The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to approve a $1.9 trillion Covid relief plan, a top legislative priority for President Joe Biden.
The President is expected to sign the bill into law later this week.
Much of the legislation mirrors the plan laid out by Biden in January. But lawmakers did make three notable changes – narrowing eligibility for the stimulus checks, trimming the federal boost to unemployment benefits and nixing an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Here’s what’s in the bill:
The bill provides direct payments worth up to $1,400 per person that will reach about 90% of households, according to an estimate from the Penn Wharton Budget Model.
Families get an additional $1,400 per child. A married couple with two children, for example, could receive up to $5,600.
The full amount goes to individuals earning less than $75,000 of adjusted gross income, heads of households (like single parents) earning less than $112,500 and married couples earning less than $150,000. But then the payments phase out as income goes up – faster than previous stimulus payments.
Individuals who earn at least $80,000 a year, heads of households who earn at least $120,000 and married couples who earn at least $160,000 will be completely cut off from the third round of stimulus payments – regardless of how many children they have.
The bill calls for providing a $300 federal boost to weekly jobless payments and extending two key pandemic unemployment benefits programs through September 6.
It will also make the first $10,200 worth of benefits payments tax-free for households with annual incomes less than $150,000.
More on Covid-19 relief
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program provides benefits to freelancers, gig workers, independent contractors and certain people affected by the pandemic, while the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program increases the duration of payments for those in the traditional state unemployment system.
The President’s plan had called for providing a $400 boost and continuing the benefits through the end of September.
Out-of-work Americans will start running out of benefits in the two programs this weekend, when provisions in December’s $900 billion relief package begin phasing out. The $300 enhancement that was part of the December deal also ends this weekend.
Aid to states and municipalities
The legislation provides $350 billion to states, local governments, territories and tribes.
It will give states and the District of Columbia $195.3 billion, while counties and cities will split about $130 billion in aid. Tribes will get $20 billion and territories $4.5 billion under both bills.
The bill also contains a $10 billion Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund.
Additional assistance to states has been among the most controversial elements of the congressional rescue packages, with Democrats looking to add to the $150 billion contained in the legislation that passed last March and Republicans resisting such efforts. The December package ultimately dropped an initial call to include $160 billion.
The package extends the 15% increase in food stamp benefits through September, instead of having it expire at the end of June.
It also contains $880 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC, to help increase participation and temporarily improve benefits, among other measures. Biden called for investing $3 billion in the program.
And it will allow states to continue the Pandemic-EBT, which provides families whose children’s schools are closed with funding to replace free- and reduced-price meals the kids would have received, through the summer.
The bill sends roughly $20 billion to state and local governments to help low-income households cover back rent, rent assistance and utility bills.
It authorizes about $10 billion to help struggling homeowners pay their mortgages, utilities and property taxes.
The bill also provides $5 billion to help states and localities assist those at risk of experiencing homelessness by providing safe, socially distant housing, for example. Another $5 billion goes to emergency housing vouchers for those who are homeless.
Tax credits for families and workers
The legislation beefs up tax credits for families and certain low-income workers for 2021.
In an effort to combat poverty, lawmakers are expanding the child tax credit to $3,600 for each child under 6 and $3,000 for each child under age 18. Currently, families can receive a credit of up to $2,000 per child under age 17.
The enhanced portion of the credit will be available for single parents with annual incomes up to $75,000 and joint filers making up to $150,000.
The credit will also become fully refundable so more low-income parents can take advantage of it. Plus, families can receive payments monthly, rather than a lump sum once a year, which is aimed at making it easier for them to pay the bills.
The package also enhances the earned income tax credit for workers without children by nearly tripling the maximum credit and extending eligibility to more people. The minimum age to claim the childless credit will be reduced to 19, from 25, and the upper age limit will be eliminated.
This is the largest expansion to earned income tax credit since 2009.
Optional paid sick and family leave
Unlike Biden’s initial proposal, the bill does not reinstate mandatory paid family and sick leave approved in a previous Covid relief package. But it will continue to provide tax credits to employers who voluntarily choose to offer the benefit through October 1.
Last year, Congress guaranteed many workers two weeks pay if they contracted Covid or were quarantining. It also provided an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave to those who were staying home with kids whose schools were closed. Those benefits expired in December.
Education and child care
The bill provides $125 billion to public K-12 schools to help students return to the classroom. Schools would be allowed to use the money to update their ventilation systems, reduce class sizes to help implement social distancing, buy personal protective equipment and hire support staff. Another $2.75 billion would go to private schools. It requires that 20% of the money be used to address learning loss by providing extended days or summer school, for example.
Nearly $40 billion will go to colleges. At least half of the funds must be spent on emergency financial aid grants to students and the remaining can help defray the lost revenue from declining enrollment and the increased costs associated with keeping students safe during the pandemic.
The bill also provides about $39 billion to child care providers. The amount a provider receives would be based on operating expenses and is available to pay employees and rent, help families struggling to pay the cost, and purchase personal protective equipment and other supplies.
Health insurance subsidies and Medicaid
The package will make federal premium subsidies for Affordable Care Act policies more generous and would eliminate the maximum income cap for two years.
Enrollees will pay no more than 8.5% of their income towards coverage, down from nearly 10% now. Also, those earning more than the current cap of 400% of the federal poverty level – about $51,000 for an individual and $104,800 for a family of four in 2021 – will become eligible for help.
In addition, the bills will bolster subsidies for lower-income enrollees, eliminating their premiums completely for two years and will do the same for those collecting unemployment benefits in 2021.
The legislation also provides a full premium subsidy for laid-off workers who want to remain on their employer health insurance plans through COBRA. The assistance runs from April through September.
Also, the package seeks to entice states that have yet to expand Medicaid to low-income adults to do so by boosting their federal Medicaid matching funds by 5 percentage points for two years.
More money for small businesses
The bill provides $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.
It also provides $25 billion for a new grant program specifically for bars and restaurants. Eligible businesses may receive up to $10 million and can use the money for a variety of expenses, including payroll, mortgage and rent, utilities and food and beverages.
The Paycheck Protection Program, which is currently taking applications for second-round loans, would get an additional $7 billion and the bills would make more non-profit organizations eligible.
Another $175 million would be used for outreach and promotion, creating a Community Navigator Program to help target eligible businesses.
Vaccines and testing
The legislation provides $14 billion for researching, developing, distributing, administering and strengthening confidence in vaccines. It will also put $47.8 billion toward testing, contact tracing and mitigation, including investing in laboratory capacity, community-based testing sites and mobile testing units, particularly in medically underserved areas.
And it will allocate $7.7 billion to hire 100,000 public health workers to support coronavirus response.
In addition, the package provides $50 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with some of the funds going toward expanding vaccination efforts.
The President’s plan called for investing $20 billion in a national vaccination program.
Rural hospital assistance
The bill allocates $8.5 billion to help struggling rural hospitals and health care providers.