by Christy Bieber | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on March 11, 2021
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With Wednesday's passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, Americans will see more COVID-19 payments soon.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the final version of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.
President Joe Biden outlined the legislation before he even took office. Democrats moved quickly to pass the bill to help jumpstart the economy and aid Americans struggling with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Called the American Rescue Plan Act, the COVID-19 bill provides $1,400 direct payments to most Americans. In addition, it expands unemployment benefits to more workers, and provides an extra $300 per week in benefits through early September. It also makes money available for state and local governments to help reopen schools, cover health insurance premiums for the unemployed, and fund vaccine distribution.
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Passage of the American Rescue Plan Act in the House of Representatives was the last step necessary before Congress could send the bill to the president's desk for his signature.
There was little doubt the legislation would get enough votes in the House to advance. This branch of Congress is under the control of the Democrats, who passed the bill with a party-line vote (just one Democrat voted no). The House had already passed a version of the legislation, but had to vote again on the bill as revised by the Senate.
The Senate made some important changes to the legislation to appease moderates, imposing stricter limits on who would receive the $1,400 stimulus checks and reducing the expanded unemployment benefits from an extra $400 per week to an extra $300 per week.
Although some progressives in the House objected to these changes, they voted in favor of the amended bill to avoid derailing the legislation and keeping Biden from achieving one of his central campaign promises.
The House's passage of the American Rescue Plan Act clears the way for Biden to officially sign the bill into law. This is expected as early as Friday.
Once he signs the legislation, the IRS is expected to move quickly to deliver the $1,400 stimulus payments. Biden has said the money could make its way to Americans' bank accounts as early as this month.
The legislation will also become law before the current expansion of unemployment benefits ends on March 14. However, states manage their own unemployment systems. While some promise no interruption in the delivery of additional benefits, others plan to await federal guidance and warn the process may not be seamless. When earlier legislation expanded benefits, some states took as long as a month to deliver extra payments, and it could take several weeks this time as well.
Still, now that the American Rescue Plan Act has officially passed both houses of Congress, there's no longer any question: the money is on the way.
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