Democrats forged ahead to move President Biden’s $1.9 trillion covid package through the Senate on Saturday, adopting the bill without any Republican support after a marathon debate that lasted over 24 hours.
Democrats are pledging to get the bill on Biden’s desk before mid-March, when unemployment benefits expire for millions of Americans.
Here’s a rundown of the Senate bill:
- Unemployment benefits:
- The package extends the existing $300 weekly unemployment benefit through Sept. 6, as well as provide a tax break on $10,000 in unemployment benefits.
- On Friday night, Senate Democratic leaders reached an agreement over unemployment benefits with moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). The nine-hour standoff had threatened to derail Senate action on the bill.
- The House legislation would have increased the weekly benefit from $300 to $400 per week through Aug. 29.
- The $900 billion stimulus package passed in December provided the unemployed an extra $300 per week in benefits. That program expires in mid-March.
- Stimulus checks:
- The Senate bill would send $1,400 stimulus checks on top of the $600 payments issued through the stimulus bill passed in December. Roughly $400 billion of the package would go toward another round of checks.
- Earlier this week, Biden agreed to narrow eligibility for a new round of $1,400 payments to appease more moderate Democrats. Under the new structure, the checks would phase out faster for those at higher income levels compared with the formula in Biden’s initial proposal and the House bill.
- In the Senate version, individuals earning $75,000 per year and couples earning $150,000 would still receive the full $1,400-per-person benefit. However, the benefit would disappear for individuals earning more than $80,000 annually and couples earning more than $160,000.
- For example, that means singles making between $80,000 and $100,000 and couples earning between $160,000 and $200,000 would be newly excluded from seeing any benefit under the revised structure.
- Minimum wage:
- An amendment offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to increase the minimum wage to $15 did not win over enough Democratic support.
- In a statement Friday, Sanders said: “If any Senator believes this is the last time they will cast a vote on whether or not to give a raise to 32 million Americans, they are sorely mistaken. We’re going to keep bringing it up, and we’re going to get it done because it is what the American people demand and need.”
- Last month, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the minimum wage hike was not permissible within the rules of budget reconciliation, the procedure Democrats are using to pass the relief bill with a simple majority instead of the 60 votes normally required.
- The House bill included the minimum raise increase from $7.25 to $15.
- Child tax credit:
- Under the Senate plan, most Americans would receive $3,000 a year for each child ages 6 to 17, and $3,600 for each child under age 6.
- The provision in the bill would last one year and be sent via direct deposit on a “periodic” basis. It is also a major expansion of the existing child tax credit, which currently provides $2,000 a year for children from birth through age 16.
- More regular payments are intended to help offset costs families face day to day, instead of sending families one annual payment.
- Aid to state and local governments:
- The Senate package designates $350 billion for states, cities, tribal governments and U.S. territories.
- Local government funding emerged as one of the top flash points in stimulus negotiations. Moderate Senate Democrats have pushed to redirect some of those funds to invest in infrastructure and to expand the broadband network. Others on the left have grown concerned that some states would use federal aid to cut local taxes instead of spending money on covid relief.
- Facing deep budget shortfalls, state and local governments have shed 1.3 million jobs since the pandemic began last year — a loss of more than 1 in 20 government jobs, according to a Washington Post analysis of government data. While tax revenue grew in some states last year, the majority — at least 26 states — were hit with declines.
- Pandemic response
- Tens of billions of dollars will fund coronavirus testing and contact tracing; increasing the size of the public health workforce and funding vaccine distribution and supply chains.
- This week, Biden said there will be enough coronavirus vaccine doses for “every adult in America” by the end of May — a two-month acceleration of his previous projection of July.
- See other breakdowns similar to the House version, including $130 billion for schools, here.
- The Senate bill provides $510 million for the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Program. That money would support homeless services providers for overnight shelter, meals, one month’s rent and mortgage assistance and one month’s utility payments.
- The Senate version expands the Employee Retention Tax Credit for start-up companies and other businesses hit by the pandemic
- The bill also increases the value of the federal COBRA health insurance program from 85 percent to 100 percent
- The bill adds a $10 billion infrastructure program to help local governments continue crucial capital projects.
- The bill makes all coronavirus-related student loan relief tax-free.
- The bill increases the total amount of Amtrak relief funding by $200 million.
- For education funding, the bill sets aside $1.25 billion for summer enrichment; $1.25 billion for after-school programs and $3 billion for education technology
- The Senate bill also adds $8.5 billion in funds for the Provider Relief Program to assist rural health care providers.
Jeff Stein, Erica Werner and Tony Romm contributed to this report.
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