Stimulus Checks and More: Here's What's in the COVID Relief Bill That Just Passed the Senate

by Christy Bieber | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on March 8, 2021

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Newspaper headlines about a stimulus plan and a $100 bill.

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The Senate's version of the bill should be the final one. Here's what's in it.

On Saturday afternoon, the U.S. Senate passed a coronavirus relief bill on a party-line vote. With no Republican support, Democrats followed through on their pledge to provide stimulus checks, help the unemployed, and offer other economic relief.

There are some important differences in the Senate bill from the one passed by the House of Representatives.

The legislation contains many of the coronavirus relief provisions President Joe Biden laid out before he took office. However, the final version of the bill is a little less generous in some important ways.

Here's what's in the Senate coronavirus bill

The COVID-19 relief bill passed by the Senate provides many forms of economic assistance. It's similar in many ways to the legislation the House of Representatives already passed. Among other things, it will deliver:

  • $3,600 in Child Tax Credits per child under age six and $3,000 per older child
  • $350 billion in state aid
  • $34 billion to expand subsidies under the Affordable Care Act and make health insurance more affordable
  • $14 billion for COVID-19 vaccine distribution

However, it does not include an increase in the federal minimum wage. This was something Biden had promised during his campaign and had been included in the House version. But it had to be dropped because of the legislative process the Senate used to pass the bill.

There were also some changes to other key provisions of the House bill. Here are the components of the Senate bill that are substantially different:

1. $1,400 stimulus checks

The bill authorizes $1,400 stimulus checks for eligible American adults and dependents. These payments were one of Biden's key campaign promises. The $1,400 payment combines with the already-distributed $600 payments to fulfill his $2,000 check commitment.

The Senate version of the stimulus bill substantially narrows payment eligibility. Individuals with an income up to $75,000 for single filers or $150,000 for married joint filers will still receive the full payment. However, the income threshold has been reduced.

  • House version: Singles who earn up to $100,000 and married joint filers who earn up to $200,000 would receive partial payments.
  • Amended Senate version: Eligibility phases out completely once incomes hit $80,000 or $160,000.

2. Expanded unemployment benefits

The House stimulus bill provided an extra $400 in weekly unemployment benefits. However, conservative Democrats expressed concern about the cost, as well as the potential it might discourage some people from returning to work.

As a result, the Senate version of the bill authorizes an extra $300 in weekly benefits. The benefits will be available until Sept. 6, 2021. Up to $10,200 of unemployment benefits will be made non-taxable under this deal, though, as long as household income is under $150,000.

3. COBRA insurance subsidies

The Senate bill provides a 100% subsidy for COBRA premiums through the end of September This is more generous than the House bill, which paid only 85% of these premiums.

COBRA allows workers to stay on their employer's health insurance coverage after a job loss. However, since employers no longer subsidize premiums, COBRA can be prohibitively expensive. The Senate bill subsidizes premiums to help defray these costs.

What's next?

The changes mean the House of Representatives will have to vote again on the bill. The House is expected to pass the legislation as written because there's a very tight timeline. Previous coronavirus relief bills had expanded unemployment benefits until March 14. As a result, time is running out to ensure those benefits don't lapse.

This is almost certainly the version of the bill that will make its way to the president's desk.

Biden has already voiced his support for the compromises, so he's expected to sign it quickly. Since the IRS is already set up to deliver stimulus funds, eligible Americans can expect more money in their bank accounts soon afterward.

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