The 2022 holiday season will be a lean one for millions of Americans who have enough on their financial plates just dealing with skyrocketing inflation. One option is to cut back on spending. Another is to search for financial assistance from the government.
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Depending on factors like your income and household size, you might qualify for free government money from a variety of programs — especially if you still haven’t filed your 2021 federal income tax return.
In mid-October, the IRS sent letters to more than 9 million U.S. individuals and families who might qualify for tax benefits but didn’t claim them by filing a 2021 return. Many in this group might be eligible to claim some or all of the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit, the expanded Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit and other tax credits, depending on their personal and family situation.
For these credits, you have until Nov. 17, 2022, to use the government’s Free File platform at IRS.gov/freefile, which lets people whose yearly incomes are $73,000 or less file a return online free of charge.
You can also look at other government programs currently underway that might cut your debt or provide financial assistance. Here’s a look at eight ways you could qualify for free money.
Child Tax Credit
Eligible families can still claim last year’s expanded Child Tax Credit even if they received monthly advance payments during the last half of 2021. The total credit can be as much as $3,600 per child, but you must file a federal tax return by November 17. Visit ChildTaxCredit.gov to learn more.
Earned Income Tax Credit
Like the CTC, this credit was also expanded under the American Rescue Plan as a way to help low- and moderate-income families with children. The credit can be as much as $1,502 for workers with no qualifying children, $3,618 for those with one child, $5,980 for those with two children and $6,728 for those with at least three children, according to the IRS. You will need to file a return by Nov. 17 to claim it. Visit the IRS’s EITC page for more info.
Recovery Rebate Credit
If you missed out on last year’s third round of Economic Impact Payments you might be eligible to claim the RRC, more commonly known as a stimulus payment. The maximum credit is $1,400 for each qualifying adult, plus $1,400 for each eligible child or adult dependent. Again, you will need to file a 2021 tax return. Visit the Recovery Rebate Credit page for more information.
Child and Dependent Care Credit
Families who pay for daycare so they can work or look for work can get a tax credit worth up to $4,000 for one qualifying person and $8,000 for two or more qualifying people. This also requires filing a 2021 tax return. Visit the Child and Dependent Care Credit page to learn more.
Federal Student Loan Forgiveness
President Joe Biden’s federal student loan relief program provides up to $10,000 in canceled debt to individual borrowers with annual incomes below $125,000 in 2020 or 2021, and households with less than $250,000 in income those same two years. Pell Grant recipients are eligible for up to $20,000 in canceled loans. Applications have been paused due to being held up by lawsuits seeking to shut the program down. In the meantime, the Biden administration has begun to send out acceptance letters in anticipation of the program being approved.
Student Loan Refund Checks
While most federal student loan borrowers wait for the various legal cases to play out, some borrowers are already getting refunds. Checks are being sent to certain student loan borrowers who paid down their student loans after the pandemic pause took effect in March 2020. Despite the pandemic pause, an estimated 8.8 million people made at least one payment between March 2020 and December 2021. No additional action is needed in terms of claiming an eligible payment refund, but borrowers do have to submit their student loan debt relief applications.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
This program provides financial assistance to families with children when the parents or other responsible relatives can’t provide for the family’s basic needs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides grants to individual states to run the TANF program. Visit the HHS’s TANF website to learn more about eligibility requirements and where to apply.
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Emergency Rental Assistance
You might qualify for help paying rent or utilities under this U.S. Treasury Department program, which is divided into ERA1 and ERA2. Funds are provided directly to states, U.S. territories, local governments and Native American tribes. Visit the Treasury Department’s ERA page for more information.
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