WASHINGTON (AP) – The Senate on Saturday approved a comprehensive pandemic aid package to the Republican opposition, moving President Joe Biden closer to a historic political victory that would provide checks of $ 1,400 for most Americans and billions of direct dollars. to schools, state and local governments. and companies.
The bill passed by a 50-49 vote after an overnight voting marathon and is now returning to the House for final approval, which could come early next week.
Democrats said their “American Rescue Plan” would help the country beat the virus and help the economy return to health. Republicans criticized the $ 1.9 trillion package for being more expensive than necessary. The measure follows five previous virus bills totaling about $ 4 trillion that Congress has enacted since last spring.
A look at some highlights of the legislation:
HELP THE UNEMPLOYED
The federal government’s expanded unemployment benefits would run through Sept. 6 at $ 300 per week. That is in addition to what beneficiaries get through their state unemployment insurance program. The first $ 10,200 of unemployment benefits would not be taxable for households with incomes less than $ 150,000.
In addition, the measures provide a 100% subsidy of COBRA health insurance premiums to ensure that laid off workers can stay in their employer’s health plans at no cost until the end of September.
The legislation establishes a direct payment of $ 1,400 for a single taxpayer, or $ 2,800 for a married couple filing a joint return, plus $ 1,400 per dependent. People earning up to $ 75,000 would receive the full amount, as would married couples with incomes up to $ 150,000.
The size of the check would be reduced for those who earn slightly more, with a strict limit of $ 80,000 for individuals and $ 160,000 for married couples.
Most Americans will receive the full amount. Median household income was $ 68,703 in 2019, according to the US Census Bureau.
MONEY FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
The legislation would send $ 350 billion to state and local governments and tribal governments for costs incurred through the end of 2024. The bill also requires small states to get at least the amount they received under virus legislation. that Congress approved last March.
Many communities have suffered impacts on their tax base during the pandemic, but the impact varies from state to state and city to city. Critics say the funding is poorly targeted and far more than necessary with billions of dollars allocated last spring to states and communities that have yet to be spent.
AID TO SCHOOLS
The bill calls for about $ 130 billion in additional aid for schools for students in kindergarten through grade 12. The money would be used to reduce class sizes and modify classrooms to improve social distancing, install ventilation systems and purchase personal protective equipment. The money could also be used to increase the hiring of nurses and counselors and to provide a summer school.
Spending on colleges and universities would increase by about $ 40 billion, and the money would be used to defray an institution’s pandemic-related expenses and to provide emergency aid to students to cover expenses such as food, housing and equipment. computer scientist.
HELP FOR COMPANIES
A new program for restaurants and bars affected by the pandemic would receive $ 25 billion. Grants provide up to $ 10 million per business with a limit of $ 5 million per physical location. Grants can be used to cover payroll, rent, utilities, and other operating expenses.
The bill also provides $ 7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, a small fraction of what was allocated in previous legislation. The bill also allows more nonprofits to apply for loans that are designed to help borrowers cover their payroll and operating costs and that can potentially be forgiven.
TESTS AND VACCINES
The bill provides $ 46 billion to expand federal, state and local testing for COVID-19 and to enhance contract tracking capabilities with new investments to expand laboratory capacity and configure mobile test units. It also contains about $ 14 billion to accelerate the distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines across the country.
Parts of the legislation promote long-standing Democratic priorities, such as increasing coverage under the Obama-era Affordable Care Act. Financial assistance for ACA premiums would become considerably more generous, and more strong middle-class families would qualify. Although the sweetened subsidies last only until the end of 2022, they will lower the cost of coverage and are expected to increase the number of people enrolled.
The measure also puts more money against a dozen states, mostly in the South, that have yet to take on the Medicaid expansion that is available under the ACA to cover more low-income adults. It is uncertain whether such a sweetener would be enough to begin to wear down Republican opposition to Medicaid expansion.
HIGHER TAX EXTENSIONS FOR HOUSEHOLDS WITH CHILDREN AND WITHOUT CHILDREN
Under current law, most taxpayers can reduce their federal income tax bill by up to $ 2,000 per child. In a significant change, the bill would increase the tax exemption to $ 3,000 for each child ages 6 to 17 and $ 3,600 for each child under the age of 6.
Legislation also requires payments to be made on a monthly basis rather than a lump sum. If the Secretary of the Treasury determines that this is not feasible, payments should be made as often as possible.
Families would get all the credit regardless of how little they earn in a year, sparking criticism that the changes would discourage work. Add the $ 1,400 checks and other items to the proposal, and the legislation would cut the number of children living in poverty by more than half, according to the Center for Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University.
The bill also significantly expands the Earned Income Tax Credit for 2021 by making it available to people without children. The credit for low and moderate income adults would be worth $ 543 to $ 1,502, depending on income and filing status.
RENTAL AND OWNER ASSISTANCE
The bill provides about $ 30 billion to help low-income households and the unemployed pay rent and utilities, and to help the homeless with vouchers and other support. States and tribes would receive an additional $ 10 billion for homeowners struggling with mortgage payments due to the pandemic.