WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package – known as the American Rescue Plan – into law on Thursday after the U.S. House of Representatives approved the final version of the measure Wednesday.
The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) says the legislation contains numerous measures it championed, including those related to rental, housing and small business assistance, as well as extended unemployment benefits.
“While some notable changes were made as this bill worked its way through the Senate, all of the major provisions important to real estate remained intact,” Shannon McGahn, NAR’s chief advocacy officer, said in a statement. “It continues all of the successful and important provisions of the CARES Act, supporting small businesses, including the self-employed, independent contractors and sole proprietors.”
A fifth of NAR’s 1.4 million members reportedly took advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which offers forgivable loans for small businesses. The PPP will receive extra funding under the latest relief bill.
Provisions within the American Rescue Plan
- Stimulus checks: $1,400 stimulus checks per person, phased out completely for individuals earning $80,000 per year and couples earning $160,000 per year. (Those earning under the income limits will also receive $1,400 in stimulus money for each dependent, regardless of age, claimed on their latest filed tax return.)
- Unemployment: The existing $300 weekly unemployment benefit is extended through Sept. 6 to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. The $900 billion stimulus package, passed in December, provided unemployed Americans an extra $300 per week in benefits, but the program expires in mid-March
- Rental assistance: $21.55 billion in new money for rental assistance on top of the $25 billion allocated in December
- Child tax credits: There’s a one-year increase in the child tax credit, paid in monthly installments, including $3,000 a year for each child ages 6 to 17, and $3,600 a year for each child under age 6, for couples who make $150,000 or less and single parents who make $112,500 or less
- Homeowner aid: $10 billion for a Housing Assistance Fund that will allow state housing finance agencies to help homeowners facing hardship
- Buyer counseling: $100 million for housing counseling services
- Small businesses: $15 billion for a new small business grant program
- Local governments: $350 billion in state and local aid
- Schools: $130 billion
NAR welcomed the $21.55 billion in new emergency rental assistance, which will be added on top of the $25 billion allocated in December. State and local governments will distribute the funds. NAR sent a letter to Congressional leaders in February, saying additional rental assistance was crucial to help housing providers and tenants meet their financial obligations during the pandemic. “Rental assistance that is easily accessible to qualified households will relieve renters from excessive debts and ensure our critical rental housing stock is sustainable,” the letter reads.
NAR also supported $350 billion for extra state and local aid. Nearly nine in 10 cities expect a budget shortfall this year due to the pandemic, according to the National League of Cities. The extra funding will help states address public health risks as they gradually reopen.
“Such support will also offer relief to property owners who fear unanticipated additional hardships, such as increased local taxation, to make up for state and county budget deficits,” NAR’s letter notes.
The $10 billion for a Housing Assistance Fund will allow state housing finance agencies to help homeowners facing financial hardship. The funds can be used for mortgage payment assistance, utility payments and property tax assessments as well as to prevent eviction, mortgage delinquency and foreclosure.
The Paycheck Protection Program will also receive additional funds: $7.25 billion. PPP has already disbursed more than $662 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses since it was first created by the CARES Act last March.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy and are important clients of NAR’s commercial practitioners, who will prove invaluable to the economic recovery effort following the pandemic,” NAR’s letter reads.
The American Rescue Plan marks the sixth coronavirus relief measure lawmakers have approved since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., which ignited a year ago.