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Sunday, August 14, 2022

The Covid Relief Bill Is Finally On President Biden’s Desk On Its Way To Becoming A Law

As anticipated the House voted to pass the Covid Relief Bill and it has finally landed upon the President’s desk. It is just a mere formality before it becomes law. The much-awaited payments should be reaching the people in a few days. The Covid Relief Bill is of the uppermost priority for President Biden and clears the way to send aid to almost every American household affected by the raging pandemic. It will go a long way to immediately ease the hardships that a lot of individuals, families, and institutions, and businesses have been facing since the lockdown in March 2020.

The progress of the Covid Relief Bill is the first significant success of the newly elected government. Though the Democrats are a majority in both Houses, the margins are a bit narrow.

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The Bill was, as anticipated, passed along party lines with the vote going in favor of the Democrats who have a slender majority of 220 -211. Jen Psaki, press secretary at the White House said that the Bill would be signed by President Biden on Friday.

The Covid Relief Bill To Immediate Help With The Third Stimulus Check

Covid Relief Bill
Covid Relief Bill

The major portion of the $1.9 trillion has been allocated for the direct relief of $1,400 for every individual or family. This stimulus payment is expected to cover over 90% of the population. Other measures in the Bill that will directly benefit Americans is a $300 a week federal enhancement for the jobless. There has been a slight paring by the Senate from the $400 proposed by the House of Representatives. But this support is set to run through the 6th of September, rather than the 29th of August as proposed earlier.

Other Sectors That Are Set To Benefit From The Covid Relief Bill

The child tax credit has been expanded to $3,600 for every child. $350 Billion has been set aside for local and state aid. K-12 schools are set to receive billions to enable students to get back to their classrooms. Another sector hit hard by the pandemic is small businesses. They will get hefty assistance. A considerable part of the fund has been set aside for Covid-19 vaccine research and development, distribution of vaccines, and other supporting expenses.

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The fund is also set to increase by 15% the benefit from the Food Stamps which will be continued through September. It will also help households with low-income pay their rents. The premium subsidies given for Affordable Healthcare policies are set to become more generous. $8.5 B has been set aside for healthcare providers and hospitals.

Democrats are firm in their belief that they need to do more to reinforce the economy. They have to speedily deliver aid to Americans as they are still severely affected by the economic slump brought about by the pandemic.

Republican Opposition To The Covid Relief Bill

The Republican camp has severely opposed the Bill. They have branded it as a partisan aspiration of the liberal camp. They believe that the money will neither reach the right people nor those segments that deserve it the most. They also believe that there has been insufficient planning and the Bill was pushed through hastily. They have opposed the bill to a man.

Signs Of Recovery As More Jobs Are Created In February

The economic revival has been better than expected with quite many jobs created in February, way more than those forecasted by economists. 379,000 jobs were added last month. But the economy is still behind by close to 10  million jobs than there was a month before the pandemic hit.

The hospitality and leisure industry pitched in with the most jobs as the authorities eased restrictions. But it is still in the process of adding back the jobs that were lost rather than creating new jobs.

The unemployment rate was down to 6.2%, an improvement of 0.1%. These calculations are based on figures of people who have sought jobs.

The Revisions Made To The Covid Relief Bill By The Senate Before It Was Returned To The House

The Senate made several changes before returning the Covid Relief Bill to the House. One notable change sought by them was to tighten the eligibility for the third stimulus check. The federal boost for jobless benefits was also trimmed. The Senate has also not gone along with the proposal of a $15 minimum wage as part of President Biden’s Covid Relief Bill. Eight democrats also opposed the process. They demanded a separate and open debate and an amendment process for increasing the minimum wage. They objected to the reconciliation process being used to pass the Covid relief Bill as not being the right platform to pass through that bill.

Covid Relief Bill
Covid Relief Bill

As expected the current stimulus check will phase out quicker. Individuals earning $80,000 or higher will receive no payments. Neither will families with combined earnings of $160,000 or higher. Having children will not enhance their eligibility.  An estimate by the Penn Wharton Business Model has projected that around 7 million people will lose out on the stimulus check because of this revision.

The income threshold has not been changed by the Senate though. They have left it untouched at $75,000 or below for individuals to qualify for the full $1,400. For married couples, the corresponding figure is below $150,000.

The Senate has sought to the extent two pandemic benefit programs for the unemployed through the 6th of September. The first benefit of close to $10,200 will not be taxed for families with income below Rs. $150,000.

For The Democrats, It Is A Race Against Time To Get Through Reliefs

The democrats wanted the Bill to be pushed through as quickly as possible. Any delay by Congress in implementing the relief package would have resulted in an estimated 11.4 workers losing their unemployment benefits, between the middle of March to the middle of April. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia called for an adjournment motion to stall proceedings, at times to the frustration in her camp.  The adjournment motion was defeated 149 to 235, with a significant number of Republicans voting against it.

The final vote was cast but only after a final drama which resulted in a marathon session. It took 12 hours to convince just one Democrat to vote for the party over a critical issue.

Senator Manchin’s opposition to the Bill elicited a vigorous effort by both camps to gain support. The Senate roll call vote was kept open for almost 12 hours and projected the wafer-thin majority that the Democrats have in the Senate. Manchin finally gave in and agreed to extend weekly unemployment benefits of $300 through the 6th of September. The final vote in the Senate was 50-49, with not a single Republican voting in favor.

The Covid Relief Bill may have been criticized for having proposed to spend close to $2 trillion in a haphazard and less rigorous process. But it is projected, in the words of Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer to “deliver more help to more people than anything done by the federal government in decades.”

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