US President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan to help the US economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic is set to clear a final legislative hurdle when the House of Representatives votes on the measure Tuesday.
It is the third major spending package to counter the pandemic, and the first since Biden took office in January with his Democrats narrowly in control of both houses of Congress.
Here are the main provisions of the bill, dubbed the American Rescue Plan:
– Stimulus checks –
As with the CARES Act passed last March and the $900 billion follow-up measure enacted in December, Biden’s proposal will pay for stimulus checks to be sent to American taxpayers, this time amounting to as much as $1,400 per person.
Including this was a priority for Biden, who promised voters in Georgia that he would prioritize the checks if they elected Democratic senators and gave the party control of the chamber.
The checks will have limits: people making more than $80,000 a year are ineligible, as are couples making more than $160,000. Children and dependents will be eligible for $1,400 each.
The checks will cost about $400 billion in total, according to The Washington Post.
– Unemployment aid –
The last aid package enacted in December expanded unemployment payments by $300 a week, and extended them through March 14, a deadline that looms as the bill nears passage and awaits the president’s signature.
Democrats had pushed for more, but after a last-minute stand-off involving a moderate Democratic lawmaker, the Senate agreed to keep the payments at the same amount and extend them through September 6.
– Addressing poverty –
The Covid-19 pandemic caused mass layoffs starting last March, but poverty actually decreased after Congress authorized the $2.2 trillion CARES Act spending package, its first measure expanding the unemployment safety net and sending out stimulus checks.
Data in the months since has shown poverty creeping back up, hitting 11.3 percent in January, according to the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame.
Biden’s plan specifically targets poor Americans by expanding the Child Tax Credit, one of the main programs offering relief.
The amount refundable to taxpayers is raised to $3,600 for children under the age of six, and to $3,000 for children between the ages of six and 17.
The Earned Income Tax Credit benefiting poor workers is also increased, an eligibility expanded.
– Vaccines –
The US economy is not expected to recover fully until Covid-19 cases are greatly reduced and, to that end, the bill allocates about $15 billion for vaccines, $50 billion for testing and tracing and $10 billion for the procurement of supplies to fight the disease.
Biden had originally called for $20 billion for the vaccination effort, which was criticized for being slow after the first vaccines were rolled out in December, but has sped up in recent weeks.
He’s set the goal of administering 100 million shots in his first 100 days.
– Schools –
Students have been out of the classroom for almost a year in some parts of the country, with many shifted into online learning, which is viewed as a poor substitute.
Biden has vowed to get most children back into the classroom within his first 100 days in office, and the stimulus package includes $126 billion for kindergarten through 12th grade education.
It also includes $40 billion for colleges and universities, and $39 billion for childcare.
– State and local governments –
The plan pays for $350 billion in aid to state and local governments as well as tribes and territories, which the Republican opposition has said is wasteful.
States were particularly hard hit during the global financial crisis from 2008 to 2010, the last major economic downturn in the United States.
However, fears that the Covid-19 pandemic would be similarly devastating haven’t been born out, with the National Association of State Budget Officers reporting revenue declined 1.6 percent in the 2020 fiscal year compared with the year before.
Among states surveyed in the 2021 fiscal year thus far, 18 saw revenues come in above forecast despite the downturn, 14 came in below their prediction and six met it.