Senate Takes First Step Toward Passing $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Package

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Americans are now even closer to getting a third round of relief.

As the coronavirus crisis drags on, Americans are desperate for financial relief -- and the $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal in the works could help. On Thursday, March 4, the Senate took its first big step toward passing its relief bill.

The chamber voted to begin debate on the rescue package. Lawmakers may be able to vote on the bill as soon as this upcoming weekend. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate will stay in session to finish up the bill this week.

Why the rush?

President Joe Biden has always said he's eager to provide aid to the public as quickly as possible. But lawmakers have a more specific timetable in mind. They want to sign the next relief bill into law before extended unemployment benefits expire.

Jobless workers are currently entitled to a $300 weekly boost to their unemployment benefits. But that boost, along with programs extending benefits to millions of out-of-work Americans, is set to expire on March 14. If lawmakers can pass the bill before then, they avoid a lapse in benefits for many unemployed workers.

Republicans, meanwhile, have been critical of the relief bill and feel it isn't targeted enough. But Democrats are largely behind it. With control of the Senate, they can move the proposal forward.

The new relief bill boosts unemployment benefits by $400 a week and extends additional jobless benefits for gig workers through Aug. 29. It also includes money for rental assistance, extra food assistance, a more generous Child Tax Credit, and provisions for expanded health insurance subsidies.

But perhaps the most notable feature of the bill is its $1,400 stimulus checks. Individuals earning $75,000 or less, heads of household earning $112,500 or less, and married couples earning $150,000 or less will be in line for a full $1,400 payment. From there, however, those stimulus checks begin to phase out, and unlike the two previous rounds, there's a hard cutoff in place that will leave many people ineligible for a payment this time.

Specifically, those stimulus payments will be off the table at the following income thresholds:

  • $80,000 for individuals
  • $120,000 for heads of household
  • $160,000 for married couples

These lowered thresholds are actually a compromise on Democrats' part. The original income eligibility thresholds were substantially higher.

When will stimulus money arrive?

If lawmakers get a relief bill signed into law by mid-March, Americans could see their stimulus cash pretty soon. Those with bank account details on file with the IRS could, in fact, see their money within days of approval.

Those who aren't eligible for direct deposit will need to wait longer for a check or debit card to arrive in the mail. Either way, there's a good chance a large number of Americans will receive their stimulus cash well before the end of March.

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