The massive relief stimulus package proposed for the Coronavirus finally saw the light of day as the Senate pushed through its version a week after the Lower House passed the stimulus package. Three changes were notable among the several changes made. The first was narrowing the eligibility required for the incentive checks, modifying the federal support to unemployment, and overturning the proposed boost in the minimum wage rate to $15 per hour.
But the Senate bill has closely followed the clauses in the $1.9T package proposed by President Biden this January and approved by the Lower House.
Pushing through the stimulus package was tougher in the Senate as the party had an equal split in the upper house and had to count on all members’ support if they were to succeed in pushing through the Bill. Secondly, the Democrats had to abide by the reconciliation rules, something they opted for, to push the bill through without any support from the Republicans.
Chuck Schumer, majority leader in the Senate, had on Thursday determined to remain in session to pass the bill this week. This was despite Republican efforts to stall the course of action. The bill will now return to the Lower House for voting before finally, it reaches President Biden for his signature.
A Race Against Time For The Stimulus Package
It is a race against time. As many as 11.4 M workers are in danger of losing out on unemployment benefits in the month ending mid-April if the stimulus package bill gets stalled. It is a forward-looking, neo-partisan think-tank that aims to further opportunity.
Stimulus Package Gets Amended With New Eligibility Clauses
The Senate has made changes in the $1,400 incentive payments House Bill and tightened the eligibility. For individuals with earnings less than $75,000 per annum, the payout will be $1,400 for each individual. The same rule applies to married couples with combined earnings below $150,000. In the second instance, every member, including children, is entitled to $1,400 each. This brings almost 90% of the households within the purview of the stimulus package.
The rules are simpler this time around as individuals earning above $80,000 K and families earning above $160,000 will be cut off from the scheme. The number of children will not be considered. The bill passed had set the ceiling at $200,000 and $100,000 for couples and individuals, respectively. The changes made by the Senate will push out around 7 M families as estimated by Penn Wharton Budget Model. Adult dependents have cut the third Stimulus Package and will be eligible.
Senate Includes Assistance For The Unemployed
The Senate has provided a $300 increase in the weekly jobless assistance. It has also extended 2 critical pandemic-related unemployment assistance programs through the 6th of September. This arrangement saw the light of day after protracted negotiations on Friday. Benefit Payments of $10,200 would become tax-free where household income is below $150,000 annually.
This is a marked deviation from the stimulus package passed by the House of Representatives, which would give a $400 weekly increase through August and simultaneously carry on two pandemic-related programs. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program has provisions that benefit gig workers, freelancers, independent out workers, and other affected people, even as the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program ups the payment duration for those included in the regular state unemployment scheme. The plan proposed by the President has made provision for a $400 assistance that will extend through the end of September.
Unemployed Americans will be without remuneration under the previous two programs by the middle of March as the $900B relief package is gradually phased out. The $300 boost will also end in mid-March.
No Increase In The Minimum Wage
The stimulus package passed by the Senate does not make provision for any boost in the minimum federal wage rate. The House of Representatives had proposed increasing it to $15 per hour.
The Senate parliamentarian ruled out clubbing the minimum wage rule with the Covid relief stimulus package. The Senate has maintained that this proposed increase does not match the required strict rules necessary to push through this nature bill. This is a setback as it would have allowed an amendment without following the reconciliation process.
The minimum wage will increase to $15 in stages by the year 2025. Youth workers tipped workers, and those with disabilities will also be paid in full the minimum wages.
Municipalities, States, And Others To Benefit
The bill passed will also benefit local governments, states, territories, and tribes. They will receive $350 B.
The District of Columbia and the states would collectively receive $195.3 B as CoronaVirus Capital Projects Fund. States with lesser populations will benefit as there has been a slight revision in the calculating method. Assistance to the states had been mired in controversy with resistance from the Republicans against Democrat proposals to add to the $150 B passed in the legislation last March.
Nutritional Boost Under The Stimulus Package
The Senate plan will extend the increase of 15% in their food stamp reliefs through September. It will not expire in June. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) will receive $800 M. this will improve benefits in the short term and boost participation.
The President has called for putting in $3 B in this program. States can now continue with the Pandemic-EBT, providing families with school-going children deprived of free or subsidized meals.
Further Boost For The Housing Sector
Local and state governments would receive around $20B to cover rent, utility bills, and rent assistance for low-income households. Another $10B will help homeowners pay for their utilities, mortgages, and land taxes. 5B dollars each would be provided to help the homeless and those in danger of losing their homes.
Workers And Their Families To Receive Tax Credits
Certain lower-income households will receive tax credits for 2021. The child tax credit is now $3,600 for children under 6, while it is $3,000 for those under 18. It was $2,000 for every child under 17.
This credit was made fully refundable to enable parents with low-income to reap the benefits. Payments would henceforth be made monthly, making it easier to pay bills.
The credit on income tax earned by childless workers has boosted as the bill has almost tripled the maximum payable. The minimum age to claim childless benefits has been lowered by 6 years to 19.
Family And Sick Not To Be Reinstated
The stimulus package would not reinstate the mandatory sick and paid leave previously approved. The Congress had last year guaranteed covid infected workers a couple of weeks’ pay.
Child Care And Education Gets A Boost
The bill would grant $130 B to K-12 students, which will help them return to school. The money would improve ventilation systems, boost social distancing through smaller classes and buy protective equipment pieces. A fifth of the fund will be used to make up for days lost due to the pandemic. $2.75 B of the fund has been specifically earmarked for private schools.
$20 B has been earmarked for colleges. The total relief comes to $170 B.
Stimulus Package Enhances Medicaid And The Health Insurance Funding
The Senate bill will make the federation subsidies under the Affordable Care Act more generous, eliminating the upper-income ceiling for 2 years. This would enable Enrollees to pay only 8.5%. Individuals earning nearly $51,000 and a 4 member family of around $104,800 are eligible.
Lower-income enrollees no longer have to pay subsidies. The Senate bill also provides enhanced assistance to laid-off workers who opt to stay on their previous employer insurance plans. The subsidies have been extended through September. States who have not expanded Medicaid to low-income adults will also receive a boost in funding.
Aid For Small Business
The Emergency Injury Disaster Loan program will receive $15 B to provide long-term loans at low interest to small businesses. A further $25 B has been provided, especially to restaurants and bars. Eligible companies can receive up to $10 M to meet many regular expenses. A sum of $175 M has been earmarked for promotions and outreach.
Testing And Development Of Vaccines
The Senate bill provides $14 B for research and development, development, and distribution and bolsters the confidence in vaccines’ efficacy. Around 100,000 health workers will be hired, and $7.7 B has been allotted. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will receive $50 B with part of it used to expand the vaccination drive. A further $20 B will be utilized for a national vaccination mission.
There has been no additional funding for nursing homes and hospitals as they have already benefited from previous relief packages.