Over the weekend, the U.S. House approved a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, marking a significant first step in what would be the Biden administration’s first major piece of legislation.
The “American Rescue Plan” provides $1,400 stimulus checks, with those making less than $75,000 being eligible for $1,400 and married couples earning less than $150,000 would receive $2,800. It would also increase the weekly unemployment compensation benefit (which currently sits at $300 and is set to expire in a few weeks) to $400 through the end of August.
Notably, the House-passed version of the bill includes an increase in the federal minimum wage rate to $15 an hour – but that provision is in peril, as the Senate parliamentarian ruled late last week that the minimum wage increase cannot remain in the legislation as written – a ruling that prompted White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki to say that President Biden was “disappointed in this outcome” but that he “respects the parliamentarian’s decision and the Senate’s process.” U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has since committed to continue his party’s push to raise the wage.
The bill also provides $25 billion in grants to restaurants and bars that have lost revenue because of the pandemic. Another $15 billion will fund the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance grants of up to $10,000 per business. Additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program loans and expanded eligibility to nonprofits and digital media companies is also in this bill, totaling $7 billion. It also sets aside $58 billion in grants for multi-employer pension plans and changes to single-employer pension rules.
The legislation also expands the Child Tax Credit to $3,000 per child, and $3,600 for children under age 6; and expands the Child and Dependent Tax Credit so families can claim up to half of their child care expenses on their taxes.
The bill also invests heavily in COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, to the tune of $50 billion; while another $19 billion will increase the size of the public health workforce and $16 billion will fund vaccine distribution and supply chains.
Other notable provisions in the legislation include:
- $350 billion for state and local governments
- Nearly $130 billion for K-12 education, which would be dedicated to improving ventilation systems, reducing class sizes, buying personal protective equipment and implementing social distancing
- Almost $40 billion would go to child care providers through the Child Care and Development Block Grant program. The bill also would dedicate $1 billion for the Head Start program, which is focused on helping young children from low-income families.
The bill now heads the U.S. Senate for consideration.