Now that Congress has passed Biden's proposed relief package, here's what you can expect next.
The House of Representatives met early Saturday morning and voted to approve President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. The final vote was 219-212, with no Republicans voting in favor of the bill. Two Democrats crossed the aisle to vote against it.
What the bill includes
President Biden's American Rescue Plan takes dramatic steps to deal with the COVID-19 crisis from every direction. Among the items included in the bill passed earlier today are:
- $1,400 stimulus checks, with an estimated price tag of $422 billion.
- Weekly unemployment enhancement boosted from $300 to $400 through Aug. 29.
- An expansion of the Child Tax Credit to $3,600 per child under age six and $3,000 per child age six and older.
- An expansion of the Child and Dependent Tax Credit, allowing families to claim up to half of their child care expenses on their tax returns.
- An increase of the hourly minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 to $15. (More on this below.)
- $30 billion in emergency rental assistance.
- $10 billion in mortgage assistance.
- A reduction in healthcare premiums for low- and middle-income families.
- COBRA subsidies to workers who have been laid off or had their hours reduced.
What took a hit
While the proposal passed by the House today included an increase of the hourly minimum wage to $15, the motion was all but squashed on Thursday when Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough announced that a rise in the minimum wage does not qualify for budget reconciliation. Budget reconciliation is the process under which Democrats intended to pass the president's entire stimulus package with a simple majority, rather than depending on support from their Republican colleagues.
For Democrats, the parliamentary brick wall should have come as no surprise. The proposal was divisive, even among members of their own party. While progressives pushed hard for a raise in the minimum wage, moderates worried that the issue would cause enough of a fight in the Senate to delay passage of the entire stimulus package.
Given that the House voted along party lines, there's little reason to believe the Senate will work in a bipartisan manner. And with the Senate evenly split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, the version they pass is likely to be quite different from the bill passed in the House. What that means is intense debate, deal-making, and, likely, a compromise that leaves all parties slightly unhappy.
What you can expect
The fact that a majority of their constituents favor direct stimulus payments of at least $1,400 into their bank accounts will not be lost on lawmakers. Both direct stimulus payments and the expansion of boosted unemployment benefits are likely to make it through the Senate and into law. There also appears to be some bipartisan support for an increase in the Child Tax Credit.
If the Senate manages to pass some version of the bill by March 15, when unemployment benefits are set to expire, you can expect your third round of direct stimulus payments by the end of the first week of April.
In the meantime, if you've been hit by the financial fallout of COVID-19, visit our coronavirus hardship loan page to learn more about whether you qualify for a loan to get you through.
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