How the Biden Stimulus Package Impacts People with Disabilities
In early March, Congress passed a third COVID relief bill, the American Rescue Plan Act, and President Biden signed it on March 11, 2021. The American Rescue Plan Act includes $1.9 trillion in spending, grants more stimulus payments, extends unemployment benefits, provides funds for home and community-based services, grants funds to support students with disabilities, and much more.
Here’s how the newest COVID relief bill will impact the Disability Community:
Stimulus Payments: Third for Some, First for Many
The American Rescue Plan Act includes $1,400 stimulus payments for many Americans, and for the first time ever, adult dependents are eligible to receive a stimulus payment. Adult dependents include many college students and adults with disabilities who are claimed as “dependents” on someone else’s tax returns.
Individuals making up to $75,000 will receive a $1,400 payment, and married couples making up to $150,000 will receive a $2,800 payment. Those amounts will be reduced for individuals and couples who earn more than the income limits, phasing out completely for any individuals making more than $80,000 or couples making more than $160,000. Additionally, households will receive $1,400 for each dependent.
If you are an adult dependent, it is important to remember that $1,400 might not come your way. The amount of the stimulus is dependent on the income of whoever claims you on their taxes. For example, this means that if your parents claim you on their taxes and their income is more than $160,000; you will not be eligible to receive a payment.
In February 2021, 27 million people in America reported that they were unemployed or lived with an unemployed family member. The first COVID relief bill, which was signed into law in March 2020, the CARES Act, created new Pandemic Unemployment Insurance programs that provided an additional $600 per week for unemployed individuals, on top of their usual unemployment payment. This funding ended in July, and Trump signed an executive order authorizing an additional $300 per week in unemployment. The second COVID relief bill, which was signed into law in December 2020, extended the $300 per week for an additional 11 weeks. This third stimulus package extends the $300 per week until September 6, 2021.
These benefits are especially important for the Disability Community because in February 2021, unemployment rates for people with disabilities were higher than those for people without a disability, and in 2020 unemployment rates for people with disabilities was 12.6%, whereas the unemployment rate for people without disabilities was 7.9%. If you are a person with a disability experiencing unemployment, don’t hesitate to apply for unemployment insurance benefits.
Funding for Home and Community Based Services
After a year of advocacy by the Disability Community, funding for Home and Community Based Services was finally included in this stimulus package. The American Rescue Plan Act includes $12.67 billion for Medicaid home and community based services. States will receive these funds to help people with disabilities live in the community. States will have flexibility in how to spend the funds, including paying fair wages for attendant services for disabled people already in the community or helping individuals in nursing facilities transition back into the community.
Funding for Students with Disabilities
The pandemic has impacted all students, but students with disabilities have been hit especially hard. Many disabled students have lost access to their services, such as physical or speech therapy. Students with disabilities can also struggle more with remote learning. Thankfully, this newest COVID relief package allocates $170.3 billion in funding for education. Of that amount, more than $3 billion is specifically allocated to help students with disabilities through Individuals with Disabilities Education Act grants.
Access to Food
The second COVID relief package included funding to ensure that people who receive SNAP benefits would receive a 15% increase in benefits until June 30, 2021. The American Rescue Plan Act has extended this increase to September 2021. This is especially important for disabled Americans because more than 1 in 4 of the people who receive SNAP are people with disabilities.
Rent & Mortgage Relief
Americans are still struggling to pay the bills. In fact, 1 in 5 renters reported that they are behind on rent payments. In December, Congress included $25 billion in rental relief for Americans in the second COVID relief bill. This third COVID relief bill adds another $21.55 billion in emergency rental assistance, as well as $5 billion in emergency housing vouchers for people experiencing homelessness. Additionally, this is the first COVID relief package that includes funding to help homeowners who are struggling to pay the mortgage. $10 billion has been included to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.
COVID Testing & Vaccine Distribution
It is no secret that some people with disabilities are at a higher risk for COVID. The American Rescue Plan Act includes tens of billions in funding to help more people across the country get vaccinated and tested for COVID. President Biden has promised that by May 1, there will be a national website and phone hotline to help people find locations to get vaccinated. The phone line is especially important for individuals who do not have internet access. President Biden’s goal is to get America “closer to normal” by July 4.
Stephanie Woodward is an attorney and co-founder of Disability EmpowHer Network. Stephanie is passionate about seeking justice for marginalized communities - and has an arrest record to show for it. As a proud disabled woman and civil rights activist, Stephanie is committed to bringing more women and girls with disabilities to the forefront through mentoring and activism.