How the American Rescue Plan Provides Critical Relief to Women and Families
Women of color have lost so much in the past year. Almost 1.8 million women have left the workforce since the start of the pandemic, and one in 12Black women and one in13 Latinasare still unemployed in May. In addition,23.1% of Black women, 17.6% of Latinas, and 20% of Asian women were behind on their rent, and 15.2%of Black women, 11.2% of Asian women, and 11.8% of Latinas were behind on their mortgage payments. TheAmerican Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which President Biden recentlysigned into law,is a historic gender justice victory that will provide much-needed reliefparticularly forwomen and families. It will boost families’ economic security, provide nutrition and housing assistance, help stabilize the child care sector, support health care,fund schools, provide fiscal relief to states—and much more.This legislation will have a profound impact on women’slives.A Columbia University analysis showsan earlier, substantially similar version of the ARPA would lift an estimated 11.6 million people above the Federal Poverty Line, the majority of whom are people of color. Here are some of the key wins for women and families:
For tax year 2021, the ARPAincreases the amount of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which benefits families with children,to $3,000 ($3,600 for younger children)and makes the credit fully refundable. This will benefit the lowest income families, who previously couldn’t access the credit.Starting in July, the IRS will make one or more advance payments of the credit available. These expansions will lift an estimated 4.1 million children out of poverty—reducing child poverty by more than 40%!
The ARPA extends emergency unemployment insurance (UI) benefitsthrough September 6 at $300 per week. This prevents 11.4 million out-of-work people from losing critical benefits. For families making less than $150,000, it also exempts the first $10,200 of 2020 UI benefits from income taxes, saving many struggling families from having to pay offa surprise tax bill.
The ARPA providesnearly $50 billionin housing and utility assistance. This includes $21.55 billion morein emergency rental assistance, $5 billion for emergency housing vouchers, $5 billion for homelessness assistance, and $5 billion for utility and water assistance. The ARPA also provides $9.96 billion for Treasury to createa Homeowner Assistance Fund—the first COVID relief bill to provide financial relief for homeowners behind on their mortgage payments, housing relief for rural renters and homeowners, tribal nations, and fair housing activities.
The ARPA authorizes a third round of Economic Impact Payments (EIP).Families will receive direct payments of up to $1,400 per eligible person, including children and adult dependents. Unlike the first two EIP dispersals, this round includes individuals with Social Security Numbers in mixed-status families—including 2.2 million children!
The ARPA expands and extends the tax credits available to employers who provide emergency paid leave and paid sick days under the FFCRA. Unfortunately, due to reconciliation rules and procedures, the ARPA does not reinstate employees’ rights to take leave; the expanded protections are only available if qualifying employers choose to provide them. The bill expanded the qualifying reasons an employee can take leave and “reset the clock” so employees who have already taken leave can take additional time. Expanding access to paid leave and paid sick days is vital to protect public health and support women and families.
TheARPAprovides $170.3 billion infunding for education, includingat least $125.4 billion for K–12 public education programs and $39.6 billion for higher education, and requires at least 20% of funds address learning loss.The ARPA includesa provision addressing “maintenance of equity”that require states to avoid cuts to schools and districts with high numbers of children living in poverty.
The ARPA significantly invests in health and our nation’spublic health infrastructure. In addition to $350 billion in critical state and local funding, the ARPA provides funding for vaccines, PPE, contact tracing, research, and bolsters our public health workforce.The ARPA also provides $50 million for the Title X Family Planning Program—the first increase in funding since FY2014—which is much–needed during this ongoing public health crisis. The lawincludes several important provisions expanding access to health care and coverage, and does not include restrictions on abortion.
This historic achievement shows that when we come together, we can achieve great things. We must keep up this momentum in our continued fight for an economy that works for all of us.We still need to pass the Raise the Wage Act, which willboost wages for 32 million people—predominantly women and people of color, and we need to establish permanent paid family and medical leave and sick days policiesfor all. As we look toward the next recovery package we mustensure consistent public investments are madeso womenof color particularlyhave what they need to support their families and achieve a brighter future. Together, we can continue making progress for women and families across the nation.