid, critical government services such as planning approvals, building permits and timely inspections are at risk of being curtailed or eliminated, which would result in construction delays and increased costs to home buyers.”

NAR also published a comprehensive breakdown of the components in the bill that are relevant to Realtors.

Email Patrick Kearns

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