Stimulus checks are just the start of what's in the Democrats' bill.
On Friday, House Democrats released their $1.9 trillion stimulus plan. The proposal totals 591 pages and includes measures approved by nine House committees.
It's based on the framework laid out by President Joe Biden, and it includes myriad forms of relief for Americans. Here's exactly what's in the massive proposal.
What's in the $1.9 trillion stimulus package?
The House stimulus plan includes the following provisions.
Direct payments of $1,400
This third stimulus check fulfills Joe Biden's promise to put $2,000 into Americans' bank accounts -- the $1,400 combines with the $600 delivered by stimulus legislation President Trump signed into law in December.
The $1,400 goes to eligible adults as well as dependents, including adult dependents. The income limits on receiving the full check mirror those in past stimulus bills: Individuals with incomes up to $75,000 and married couples with incomes up to $150,000 receive the full payment.
Phase-out rules for eligibility are different: Individuals with incomes of $100,000 or more receive no payments, and the cutoff for couples is $200,000. These new limits address concerns from Republicans and conservative Democrats, including Maine Republican Susan Collins and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin. These lawmakers argued that relief should be targeted toward lower-income households, and pointed out that Americans with six-figure incomes could receive stimulus money under the old phase-out rules.
Help for the jobless
Freelancers, gig workers, and those who aren't normally eligible for unemployment were granted benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program authorized in prior COVID-19 relief bills. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program, also part of past legislation, extended the duration of benefits beyond what states normally allow. Both of these programs were set to expire in mid-March, but the new stimulus package extends them through Aug. 29.
Workers receiving unemployment benefits currently get an extra $300 in federal aid on top of state aid, a boost also slated to end in March. The relief bill increases that to an extra $400, and provides the additional funds through the end of August.
An expanded child and family tax credit
Currently, parents can claim a child tax credit valued at up to $2,000 per child -- but the credit is only partly refundable, so lower-income Americans who don't pay at least $2,000 in taxes can't take full advantage of the credit. The legislation increases the amount parents can receive in 2021 and makes the credit fully refundable. The credit will be worth $3,600 for children under six and $3,000 for kids from six to 18.
An expanded earned income tax credit
The earned income tax credit is commonly claimed by lower-income workers, but there are strict eligibility limits. The stimulus legislation expands eligibility by allowing workers as young as 19 to claim the credit even if they have no children. Currently, the minimum age for childless workers is 25. Also, there's an upper age limit under current law that the stimulus legislation eliminates. The current maximum earned income tax credit for childless individuals is tripled under the proposal.
More help with health insurance
Under The Affordable Care Act, Americans with incomes up to 400% of the poverty level are eligible for insurance subsidies. The stimulus legislation expands these limits and makes funding available to more families. It also reduces the maximum that individuals have to pay for coverage from 10% of income to 8.5%. Lower-income Americans and the unemployed would get extra subsidies to reduce premiums to $0.
Workers who opt for COBRA coverage after a layoff also get help covering premiums. They would be required to pay just 15% of the cost through September.
An increase in the federal minimum wage
The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, but this bill boosts it to $15 per hour by 2025. Tip workers, disabled workers, and younger workers would also be guaranteed the minimum wage, which is not currently the case.
In addition, the legislation:
- Offers help for small businesses, including $15 billion for Emergency Injury Disaster Loans, $25 billion in grants for bars and restaurants, and $7 billion more for the Paycheck Protection Program authorized by past legislation.
- Provides around $130 billion to help schools re-open. Schools could use the funds for COVID-19 safety protocols such as enhanced ventilation. At least 20% of the money must be allocated to address learning shortfalls due to school closures via interventions like summer classes and after-school programs.
- Provides around $40 billion for colleges to help cope with COVID-19's effects. At least 50% of the funding must be allocated to emergency financial aid grants for struggling students.
- Extends expanded food assistance benefits. Under past relief bills, food stamps received a 15% boost set to expire at the end of June. The legislation extends it through September.
- Provides $880 million in funding for the Women, Infants, and Children program to boost benefits temporarily and increase participation.
- Provides $19.1 billion to state and local governments to provide rental assistance and help with utility bills.
- Helps struggling homeowners. It authorizes as much as $10 billion to assist homeowners in paying mortgage bills, property taxes, and utilities.
- Authorizes $5 billion in homeless prevention funds to state and local governments.
- Provides tax credits for employers who offer paid sick leave and family leave through the end of September. Providing paid leave is optional (past relief bills established mandatory leave).
- Provides $39 billion for childcare providers to help purchase PPE, to assist families struggling to pay for daycare, and to cover employee pay.
- Authorizes $350 billion for state and local governments. The money will be split between state governments and other municipalities, and it is intended to help them cope with budget shortfalls due to pandemic-related costs and a drop in revenue.
- Provides $14 billion for vaccines and COVID-19 testing.
Will this stimulus plan become the law?
The House of Representatives is expected to pass this lengthy bill the week of Feb. 22. However, it faces more hurdles in the Senate.
Democrats have just 50 of 100 votes in the Senate, so they cannot overcome a filibuster of legislation without the votes of 10 Republicans. While they may be able to use a process called reconciliation that requires just 51 votes to pass a bill, they cannot afford to lose a single member who caucuses with them. And there are restrictions on what can be passed through reconciliation, so some provisions -- such as an increase to the federal minimum wage -- may not pass muster.
Still, with Democrats in control and reconciliation available, some version of this legislation will almost assuredly be signed into law soon -- likely before mid-March, when some workers will otherwise lose expanded unemployment benefits. Those hoping for help from D.C. should watch carefully in the coming days: Relief may be on the way.
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