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House Offers $825 Billion Stimulus
Some provisions drew fire as unlikely to lead to job creation. The bill proposed a $650 million account for providing coupons to television viewers to enable them to make the conversion to digital television. The bill also includes $200 million to refurbish the National Mall, particularly the Tidal Basin walls around the Jefferson Memorial, and another $150 million for a backlog of repairs at the Smithsonian Institution.
The plan calls for an overwhelming majority of the spending to take place within the next two years, although Obey said a "much smaller amount" would be spent in 2011. Contracts for highway construction -- totaling $30 million -- must be signed in 120 days, part of Obama's pledge to find "shovel-ready" projects.
The largest chunk of spending goes toward education, including $41 billion for special education, school construction and other elementary and high school programs. Pell grants for higher education will increase by $500, to more than $5,000 a year.
Senate Democrats have predicted their stimulus wish list could rise to $850 billion, including many provisions not included in the House bill. If a $70 billion fix to the alternative minimum tax is included in the final legislation, as expected, the final version could top $900 billion.
House tax writers dropped a $3,000 tax credit for every new worker hired by U.S. companies, an idea Obama had proposed but that lawmakers dismissed as ineffective and ripe for abuse. They did include an Obama proposal to provide a $500 payroll tax credit for individuals earning below $75,000 per year. Couples making below $150,000 per year would receive a $1,000 credit.
The package includes significant sums to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency and to create uniformity in health-care record keeping, two sectors widely viewed as ripe for job growth. The energy money comes in the form of tax credits, along with $32 billion of direct spending and loan guarantees for new electricity transmission and grid improvements that can help link wind, solar and other renewable energy sources to consumers.
The package also includes $16 billion to repair public housing and retrofit them for energy efficiency and another $6 billion to weatherize modest income homes. Advocates of these programs say they can lead to jobs for people with only moderate skills.
Unemployment checks would increase by $25 per week, and federal welfare funding to needy families also would increase temporarily. Low-income elderly and disabled Social Security recipients would receive a one-time additional monthly payment. Workers who have lost their jobs would be eligible for temporary health-care subsidies and extended COBRA coverage from their former employers.
Staff writer Steven Mufson contributed to this report.