The American Rescue Plan is more than $1,400 checks. Here’s how the new relief will benefit Michiganders in the coming months.
LANSING, Mich.—Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat who represents Lansing in Washington, D.C., is proud of the American Rescue Plan. No plan is perfect, Slotkin said in a statement, but this plan is something Michiganders need.
“This pandemic is the number one threat to Michiganders’ health and economic security right now––folks are worried about keeping their loved ones healthy, their businesses open, and their livelihoods intact,” Slotkin said. “To me, this means passing additional relief that above all, supercharges distribution of the vaccine, and gets more help out to our small businesses, families and schools.”
After a fierce battle in the Senate, coronavirus aid is finally coming for Micbiganders in the form of the American Rescue Plan. All that remains is to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the plan and have the package signed into law by President Joe Biden.
That relief for Michiganders will take a few forms.
Direct Cash Relief
The first round of direct stimulus checks kept 12 million Americans out of poverty and helped struggling families across the country survive the increasing costs and decreasing resources of living in a global health emergency.
The American Rescue Plan completes the promise from December, by ensuring Michiganders get a sum total of $2,000 for the second year of the pandemic, adding considerably to the first direct stimulus payment of only $1,200. But the new stimulus isn’t universal, it’s targeted to those who need it most. Forbes has an easy tool for Michiganders to see what the upcoming $1,400 check will look like for each person.
The Small Business Administration will, as part of the American Rescue Plan, roll out new grants specifically targeting the restaurants of America, hard-hit by the pandemic. In order to fight dangerously high rates of virus spread, Michigan restaurants have had to be highly adaptable as dine-in services closed and reopened at limited capacity repeatedly in response to the state of the pandemic.
“New in this bill, and significant for Michigan: $25 billion in targeted relief for restaurants, part of a new restaurant relief grant program to be run by the SBA,” Slotkin explained. “This program is aimed at helping our struggling restaurants keep employees on payroll, make mortgage and rent payments, and cover other operating expenses.”
Support for out-of-work Michiganders was a key fight in the passing of the American Rescue Plan. As Michigan continues to fix it’s long-broken unemployment system, Michiganders will continue seeing a federal enhancement of $300 to their needed relief. That will continue through early September.
The strengthened unemployment assistance from the first coronavirus relief bill last year was actually even more impactful than the direct aid to families, but thanks to an overburdened and struggling unemployment system many Michiganders were left behind. Continuing the enhancements to unemployment insurance, and making $10,000 of that support tax-free, will greatly help Michiganders still out-of-work and waiting for the assistance they desperately need.
Child Care Assistance
Family care was a central part of Biden’s campaign, so it’s little surprise it became part of the American Rescue Plan. With $40 billion set aside for programs like head start, Child Care and Development Block Grants and a child care stabilization fund, the relief plan will bring much-needed support to Michigan families.
In the best of times getting child care is a struggle for Michiganders, but the pandemic made it far worse. One Michigan mom compared getting access to childcare in 2020 to winning the lottery. And for many parents, returning to work requires child care services be available, especially during the pandemic where schools aren’t always where parents want kids to be.
Support to Local Governments
Due to eroding tax revenue and exploding operating costs, cities and the state itself have been cash-strapped during the pandemic, often further deferring maintenance needed in local infrastructure or running the risk of laying off first responders during the global health crisis gripping Michigan. Getting cities support was a key consideration of Slotkin’s.
And, she explained, that support will help end the crisis a little faster by easing the vaccination campaign.
“Our local communities have made clear they need these funds to ramp up the staffing necessary to get the vaccine out to people as fast as possible, carry out health inspections and contact tracing, and administer summer school,” Slotkin said. “In other words: these hard-fought resources will not only prevent budget cuts that we have seen hobble long-term recovery in our local communities in the past, but lay down the infrastructure needed to get our communities back to normal as fast as possible.”
Student Loan Forgiveness, Sort Of
While the plan passed by the Senate didn’t include student loan relief in itself, it did include a fix to one of the most glaring problems with mass student loan forgiveness. Debt forgiveness is normally treated as taxable income—the government sees debt forgiveness as you having paid the debt down, not as the debt simply disappearing. That would mean that if $10,000 in student loan forgiveness was given to every American, people taking full advantage of that forgiveness would be taxed as though they made $10,000 more than they actually did.
The American Rescue Plan corrects this through 2026. For the next five years, any student debt forgiveness passed by Congress will not count as taxable. That may seem like a small step, but it’s a critical one.
A person living in Marquette and making $40,000 per year pays about $7,500 in taxes. If they had $10,000 of student debt forgiven, and that forgiveness was taxed, their tax liability would increase to more than $10,000. More generous relief would come with an even greater tax debt, as a $50,000 forgiveness would bring that person’s bill up to over $23,000—more than half their overall income.
Eliminating taxes on student debt forgiveness today is a critical step in passing that forgiveness in the future.
When Is the Aid Coming?
With both House and Senate versions of the bill passed and the fact that a minimum wage increase won’t be included in the legislation, little is left now but to iron out differences between the versions of the bill, and for President Biden to sign the result. Though getting initial Senate approval was a rocky process thanks in large part to West Virginia’s Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, the reconciliation should be smooth.
The likely smooth road ahead means the bill is expected to be signed into law by March 14, a deadline Democrats have been aiming to hit for months.