A major win for the Joe Biden administration as its sizeable COVID stimulus bill is passed by Congress.
The $US1.9 trillion ($AUD2.5 trillion) rescue package managed to get the votes it needed to pass in the House of Representatives, although it was far from a landslide, with results closely matching party numbers: 220-211.
No republicans voted for the bill, arguing against the giant price tag for what some described as a “socialist agenda” that would ultimately do little to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
The bill, the Administration dubbing the American Rescue Plan, will be providing many American adults with direct payments of up to $US1,400 and extending emergency unemployment benefits of $US300 per week to September.
The package will also be providing help for small business affected the pandemic (for example, $US30 billion to restaurants), up food aid, push $US350 billion into both local and state governments, over $US120 billion to schools, and extend the moratoriums in place regarding foreclosures and evictions.
Not everything that the Biden Administration wanted in the bill has made it through and further conditions were placed on other proposals. The proposed minimum wage increase to $US15 an hour by 2025 was removed from the bill; the eligibility for the $US1,400 payments was tightened (phasing out for those with $US75,000 and capped at earnings of $US80,000 and above); and unemployment insurance payments were lowered from $US400 to $US300 per week.
“Now we move forward with the resources needed to vaccinate the nation,” said President Biden in a statement. “To get $1,400 in direct payments to 85% of American households. To expand coverage and help with lowering health care premiums. To give small businesses what they need to stay open. To expand unemployment insurance, provide food and nutrition assistance. To help keep a roof over people’s heads. To cut child poverty in half.
“This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation – the essential workers, the working people who built this country, the people who keep this country going – a fighting chance.”
President Biden will be officially signing the bill at the White House on Friday.