The federal administration went into overdrive as the COVID-19 pandemic hit America and put out a slew of government assistance programs, the most noticeable of which was the three rounds of stimulus checks over a year. But there are many other programs that we had never needed before, but are useful now.
Many major government assistance programs are there for individuals and businesses that are still over for application. Divided into categories of assistance, 8 general program sections include financial, homeownership, home rental, food, retirement, healthcare, small businesses, financial, and taxes.
The federal government went alone with some programs while in others they cooperated and coordinated with states to help get through to people.
Financial Assistance For Both Individuals And Families
The financial category of assistance provided benefits in the form of payments such as the stimulus check, goods, or services that helped with a basic standard of living for those with low and moderate wages.
The Unemployment Insurance (UI) is a joint program between the federal government and states that provides part of the wages for those who have lost their jobs. This was particularly beneficial during the pandemic as millions of people were suddenly rendered jobless. The benefits are calculated as a percentage of a year’s earnings. Beneficiaries can also apply for an extension, but there is no certainty that it will be allowed. The program is run by individual states and each has its filing requirements and eligibility criteria.
The Lost Wages Assistance Program
The Lost Wages Assistance program was introduced in August 2020 and was an unemployment benefit run by the federal government in cooperation with states. It provided between $300 and $400 to claimants through weekly compensation. While the federal government provided $300 for each claimant, the states put up the rest of the amount.
The unemployment insurance unlike the stimulus check programs was meant for registered workers out of jobs. Workers got part of their wages even as they waited to get rehired or find another job. It also gave workers time to explore better jobs or employment opportunities.
But the unemployment insurance only gives a part of the regular income earned by workers and is for only 26 weeks. they are also not under any healthcare benefits provided by employers. Unemployment benefits are also subject to income tax.
Homeowner Assistance Fund Supplements The Stimulus Check
The HAF financially assists homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments during the pandemic. This fund provides financial assistance to eligible homeowners who are behind on 3 or more home mortgage payments and helps them avoid foreclosure. If the application submitted by the homeowner gets approved, funds are directly transferred to the mortgage service company that collects and is engaged by the homeowners.
The Federal Treasury Department allocated $9.961B for the HAF which was allocated to states, tribes, and territories to also administer programs on their own. These funds were a great help to homeowners to bring their mortgages up to date and also helped them pay for their property taxes, insurance, and neighborhood assistance dues based on the programs initiated by the states of their residence.
Every state has different filing deadlines, eligibility requirements, and other rules which can be cleared by visiting the state housing website, the NCSHA.
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program
The rental assistance programs are helping distribute billions of dollars in assistance to help renters stay housed during the pandemic. While the stimulus checks ensured food and other essentials for low and moderate-income families, many families were hard-pressed to pay their rents and risk homelessness. The rental assistance program was helpful to both renters and landlords to make ends meet.
Renters having trouble paying their rent, housing costs, and other utility expenses can avail of this assistance. This assistance is also for landlords trying to stay afloat with their tenants during the pandemic and its aftermath.
The applications were taken by state and other local programs from both landlords and renters. The money was distributed from the Treasury Department’s Emergency Rental Assistance program in their respective communities.
From the perspective of a landlord, rental assistance is counted as help for renters, but federal emergency rental assistance program authorities are accepting applications even from landlords. They have assisted renters to apply and complete the process that will give landlords their due payments.
Assistance For Landlords
The separate portion for landlords known as the Emergency Rental Assistance provides states a minimum of $200M with the maximum amount depending on the population proportion in that state when based on the total population of the US.
The application by landlords should have the renter as the co-applicant. A landlord, however, can apply for their rent assistance in the event they are also tenants and meet the requirements.
Another criterion for eligibility is household income. Household income should be 80% or below the average median income of the local area. The average median income is around $60,000 in the US so $48,000 would be the upper limit for an individual living alone.
State Stimulus Checks Making Up For Lack Of Federal Stimulus Check
Though limited to around a dozen states, the state stimulus checks have come at the right moment. With chances of another round of direct federal stimulus checks fading, several states, including Maine, New Mexico, Colorado, and California have announced plans to send out inflation relief stimulus checks to millions of residents in the coming months.
But despite the anticipation, there is also concern that the well-intentioned stimulus checks might have contributed to the record inflation that has hit the nation starting the last quarter of 2021.
While unemployment, which spiked to 14.7% in April 2020, has come down to a manageable 3.6%. But at the same time inflation figures skyrocketed to a 4 decade high. With recession fears taking root, prices for gas, essential items, utilities, and home rent have surged to reach unaffordable levels.
Conservative economists believe that the stimulus checks had a role to play in the high inflation rate, the highest among developed nations. With states now giving out more money in the form of stimulus checks of their own, there is an additional reason for worry.