Family Support & Well-being

Partnering with Families to Access Benefits Through the American Rescue Plan

Montage of various symbols denoting financial family aid.The American Rescue Plan (ARP) provides many sources of direct and indirect financial relief for low-income families. Head Start programs can help all staff and families access critical supports for which they're eligible. These payments and tax credits don't affect family income in determining eligibility for Head Start and Early Head Start programs or count towards adjusted gross income for tax filers. Encourage families to file a 2021 tax return.

Unemployment Insurance Benefits

What's new? If a family paid taxes on their unemployment insurance (UI) benefits from 2020, they should have received an automatic refund. UI benefits received in 2021 are fully taxable.

What can staff and families do? Families who are not receiving UI benefits but may be eligible can find information about eligibility and filing through their state unemployment office.

Monthly Child Allowance

What's new? The Child Tax Credit (CTC) provided for by the ARP has not been extended into 2022. Families will receive a letter by mail from the IRS about the CTC payments they received in 2021. They may need this letter when filing their tax returns in order to claim the remainder of the credit. Filing taxes is the only way to ensure families receive the remainder of the CTC for 2021.

What can staff and families do? Inform families who qualified for the CTC payment to expect a letter from the IRS, and to include this letter when they file their 2021 tax return, especially if they need to claim the remainder of the credit. 

Child Care Expenses

What's new? The ARP expanded the size of the Child and Dependent Care Credit. Parents were eligible for this tax credit if they needed care for any child under age 13 or a disabled dependent of any age while working or looking for work. This included any amount paid (full or co-pay) for center-based child care, babysitter care, summer camp, or care by adult relatives outside of the tax household. ITIN holders, including immigrant families with children born in the U.S with a social security number, were eligible to receive this credit.

What can staff and families do? Help families gather records of their child care expenses to report on their 2021 tax return. Even families who don't owe taxes should file, because the credit will be fully refundable and could result in a tax refund.

Food and Nutrition

What's new? While ARP benefits have expired, the Biden administration permanently increased the amount of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits available to families.

What can staff and families do? Families who are already enrolled in SNAP and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program don't need to do anything. Newly eligible families can enroll via their local SNAP or WIC office.

Rental Assistance

What's new? The ARP has made rental assistance available to families needing support with rent, utilities, and other housing costs. Assistance may vary depending on location.

What can staff and families do? Renters and landlords can find more information on local rental assistance from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB's) Rental Assistance Finder tool.

Renters may be able to apply for rental assistance themselves, or they may need to work with their landlord to submit the application. To be eligible for help covering rent, the family must have an agreement to pay rent on their home or mobile home lot. They don't necessarily need to have a signed lease, and their home can be an apartment, house, mobile home, or other place. Other eligibility requirements for rental assistance are below.

  • At least one member of their household meets one or more of these conditions:
    • Has qualified or should qualify for unemployment
    • Has lost income
    • Has large debt
    • Has other financial hardships
  • Household income is below a certain amount, based on location.
  • At least one member of the household is experiencing housing instability, which means they are at risk of becoming homeless or would have trouble finding a stable place to live.

For families facing eviction, information and assistance is available from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, including  a list of states with eviction protections and the dates of expiration for those protections.

Emergency housing vouchers are also available for eligible families. The local Public Housing Authority (PHA) and Continuum of Care programs distributes these vouchers. Head Start programs can help families access emergency housing vouchers by partnering with the local housing authority (contact the nearest Public Housing Agency in the state for information) and the local Continuum of Care program.

Energy and Water Assistance

What's new? The ARP makes more funds available for energy assistance and water. Assistance may vary depending on location.

What can staff and families do? Reach out to the local Community Action Agency (CAA) to find out whether energy-related emergency assistance funds are available. In many cases, the local CAA may be the agency that directly provides these funds.

Visit the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) to learn more about help with drinking water and wastewater bills.

Broadband Assistance

The Affordable Connectivity Program replaced the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program on Dec. 31, 2021. Households enrolled in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program as of that date will continue to receive their current monthly benefit during a 60-day transition period.

Under the new program, if your household is eligible, you can receive:

  • Up to a $30/month discount on your internet service
  • Up to a $75/month discount if your household is on qualifying tribal lands
  • A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer (with a co-payment of more than $10 but less than $50)

Only one monthly service discount and one device discount is allowed per household.

What can staff and families do? Help families identify whether their household is eligible for this benefit. Eligible families will need to complete an application and use the search tool to find a company that offers the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Tax Help

Information for filing taxes in 2022 is available at Free tax preparation services may be available for eligible families at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). Search by zip code to find a local service.

Additional Resources

Know Your American Rescue Plan Benefits Checklist