US Senate passes $1.9 trillion COVID-19 economic relief bill

March 07, 2021
The Senate passed a $1.9-trillion COVID-19 relief package Saturday, scaling back unemployment benefits, approved by the House and narrowing the number of Americans who receive $1,400 payments in an effort to get a bill to President Joe Biden as early as next week. — courtesy Senate TV
The Senate passed a $1.9-trillion COVID-19 relief package Saturday, scaling back unemployment benefits, approved by the House and narrowing the number of Americans who receive $1,400 payments in an effort to get a bill to President Joe Biden as early as next week. — courtesy Senate TV

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed a $1.9-trillion COVID-19 relief package Saturday, scaling back unemployment benefits, approved by the House and narrowing the number of Americans who receive $1,400 payments in an effort to get a bill to President Joe Biden as early as next week, DPA reported.

After some surprise last-minute haggling Friday between moderates and progressives, Senate Democrats passed the landmark bill Saturday morning by a vote of 50 to 49, with all Democrats voting in favor.

The measure next moves back to the House, which is expected to approve the Senate changes and send the bill to the president before March 14, when some current unemployment benefits are set to expire.

The sweeping package could be the last major legislative response to the pandemic. It includes direct financial assistance for struggling Americans, targeted aid to the restaurant, child care and airline industries, funding for vaccines and testing, aid to small businesses and support for state and local governments.

The $1.9 trillion coronavirus package passed by the Senate contains a wide range of proposals to help Americans still struggling with the economic fallout of the pandemic.

The legislation differs in at least three major ways from the bill that passed the House of Representatives last week. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the House will vote Monday night on the rule laying out terms for the bill’s consideration, and the House will vote on Tuesday on the Senate-passed version of the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he has "no doubt” Biden will sign the American Rescue Plan before the March 14 deadline.

President Biden said the Senate passing his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill is a "giant step forward" to providing relief to Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“When we took office 45 days ago, I promised the American people help was on the way. Today I can say we've taken one more giant step forward on delivering on that promise — that help is on the way,” Biden said.

He thanked Vice President Kamala Harris and senators "who worked so hard to reach a compromise."

Following these remarks, President Biden responded to the idea that progressives may be frustrated with compromises in the bill that led to its passage.

“They’re not frustrated,” Biden said Saturday. “Bernie Sanders said this is the most progressive bill he’s ever seen passed in history, since he’s been there, and the compromises were all compromises that didn’t affect the substance and the essence of what the bill is.”

In a tweet Saturday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote, “The American Rescue Plan is the most significant piece of legislation to benefit working people in the modern history of this country.”

Former President Barack Obama congratulated President Biden on the successful passage of the COVID-19 relief bill through the Senate, calling it “a reminder of why it’s so important to vote.”

“Elections matter — and we’re seeing why,” Obama said in a series of tweets following the Senate vote to approve the $1.9 trillion bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement on the Senate passage of COVID-19 relief bill, calling it "a beacon of hope."

“Today is a day of great progress and promise for the American people, as the Democratic Senate has passed President Biden’s American Rescue Plan to save lives and livelihoods.

“The House now hopes to have a bipartisan vote on this life-saving legislation and urges Republicans to join us in recognition of the devastating reality of this vicious virus and economic crisis and of the need for decisive action."

Pelosi said the bill is a "tremendous step forward" in providing help to families and small businesses hurting during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It honors our heroes – our health care workers, food, sanitation and transportation workers, and teachers – who are on the frontlines on the state and local level. It crushes the virus with the equitable and immediate distribution of the vaccine.

“And it puts our children safely back in school and puts workers back on the job. Overall, this coronavirus-centric legislation puts nearly a trillion dollars in the pockets of America’s families."

“The American Rescue Plan is a beacon of hope for America’s families and a sign that, as President Biden has promised: Help is on the way,” she added.

Here's how Americans could benefit from the Senate bill:

If your family makes less than $160,000 a year: The Senate bill would provide direct payments worth up to $1,400 per person to families earning less than $160,000 a year and individuals earning less than $80,000 a year. The payments will phase out faster than they would have under the House version of the bill, which set the income caps at $200,000 for couples and $100,000 for individuals.

That means that not everyone who was eligible for a check earlier will receive one now — but for those who do qualify, the new payments will top up the $600 checks approved in December, bringing recipients to a total of $2,000 apiece.

If you are unemployed: The jobless would receive a $300 weekly federal boost to unemployment benefits and would get those payments through September, under a last-minute change in the Senate. The deal also calls for extending two key pandemic jobless benefits programs for the same period and making the first $10,200 of unemployment payments tax-free.

This is a significant difference from the House bill, which would provide a $400 weekly enhancement through Aug. 29 and continue the two pandemic programs for the same period. The House bill does not contain the tax provision.

If you are hungry: Under both the Senate and House bills, food stamp recipients would see a 15% increase in benefits continue through September, instead of having it expire at the end of June. And families whose children's schools are closed may be able to receive Pandemic-EBT benefits through the summer if their state opts to continue it.

If you're behind on your rent or mortgage: Both bills would send roughly $20 billion to state and local governments to help low-income households cover back rent, rent assistance and utility bills.

If you have children: Most families with minor children could claim a larger child tax credit for 2021, under a provision contained in both the Senate and House bills. Qualifying families could receive a child tax credit of $3,600 for each child under 6 and $3,000 for each one under age 18, up from the current credit of up to $2,000 per child under age 17.

If you own a small business: The bills would provide $15 billion to the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan program, which provides long-term, low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration. Severely impacted small businesses with fewer than 10 workers will be given priority for some of the money.

If you're sick: If you're sick, quarantining or caring for an ill loved one or a child whose school is closed, the bills may provide your employer an incentive to offer paid sick and family leave. Unlike Biden's original proposal, the House and Senate bills would not require employers to offer the benefit. But they do continue to provide tax credits to employers who voluntarily choose to offer the benefit through Oct. 1.

If you need health insurance: More Americans could qualify for heftier federal premium subsidies for Affordable Care Act policies for two years, under both the Senate and House versions of the plan.

Who is out of luck? Workers being paid at or just above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour will not see a boost in pay. The Senate parliamentarian ruled in late February that increasing the hourly threshold to $15 does not meet a strict set of guidelines needed to move forward in the reconciliation process, which would allow Senate Democrats to pass the relief bill with a simple majority and no Republican votes. — Agencies

March 07, 2021
hour ago

UAE urges public not to circulate videos that harm country’s national security

4 hours ago

UAE welcomes Egyptian President

6 hours ago

Macron says cost to Russia will be 'very high' if it attacks Ukraine