Investing in Families: The American Rescue Plan
Lucy Smart: Hi, everyone. Welcome back for Session Eight, “Investing in Families: The American Rescue Plan.” We’re excited to be here to share information with you on the American Rescue Plan and how your work with families will help them access the assistance and benefits they’re eligible for. Also, we’re very excited to learn from you all, as frontline staff working with families and having these discussions in real life with the families you work with.
As always, we want to maximize your experience today. I’ll walk you through your session console. At the bottom of your screen, you have your seven engagement tools. The Media Player lets you watch the presenters and any videos we show during the session. Questions for Presenters – you can use this tool to share your questions, comments, anything you want to share with us during the session. Slides – you can use this to display the PowerPoint in front of you on your screen. Related Resources and Links – this tool includes the full list of resources that we’ll discuss today, available for download, just the web pages. You’ll also be able to find this in the slide deck and on the Engagement Hub.
Presenter Bios – if you want to learn a little bit more about us, you can use this tool. Finally, your Certificate of Attendance. This tool lets you access your certificate at the end of the session after you meet the criteria needed to earn it. Just as a reminder, all of the engagement tools on your console are resizable and movable. If you minimize any of them, you just click on the icon at the bottom, and it will pop back up on your screen.
Alright. Before we dive into this content, we wanted to be sure to introduce ourselves. My name is Lucy Smart, and I’m here with the National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement. I’m the program manager of family economic mobility at LIFT, a partner organization with the National Center focusing on economic mobility subject matter.
Jennifer Lambert: Hi, everyone. My name is Jennifer Lambert. I’m also with the National Center and LIFT, and I’m a program director. So happy to be here with you all today.
Lucy: OK. Let’s start off by going over the learning objectives for this final session. First, we want to understand how the American Rescue Plan delivers relief in critical ways to families. Then we want to spend some time determining who is eligible for these resources from the ARP and who might need other supports. We also want to explain how families can effectively use – access and use – the American Rescue Plan resources to support their economic mobility and stability goals.
We’re very fortunate to have Ann Linehan, the deputy director of the Office of Head Start, to get us started today. Ann, thank you for joining us and sharing your thoughts on the American Rescue Plan, what it means for Head Start and Early Head Start programs and families, and your perspective on the bill.
Ann Linehan: Well, thank you. As I told my colleagues before we made this presentation, I am really so fired up to be part of this session. Thank you, thank you, the Head Start community, for joining us in this really important Family Economic Mobility Institute. I so missed the in-person opportunities that we’ve had in the past, but the one thing that I have enjoyed about this zooming every day, is that I have worn the same pair of spandex for about the last year. While I may have my blouse from my waist up, I have my black spandex on, which I’m very comfortable. I don’t know how we’re ever going to put back on real clothing when we go back in person.
That said, it’s so wonderful to be with this community. I know that you heard Dr. Futrell yesterday. I know she spoke to everyone in thanking you all for how hard you have worked through this incredibly challenging year. I just have to reflect for a moment. I think we have all learned so much over this past year about the way we do business, so much about our country. A lot of, I think, the weaknesses and the issues that our families we knew have struggled with have been on public display. I also think we’ve learned a lot about ourselves personally.
One of my neighbors put a saying outside of their garage door, and when I do my walks, I always read it and the saying is, “Why would we want to go back to what was normal, let’s create a better normal.” I really feel like this institute is setting the foundation for the Head Start community to build a better normal for the families that we support.
Some of you may be aware that Dr. Futrell, and the Biden administration, their keen interest in the equitable anti-poverty solutions and particularly for families who have been historically marginalized. Our country has not witnessed, frankly, an investment that this administration is making in its people since the FDR presidency. From the day Dr. Futrell arrived, and I think that was only 10 weeks ago, but it is almost feeling like it’s been much longer, from the day she came in the door or in the Zoom, she has been talking about promoting equity and seeing Head Start as a national vehicle to support families and our Head Start staff in accessing so many meaningful resources that will move our families forward.
Both this institute and this session will give us an opportunity to raise up education, employment, financial strategies, and resources with critical issues of equity in mind. This is also an opportunity to celebrate Head Start as a source of support and partnership for families as they work towards their long-term goals and success.
Head Start has always served as an incredible anchor in communities, in the good times and in the bad times. I think that the opportunity we have before us now is one of the greatest opportunities we will ever have for Head Start to exert its leadership now in local communities and connect parents with so many things that will actually move them forward and hopefully begin to move them out of poverty.
You know – and again, we’re talking about the American Rescue Plan – it is a plethora of incredible opportunities for families to access funds, services, and I just want to name a few. We certainly know that many families and staff have already received Economic Impact Payments, which began being dispersed last month. For those families who have not yet filed their taxes, there are a number of tax care credits available. We have got to become so knowledgeable about those credits, so we can impart that information to our parents so they can make those adjustments on their tax returns and get and benefit financially. The ARP also provides emergency rental assistance and extended unemployment benefits. This is huge.
I understand there was five billion authorized for housing choice vouchers to prevent homelessness. You can walk through any neighborhood in any state, and you know that there are more homeless families or the invisible homeless who are bunked up with four or five other families. The access to these vouchers can really give families a fresh start.
Even the Federal Communication Agency is setting up an emergency connectivity fund to alleviate the virtual learning gap for young learners. I could certainly go on and on and Kiersten is hoping that I don’t. I know programs and families have real challenges these days, and I think this is an opportunity we don’t want to miss. We need to challenge ourselves to make sure every Head Start and Early Head Start family, every staff person, receives the ARP resources for which they’re eligible.
I would say, going back to one of our founding blogs, this is a time when strong community partnerships will matter greatly and maybe partners that may look different than we have in the past. How many of us have partnerships with financial institutions within the community? I think we have to think about even cultivating new partnerships. I know that Lucy and Diana will go into so much more depth about these benefits.
I am thrilled to be here and look forward to continue work with the National Center on family economic mobility going forward. I also look forward to hearing your questions and determining where the Office of Head Start can help as you work with families as they access these critical benefits. I view this institute as really a gift to us, a gift to all of you, to arm you with the kinds of information you need to make incredible impacts in moving our families forward.
I am so grateful for the work you do, as we all are in the Office of Head Start, and the work that you’ve done this past year. I think we are moving into the time of healing and a time of economic resources for our families that they have not seen in a very long time. Jen, I think I’m going to punt it back to you.
Jennifer: Yes, that’s awesome. Thank you so much, Ann, for those words. Again, thank you to Ann for giving this conversation that really important perspective. Now we want to connect those ideas to our work on the ground with families and how do we do this. The American Rescue Plan is deeply connected to the mission of Head Start as an antipoverty, two-generational program.
Even further, this legislation has the potential to reframe the narrative of how we talk about poverty. It gives us momentum to leave behind the old narrative of government handouts and placing blame on families for the poverty that they’re experiencing, and replacing it with a new narrative, one of recognizing and providing children and families what they deserve and need in order to survive and to thrive. Let’s put all this into the context of our actual work. If you all could provide some answers in the chat to the question displayed on the slide: “In your work with families over the past year, what challenges have they faced due to the pandemic?”
Some of the things that I’m seeing coming in the chat: “A lot of families have had issues meeting basic needs, paying rent, paying for food, paying for medical bills.” Seeing a lot of “families experience job loss over the past year,” definitely widespread across the country. “Trying to find work while trying to care for their children.” Obviously, child care wasn’t in-person for quite a while, so managing that – your work and maybe experiencing job loss and also being a home day care. “Loss of income, needing help with food, diapers, basic needs.” “Having family members that had COVID,” as well. Lots of challenges were experienced and felt by families over this past year. I really appreciate everyone sharing all of those examples.
The challenges and impact brought on by this pandemic have been both widely felt and uniquely experienced within individual families. We know this from the past year – we know from this past year that providing cash to families actually really makes a difference. I’m going to give everybody some time to read a quote on the screen from an actual person in Chicago that received cash assistance.
All right. As you can see from that quote, providing assistance and benefits targeted to children and families, American Rescue Plan acknowledges that income and cash on hand are the foundation of economic stability. Considering in this context of the Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework, this income and the stability that comes from it are the foundation for the family and child outcomes that we’re all aiming for. For many families, and particularly for those that we work with, the pandemic has shaken their stability. The American Rescue Plan provides assistance to address just that. We’re going to go a little bit more into detail on that, as well.
As you may already know, the American Rescue Plan provides a billion dollars in additional funding to Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Further, the bill also has funds reserved for several additional programs that will directly reach families that we all work with. Think “cash for stimulus payments, expanded tax benefits,” etc. We’re going to go into all of those now. I want to turn it back to Lucy to go over what is included in the bill.
Lucy: Thanks, Jen. Yes. In order to support families we’re working with in accessing the benefits that the American Rescue Plan provides, we as family advocates and frontline staff need to begin to understand it ourselves. In addition to that $1 billion in funding for Head Start and Early Head Start programs, such I mentioned, the American Rescue Plan includes funding that’s going to go directly into the hands of families.
We’re going to start off by taking some time to review the parts of the bill that we want to ensure families know about, and how we can support families in accessing and utilizing these supports. We’ll dig into these four main areas on the screen. These are the components of the bill that are likely to have the biggest and most immediate effects on the families that you are working with.
Before we dig into those details, because there are a lot of them, let’s gauge where everyone is now. In the chat, if you would let us know, on a scale of 1 to 5, how comfortable do you feel today if asked for support from a family on one of these topic areas on the screen – 1 would be “not comfortable at all,” 5 being “very comfortable.”
Thanks, everyone. I’m seeing answers come in across the board, 1 through 5, and that makes sense. Some people are comfortable, some people are not comfortable at all, and we’re all at different starting points. I’m going to start by providing just some baseline information on these topics and what they mean for families. Then additionally, we’ll provide you with resources to lean on to learn more and to support families in understanding and accessing the assistance that they are eligible for.
As we dive into these topics, I want you to consider them in the context of this week’s other sessions – all of the information that we’ve discussed together about sensitive conversations about finances, goal-setting, and the day-to day-financial topics, like budgeting, savings, and credit, can really be put into action with these possible new income sources from the American Rescue Plan as a jumping off point. Also remember, all of the information, the tools, and the resources that we mentioned are linked in your session handout as well as in that resource list. Nothing to memorize. You know that you have resources by your side. Feel free to send additional questions and concerns in the chat as we go. We’ll do our best to address them either verbally or just by responding to you directly in the chat.
OK. Many of you may be aware that the American Rescue Plan provided a third round of stimulus payments or economic impact payments. Most people qualified for a payment of $1,400, plus another $1,400 for each qualifying dependent. For this round of payments, that also includes more people than before: college students, adult dependents who are included on your tax return, the spouses and children with Social Security Numbers, primary tax filers who have ITINs. As Ann mentioned, many families have already received this payment, but if a family you’re working with believes they are eligible but have not received stimulus payments, there are some tools to help them get more information. You can track the status of all stimulus payments via the IRS’s Get My Payment Tool on their website.
If a family has not received one of the first two stimulus payments from 2020 and they are eligible, they can claim those payments on this year’s tax return as the Recovery Rebate Credit and receive the payments via a tax refund. If a family hasn’t received this third round of payments from earlier this year, they can track it via Get My Payment, and it’s likely that they will be able to claim it on next year’s tax return as a refund.
The American Rescue Plan also affects unemployment insurance in two big ways. First is that it expands unemployment payments through September. This means that people receiving unemployment insurance will continue to receive a federal increase, meaning more money each week. People who apply for unemployment now and in the future will receive this increase through September, as well. If you’re working with a family who is not currently receiving unemployment insurance but might be eligible, there’s a link in the session handout to find information about eligibility and how to file.
Second, related to unemployment, the American Rescue Plan retroactively makes the first $10,200 of unemployment payments received in 2020 nontaxable. That means if a family received unemployment benefits in 2020 and filed their tax return before mid March, they may need to file an amended return so that they receive the money they are owed.
Eligible families can do this for free at any VITA tax preparation site, and many VITA sites are currently operating either virtually or with a hybrid model. They’re still there this year. Your session handout has a link to find those sites near you. There’s also an online resource available to families who are comfortable completing their tax return on their own called myfreetaxes.com. As a reminder, those taxes are going to be due on May 17th.
One of the most talked-about aspects of this bill is the creation of a monthly child allowance or a monthly payment for each child in the household. This is a temporary monthly child allowance to replace what is the current child tax credit that many families already received yearly in their tax refund. Beginning in July, families will start to receive monthly payments of $300 per child under age 6, and $250 per child aged 6 to 17. This is a one-year program that’s going to end on December 31st, 2021.
For families, this means they will start receiving payments in July, and then they’ll claim the monthly credits owed from this past January through June retroactively on next year’s taxes. The amounts that families receive are based on the children that they claim as dependents on their most recent tax return. The best way to guarantee a family starts to receive these payments in July is to file taxes now. I also just want to note that these payments, the monthly child payments, as well as stimulus payments and any other tax credits, don’t count towards income for benefit eligibility, such as TANF and SNAP.
In our final category, a little more general, goes into the details of some other benefits that the bill expands. First, child care expenses. The bill expands the size of the child and dependent care credit, which is a tax credit for child care, paid for by parents of children under age 13 while they’re either working or while they’re looking for work. For families, this means they should keep track of the records of their child care expenses. They can report it on next year’s tax return and receive the credit as a refund. This is different from the past because the credit will be fully refundable. Even people who don’t normally owe taxes will be able to benefit and receive money from this credit.
Then, food and nutrition assistance. The bill does extend the current 15% increase in SNAP, or food stamps, until September 30th, 2021, and also increases with benefits for four months, specifically aimed at providing more fruits and veggies for moms and babies. It extends Pandemic EBT, which provides grocery benefits to replace meals that children miss when they don’t attend school or child care in person, and that should be through the summer. Families who are already enrolled in these programs don’t need to do anything because most changes and extensions will be automatic. But new eligible families can enroll via their local SNAP or WIC office, which the info for those offices is linked in your session handout.
Rental assistance is another one Ann mentioned. Now with the bill, more people are eligible for more rental assistance. The bill not only extends the eviction moratorium, but it makes more funding available for overdue rent. Families are now eligible for renter’s assistance if at least one person in the household qualifies for unemployment, if someone has had a cutback in income, or if they’ve experienced some kind of financial hardship because of the pandemic. You can also qualify for this assistance if you are at risk of being homeless or if your household income is at or below 80% of the median of your area income. For families, they should know that, if they do owe rent, they should contact their landlord about applying for assistance.
Finally, health care affordability. The bill expands subsidies to make health insurance purchased through the marketplace more affordable, especially for those people receiving unemployment. If families are already receiving marketplace insurance, they don’t need to do anything because the changes are automatic. But it is an open-enrollment period where families can apply for health insurance, if needed. A reminder again, all of this information as well as the tools, links, and resources mentioned are in the session handout and in your resource list. With that, I’m going to pass it over to Jen to put some of this information into context with a real example of a family.
Jennifer: Awesome. Thanks, Lucy. Yes. That was a lot of information about a lot of amazing resources that are available in the American Rescue Plan. Supporting families in understanding and accessing the benefits, the ARP, American Rescue Plan, provides won’t look the same for each family. How and if they access and use these benefits will be unique for each.
As family service professionals, we can help families understand their eligibility, use tools to access the benefits, and support families in making decisions about how to use the benefits once they’re obtained. We’re going to go ahead and walk through a few scenarios that will help us understand some of the differences we may encounter when working with families. Because several of the key benefits are tied to taxes, we’re going to discuss family situations from that perspective, from the perspective of their actual tax return and how they file. Since each family will have a unique situation, we may not cover it all in these scenarios, the resources, of course, linked in your session handout will be a great way to be further helpful in supporting families in understanding how the ARP applies to them.
Let’s go ahead and dive into our first scenario. This scenario is for a family who usually files taxes. If you have a family who already typically files a yearly tax return, they should get many of the ARP, American Rescue Plan, benefits automatically. Stimulus payments may have likely already arrived to them via direct deposit information that they included on their last tax return. If not, you can work with families to check the status of their payments on the government’s Get My Payment portal. Be sure that they indicate that they did not receive 2020 payments on their 2020 tax return.
For some families, these payments, whether received on time or retroactively in the tax fund, may open a conversation about their financial goals. For families who maybe have not seen a significant financial effect from the pandemic, such as a job loss, stimulus payments and other benefits may serve as a starting point towards reaching their economic mobility goals, such as savings or paying off debts. Those conversations may arise, as well.
However, if they did lose a job during the pandemic, they were likely eligible for some unemployment benefits. As Lucy mentioned previously, if they did receive unemployment insurance, the first $10,200 that they received is not taxable. That means that if they filed their taxes before mid March 2021, that’s when the American Rescue Plan was actually passed, you can encourage them to actually file an amendment to their tax returns so that they get any withholding or tax benefits back as a refund on that ten – that first $10,200 that they may previously have claimed as taxable and showing a taxable income.
For those families already filing taxes, they should see their monthly child allowance start coming in in July. This will come in via direct deposit to the account on their most recent tax return. That’s what the IRS is going to use. Some families who typically file taxes may be familiar with the idea of the Child Tax Credit on their yearly tax return. This new version is related, but it will provide more money per child and will be delivered monthly instead of a lump sum at tax time. Those are the two main differences, is the amount and when it’s actually coming through. Other assistance is likely available to these families depending on their income and state eligibility rules. Again, you can refer to the handout in the resources section about next steps for families about that. I’m going to pass it over to Lucy for the next scenario.
Lucy: OK. Let’s look into another common situation. There are families who we’ll work with, who do not typically file taxes, and this is most often because they don’t have enough income to have a filing requirement. But the good news is they may still be eligible for benefits. First, stimulus payments. There are of course some instances in which families may have already received their economic impact payments automatically, even if they did not file taxes in recent years. Those are people who used the IRS’s nonfilers platform earlier in 2020 or people who already receive SSI payments or VA benefits, meaning they’re already in the IRS’ system.
But if they did not receive payments, families can receive their recovery rebate when they file taxes this year. For those families who never filed taxes and didn’t meet any of the other situations that I just mentioned, this might be the route they will go – filing 2020 taxes to claim that credit. Then while it hasn’t been officially announced, families who did not receive the third stimulus payment this spring, they will be likely able to claim it on next year’s taxes.
In our role supporting families, we want to ensure that they know, even if they don’t have a requirement to file taxes, they can do so for free and via their Recovery Rebate Credit and possibly other available credits. Just as a reminder, most families can file their tax return completely for free at any VITA tax preparation site, and that information is linked in your resources.
Unemployment benefits. This eligibility is going to depend on each family. For many families who don’t typically file taxes, their income comes from Social Security, retirement, or disability payments, so unemployment insurance might not apply to them. But some families who lost a job where they made a small amount of income might be eligible for some benefits due to the recent expansions of UI eligibility.
In this scenario, you have a reference link in your handout to explore specific unemployment insurance eligibility and the filing process in your state. Again, anyone who did receive unemployment insurance, regardless of if they typically file taxes or do not, should ensure that they did not pay taxes on the first $10,200 of unemployment that they received, or they should file a tax return or an amended return to reconcile it and get their money back.
Third, our monthly child allowance. If a family decides to file a tax return just this year to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit, they’re going to be added to the IRS’ system for the monthly child payments they’re eligible for starting in July. There is talk of the IRS creating an online portal where families can submit information about their family makeup in order to register for these payments if they are not tax filers. But the most definite way to ensure you will begin receiving payments in July is going to be by filing taxes this year.
Other assistance is likely available to these families who don’t typically file taxes, depending on their specific income as well as state eligibility rules. For these scenarios, definitely refer to the handout for steps families should take to ensure they receive benefits that they’re eligible. But I also want to note that families might want to pay special attention to that child care tax credit.
With the American Rescue Plan, it’s now fully refundable. Even those who do not owe taxes and typically do not file them can benefit. In this instance, families should keep very good records of money paid for child care while they are working or looking for work, and consider filing their taxes next year in order to claim this credit and get the money back as a refund. Jen’s going to take it away with family number three.
Jennifer: Awesome. Let’s dive into one last scenario. This is for a family who files taxes, but the primary tax filer does not have a Social Security Number. Instead, they have something called an ITIN, an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. Walking through this scenario, first with the stimulus payment. In this scenario, it’s likely that this family did not get either of the two payments in 2020, but they could be eligible for payment in 2021 if a spouse or a child on the tax return has a Social Security Number. They have not yet received payments for the third round of stimulus. You can work with that family to check the status of their payments on the Get My Payment tool, and be sure that they indicate that they did not receive a 2020 payment.
Next is unemployment insurance. In this scenario, eligibility for unemployment benefits will differ for families depending on their work authorization. The link in the session handout is a good place to start understanding the eligibility for this particular family. If a family has been receiving unemployment insurance all of 2020, then they are eligible to receive – in all of 2020, they’re eligible to receive tax relief on the first $10,200, as we mentioned previously, and should file or amend their 2020 tax return to receive any withholding back.
Then when it comes to the Child Tax Credit. The monthly child allowance will be available to anyone who has a child with a Social Security Number. It doesn’t matter about the taxpayer having a social or an ITIN. This only applies to the child. Families who have already filed their taxes should begin to receive these payments automatically in July.
Then “Other.” The Child Tax Credit is available to families as long as children have a Social Security Number. Families should keep good records of money paid for child care while they’re working or looking for work and consider filing 2021 taxes even if they’re not required to. Many of the other assistance categories will actually depend on state rules. You can support families by researching specific situations together. Again, links in your session handouts are a really good place to start with that. That wraps us up on our final scenario.
Next, we’re going to go into other options that are available. As we just alluded to a little bit ago, not all benefits of the American Rescue Plan are available to all families. For the families who are ineligible for certain benefits, we will work with them. We’ll have to work with them to identify other resources that are available.
Some examples of resources include local nonprofits or faith-based organizations that provide emergency assistance or local food pantries. These resources, of course, will differ by location, and identifying them will typically involve one-on-one work with families. There are some tools that are there to help you along with your search. A really good one that we’ve highlighted here is called findhelp.org. This website provides a simple to use platform for obtaining up-to-date, free, and low-cost resources on a broad range of categories, including food, emergency housing, and financial support.
All right. We’re going a go back to using the Q&A box to engage in a little bit of discussion. Question is here on the slide. “Over the past year, what other types of resources have you been suggesting to support your families?” You can put those in the chat box. I’ll share out some of the things that are coming in so we can spread the knowledge.
I see a lot of people just doing research online – that’s fantastic – in order to find local resources. Nonprofit organizations that are doing giveaways for basic needs. Food pantries have been a huge source of help. Absolutely. Local rental assistance programs that have been going on. Absolutely. Community groups on Facebook. Definitely it seems like the internet, of course in this virtual era, has been very, very, very powerful, as well. Always a good place to start. Mutual aid, as well. Great. Public schools have been a really good source of resources. Churches, absolutely. I think that a lot of community serving organizations have really been coming together to put as much information, knowledge out there and the internet has been a great way to access all of that.
OK, great. We’re going to move on, and I know that there’s been some questions coming in through the Q&A, which we’re going to have time to address at the end. I’m going to turn it back over to Lucy for one more discussion question.
Lucy: All right. We just reviewed three scenarios, but we know they of course are not all inclusive. As people who work directly with families, think of those families that you work with. What other situations do you anticipate seeing that we haven’t mentioned yet today?
I’m seeing a lot of great responses come in the chat, meaning there are tons of other situations. One that I’m seeing is “families who have received stimulus payments, but not the full amount that they should, based on their family impact.”
I’m seeing some questions about stress related to going back to in person services. Absolutely. “Those who aren’t able to access tax prep services.” I think that’s a huge concern this year because most things are virtual, and that makes an already confusing process of tax filing a little bit more difficult. I see “needing a resource to dig into specific questions about the ARP.” Great. Definitely. All of these situations are likely to arise, and I’m sure they already have for many of you. We think that having the tools we’ve discussed should help you identify how to support families in unique situations, but every situation is unique. Remember, in your role, your learning is often going to happen alongside families as you navigate the information together.
I’m seeing some more answers come in. I’m going to pop back in. “Families who don’t speak English.” That’s a great point. There are families who may not have the language access to some of these resources and will need extra support. Thank you all. Thank you for your answers and your input.
OK. As we’re starting to wrap up our conversation today, I want to return to the context. We and many of the families we work with are continuing to feel and navigate this pandemic, both the new and ongoing effects. While the economic effects and those things we’ve talked about are major, this is just one of the piece of the reality for many families. The work you’re doing in supporting families in understanding and accessing the assistance available to them, via the American Rescue Plan and beyond, is a key component in family stability, economically and overall.
We wanted to end on the notes – the words of a real family. This quote is from Lashey, a single mom in DC who lost her job in March 2020, sharing a little bit about how having money coming in gave her that stability, not only economically, but also mentally. I’ll give everyone a few seconds to read.
OK. We’ve discussed a lot today and a lot of details. There are three key takeaways we hope you leave today’s session with and then we hope that you access the resources available and the ones we’ve shared so that you can learn more and apply the information to the specific families you work with.
First, the American Rescue Plan is very, very important for many of the children and the families served by our programs at Head Start and Early Head Start. As family service professionals, we can support families both in understanding and accessing and utilizing the benefits that the bill provides. Finally, just acknowledging that the ARP is a piece of legislation with rules and regulations. It’s designed to provide assistance to those who need it, but it can’t predict and doesn’t provide for every single family situation. The personal relationships and the real connections that you have with the families you work with are so important to having the ability to provide them with support that is tailored to their unique strengths, the challenges and the situations they’re facing.
As a final reminder for the resources, we have reviewed so much detailed – technical detailed information today, so please remember that this information and the additional resources and tools are available in your session handout as well as in the resource list in your Engagement Hub. These resources are designed to be used and shared directly with the families you work with. These are things you can work with them side by side, via virtual meetings, or send directly to them to go through on your own.
Just a little bit of a refresher on what some of those resources are. Your handout has detailed information about the American Rescue Plan and what families should do to access benefits. There’s information on how to track the stimulus payments that people may have missed with the Get My Payment tool.
There’s information on claiming your missing stimulus payments via your tax refund, and information, as well, on how to access free tax preparation around the country, either through a VITA site or on your own online. We’ve got information links there for you about Unemployment Insurance eligibility – how to apply for it and what the situation is like in your specific state. There’s, of course, information on local SNAP and WIC offices, where to find them, and what the eligibility looks like for different areas. Finally, there will be links to enroll in health care at healthcare.gov for families who are in need of that.
There’s a question in the chat I see here that I think is a great one. “Can you please provide some additional information on the Recovery Rebate Credit portal? How does it work for families and how can I help?” That’s a great question. The recovery rebate credit again, is that tax credit where you or families can claim their first two stimulus payments that they have missed on their tax return this year. It’s less of a portal. It’s more of – those families just need to file taxes this year before the May 17 deadline or get an extension in order to access those first two stimulus payments, and then that’s just going to be the exact same situation next year in terms of this third payment that went out in the spring.
For those people who miss the third payment, they should look for tax-filing opportunities next year so that they can get that money that they are owed. There is talk of a portal being created with the IRS where families can register their information, their family make up, so that they’ll start to receive the monthly child care credit in July. There isn’t a final word on that. Again, the recommendation that’s coming in from everywhere is that families, even if they don’t normally owe taxes, should file taxes this year to ensure that their information is in the IRS’s system. Great question.
Another question coming in related to vaccines, which we are going to talk about in just a second, but “Can you speak to the cost of vaccinations? Is there any information or support in the ARP?” The great news is that vaccines are available free to everyone in the U.S. You might be asked to bring in an insurance card if you have one, but regardless of if you have insurance coverage, you’ll be able to receive that vaccine for free.
We have some great information in the Engagement Hub about the vaccine so that you can learn more about it and get the information that you need to make the decision for yourself and for your family and to support families you work with. A lot of great questions coming in, so we will continue to address them as they come in verbally and in the chat.
I’ll move over just give everyone a reminder of the steps to make sure that you get your certificate of attendance for this session. Make sure you follow these steps. When we do wrap up, go to your engagement tools at the bottom of your console, and click on the blue Certificate of Attendance icon. A pop-up message will appear on your screen, and if you’ve met the full credit criteria, a certificate icon will appear in the tool window, which will allow you to download that certificate. Click on the icon to open your certificate as a pdf. It’s going to open up in a new browser tab, and you can either save it to your computer or print it right there.
If you attended the session with several colleagues and all of you met the full credit criteria, the group leader can add other viewers by opening the Group Viewer Form. Again, don’t forget to download the resources that are in the resources and helpful links section of your console. There is a great session hand out as well as those direct links, and you can go back and find these again in the Engagement Hub, too. Finally, as always, your feedback is important to us. There’s an Event Survey link posted in the Engagement Hub. Please, please remember to complete that Event Survey at the end of the institute today.
Like I just mentioned we’re eager – we know you’re all eager to resume full in person services for children and families, in your programs, as well as to learn more about the vaccine and ways to access it. The Biden administration has prioritized teachers and early educators and child care staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. You can learn some more via the information in the Engagement Hub to help you become confident making the right decision for yourself.
I’m seeing some great questions come in the chat, and I don’t want to miss them. We had one question coming about free tax prep services. “Where can I find those for families?” Great question. In your session handout in the resource list, there’s a link to the IRS’ directory of VITA sites. VITA is a program provided by the IRS for free tax preparation for low- and middle-income families. These are available all around the country, and this year, most of those services continue to operate just either virtual or hybrid form. Some people are dropping off their tax returns and then picking them up; some people are doing it totally online. There are several options available, and the IRS website is a great – a great way to get started. Or just search for VITA – V-I-T-A – sites in your area.
Another question about health care: “What’s the benefit of enrolling on healthcare.gov? How does it work for families who have not enrolled in the past?” That’s a great question. Healthcare.gov is the healthcare marketplace where people can purchase health insurance that is outside of an employer. One important thing to know is if you are receiving health care through Medicaid or Medicare, then healthcare.gov is not as relevant to you. But families who are looking for health insurance and don’t have it available through an employer or through Medicaid, healthcare.gov is a great place to go find out that information, have your questions answered, and see what your options are.
This is a great question as well, kind of really bring it into their work, someone asked: “Is it best to help parents figure out whether they are eligible for some of the benefits, or should we just point them to a website link?” For that, I’ll say you all are the experts, so be sure to think of the families you work with, and the answer might be different for everyone. There are plenty of families who will want to do the work independently on their own, and there are some who would rather sit side-by-side with you or sit across the Zoom from you and do it together. I think that answer is family-specific, and you, as the on-the-ground experts, you do have the best judgment for that. Hopefully, the links are a good help, and they’re both staff-facing and family-facing in the sense that they can work either way.
Alright. Some more questions coming in. “Families can now receive the Child Tax Credit even if the household head has an ITIN, but the child has an SSN?” Great question. Again, for these questions, I want to direct you to the links just so that you’re getting the accurate information for each specific scenario. Some scenarios are all so different. Check out the links related to the session handout and the details on the Child Tax Credit for that question.
A few more questions about Child Tax Care credit. “Are there any restrictions to this?” For the child, the child care tax credit, that’s those monthly payments we were mentioning, for the most part, this is expanding beyond things that already existed, so more families would be eligible than would be in the past. Again, to ensure you’re eligible, the best thing to do is to file a tax return this year or encourage families to file a tax return if you’re working with them. If they filed a tax return for this year for 2020 then, if they’re eligible, they are going to start receiving those payments in July.
Another good question. “Does child care reimbursement work for Head Start families? Would it be for families who might use child care in addition to Head Start?” The child care reimbursement should be for any child care expenses that you are paying out of pocket. Those will be eligible. We can send a link in response to this question – where to find the details of that so that you can be sure that the child care you’re paying for makes you eligible.
All right. Thank you everyone for those great questions. If we didn’t get to them, feel free to keep asking, and we’ll try to reply with some direct resources that you can build on. As a reminder, we have one more self-care break coming up. We’d love you to join us in the Engagement Hub, and get ready for our closing session. Thank you, everyone.Close
The American Rescue Plan gives vital direct cash support that delivers relief to those bearing the brunt of the ongoing health crisis. This session offers Head Start program staff information about who is eligible for financial relief from the plan and how they can guide families to access critical supports.
- How the American Rescue Plan (ARP) delivers relief for critical situations
- Who is eligible for resources from the ARP and who may need other supports
- How families can effectively access and use ARP resources to support their economic mobility and stability