$1,400 Stimulus Checks & More: Biden's Coronavirus Relief Plan Officially Released

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The President-elect has officially released a plan calling for $1,400 stimulus checks.

The President-elect has officially released a plan calling for $1,400 stimulus checks. 

After weeks of speculation, President-elect Joe Biden has provided details of his coronavirus relief plan. On Thursday afternoon, the incoming president laid out his administration's stimulus plan. 

As expected, it includes stimulus checks for Americans -- the president-elect called for an additional $1,400 payment to be deposited into Americans' bank accounts. But the legislation also contains many more measures that could help struggling families cope with the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

Here's everything you need to know about Joe Biden's stimulus plan

Biden's proposed stimulus bill, called the American Rescue Plan, would come at a cost of $1.9 trillion. The proposal includes:

  • $1,400 stimulus payments for most Americans. Biden and other key figures on the left have been referring to "$2,000 payments" in recent weeks. However, this figure included the $600 payments authorized by the $900 billion COVID-19 bill passed in December. The IRS has already begun distributing these payments. Biden's plan provides an additional $1,400, bringing the total payment to $2,000, including the money already distributed.
  • $400 in extra weekly unemployment benefits until the end of September. The recent $900 billion relief bill boosted benefits by just $300 per week and only until mid-March. Biden's plan would provide an extra $100 per week and ensure the unemployed receive more help over a longer time.
  • Changes to the Child Tax Credit. Currently, the Child Tax Credit provides up to $2,000 for dependents under 17 and only $1,400 of it is refundable. Biden's plan would increase the amount of the credit to $3,600 for children under the age of 6 and to $3,000 per year for older children. The credit would also be made fully refundable for one year.
  • A new federal minimum wage of $15 per hour. The federal minimum wage is currently set at $7.25.
  • An extension of eviction and foreclosure moratoriums. The recently passed $900 billion bill extended eviction moratoriums through the end of January. Biden's bill would push this date forward to the end of September.
  • $350 billion in aid to state and local governments. Strong objections from Republicans meant this was left out of the most recent stimulus legislation entirely. However, Biden's proposed amount is a significant reduction from the $915 billion in flexible aid the HEROES Act would have provided. The HEROES Act was passed by the Democrat-controlled house back in May but not taken up by the Senate.
  • Over $100 billion for education. This includes K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities.
  • $20 billion for the distribution of coronavirus vaccines. This money would be distributed as part of a partnership with states, local governments, and Native American tribes.
  • $50 billion for expanded coronavirus testing. This covers the cost of more tests, development of testing protocols, and expanded lab capacity.

What happens next?

President-elect Biden will formally present the details of his plan to the nation in a press conference on Thursday evening. And once the new president is sworn in, it's likely legislation mirroring this framework will quickly be passed in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. 

The legislation will, of course, have to pass the Senate to become law. The Senate will be under the control of the Democrats but the chamber is split 50-50, with the vice president casting the tie-breaking vote. And, for legislation to advance through the regular process, it will likely need to overcome a filibuster, which means it would need 60 votes. 

Biden likely kept the cost of the bill at $1.9 trillion -- rather than providing a larger relief package with a cost closer to the $3.4 trillion price of the HEROES Act -- because the administration hopes to get at least some Republican support for his plan. Several senators on the right, including Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley, have pressed for the passage of $2,000 stimulus checks (which are included in Mr. Biden's plan). There's at least a small possibility the bill could pass on a bipartisan basis.

The issue is that many Republicans previously indicated their threshold for a COVID-19 relief bill is $1 trillion. As such, even though the plan is more scaled down than many on the progressive left would likely prefer, it could still be a hard sell for those on the right. Especially as the bill allocates billions of dollars of federal funding to the states.

American Rescue Plan will still need to pass the Senate

Democrats don't necessarily need 60 votes, though. It is possible they could use a process called reconciliation to pass it with just 51 votes. However, unless some Republicans jump on board, they couldn't afford to lose any Democratic support. And it's not clear if Biden will necessarily have the votes he needs -- Joe Manchin, a conservative Senate Democrat, has already expressed skepticism about another large check. There are also concerns impeachment proceedings in the Senate could slow the swift passage of the legislation. 

Still, as Biden lays his plan before the nation and party leaders on the left indicate the passage of a stimulus bill is their top priority, Americans have every reason to be hopeful.

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