Early last month, Congress passed a 1.9 trillion dollar stimulus package to foster economic and medical relief from the now year-long pandemic. The package was passed almost entirely on party lines, but remains a significant victory for the Democratic party and the new administration. Here’s what to expect from the package, known formally as the American Rescue Plan.
The bill includes an extension of the $300 dollar a week increase policy for those signed up for unemployment benefits until early September. Early attempts to increase the benefits to $400 dollars a week were turned down––instead, Democrats compromised by simply extending the earlier policy. Without the package, this policy would have expired in mid-March.
More significantly, about $400 billion dollars will go to making monthly $1400 dollar payments to individuals making under $75,000, and married couples making under $150,000, on top of earlier $600 payments. The bill also covers dependents, such as children––families will receive $1400 per dependent. Stimulus payments are gradually decreased by income bracket, with individuals making more than $80,000 receiving no payment, as part of a compromise by the Biden administration.
The bill also outlines a historic expansion of child tax credit rules, lasting a year, with most Americans receiving $3000 if they have children under 17, and $3600 if they have children under 6.
In addition to personal benefits, the stimulus package also includes $350 billion dollars allocated to state and local governments, many of which have struggled with increased costs and decreased tax revenue during the pandemic. Tens of billions of dollars were allocated to improve coronavirus testing and establishing local contact tracing systems. More than $20 billion will go to rental assistance and aid for houseless people across the country. Billions more will go to other important initiatives such as helping schools reopen safely, aid for failing pension plans, a greater budget for FEMA, increasing the value of the COBRA health insurance plan from 85% to 100%, rural health care, and more.
However, the package does not include the long-promised minimum wage increase championed by the likes of Senator Bernie Sanders, after the Senate Parliamentarian ruled that a bill with such a provision could not surpass the filibuster using the rules of budget reconciliation, which was essential to passing the bill in the first place.
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