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At Long Last, Economic Relief for Mixed-Status Families

The American Rescue Plan will provide overdue stimulus checks for many immigrants and their families who have been denied them thus far, including tens of thousands of Illinois children.

By Sarah Cartagena, Immigration Analyst

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After being explicitly excluded from benefits of the CARES Act and the December 2020 coronavirus relief package, approximately 94,000 U.S. citizen and legal-status children of undocumented parents in Illinois can finally claim their deserved economic assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. An estimated additional $131.6M is now coming directly to mixed-status families in Illinois in the form of stimulus checks. 

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, passed by Congress and immediately signed by President Biden, includes $1,400 direct checks for most persons who have a valid Social Security number (SSN) and meet income thresholds. Unlike the previous relief packages, this means that dependent U.S. citizen and legal-status children whose parents file taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) are finally eligible, and can each receive $1,400. This is a meaningful remedy for Latino immigrant families, who make up a significant number of mixed-status families in Illinois. 

Under the American Rescue Plan, eligible individuals whose adjusted gross income (AGI) is at or below $75,000 and couples whose AGI is at or under $150,000 qualify for the full $1,400 checks for themselves and their dependents. Individuals whose AGI is between $75,000 and $80,000 will receive a reduced amount, as will couples whose AGI is between $150,000 and $160,000. Those who have an AGI over $80,000 and $160,000, respectively, will not qualify for this round of checks. 

Although the American Rescue Plan is more inclusive than its predecessors, it still regrettably excludes undocumented individuals, who file their federal income taxes with an ITIN, and their noncitizen children. This is an estimated 405,901 people in Illinois who are still struggling to make ends meet, making difficult decisions between paying rent or buying food. At the same time, these same undocumented households in Illinois are contributing an estimated $1.4B total in federal, state and local taxes.

The December 2020 coronavirus relief package had initiated the slight expansion of direct stimulus-check eligibility for mixed-status families, with the recognition of certain mixed-status families where at least one spouse had a valid Social Security number. This allowed 64,000 U.S citizens and legal-status spouses and 67,000 U.S Citizen and legal-status children in Illinois to qualify for both the $600 direct check allocated in the December package and retroactively receive the $1,200 under the CARES Act. 

Another noteworthy piece of the American Rescue Plan is significant Child Tax Credits as advanced refund payments for families with U.S Citizen and legal-status children up to the age of 17 years, as long as parents file taxes with ITIN or a SSN and are under the income maximum limit. Eligible children age 0-5 years can qualify for up to $3,600 in Child Tax Credits, and eligible children age 6-17 years old can qualify for up to $3,000 in Child Tax Credits in 2021. These tax credits will be disbursed in monthly installments until December 2021. This will benefit an additional estimated 1,037,000 Latino families in Illinois who will either receive an increase in their Child Tax Credit or are newly eligible under this COVID-19 relief package. 

In addition to direct checks and Child Tax Credits, other pieces of the American Rescue Plan COVID-19 relief package include up to $10,200 federally tax-exempt unemployment benefits for 2020, $21.6 billion in emergency aid for low-income renters, and $13.7B for Illinois in state and local aid.