U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday came one step closer to his first major political victory: passage of his coronavirus economic relief package.
What is it? A $1.9 trillion bill that Democrats said would help the country defeat the coronavirus and repair the economy. Republicans say it is more expensive than necessary. The measure follows five earlier virus bills totaling about $4 trillion that Congress has enacted since last spring.
What is the latest? The Senate approved the pandemic relief package over Republican opposition Saturday by a party-line vote of 50-49.
What’s next? The Senate made several changes to the bill, which was passed earlier by the U.S. House. Now the bill returns to the House for final passage, which could come early next week.
How does it fight the pandemic? The bill contains about $14 billion to help distribute vaccines faster and get shots into arms quicker. It also provides $46 billion to expand federal, state and local testing, and enhance contact tracing.
What’s in it for jobless Americans? It would extend the expanded unemployment benefits from the federal government through September 6 at $300 a week. The first $10,200 of jobless benefits would be nontaxable for households with incomes of less than $150,000.
What about health care? It would provide a 100% subsidy of COBRA health insurance premiums through September so that laid-off workers can remain on their employer health plans. It also would increase subsidies for insurance through the Affordable Care Act through the end of 2022.
Will there be subsidy checks? Yes, a direct payment of $1,400 for a single taxpayer, or $2,800 for a married couple who file jointly, plus $1,400 per dependent. Individuals earning up to $75,000 would get the full amount, as would married couples with incomes up to $150,000. The size of the check would shrink as incomes rise, with a hard cutoff at $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for married couples.
What about schools? The bill calls for about $130 billion in additional help to schools for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The money would be used to modify classrooms to allow more social distancing, install ventilation systems and buy personal protective equipment. The money could also be used to increase the hiring of nurses and counselors and to provide summer school.
Will businesses receive help? It offers $25 billion in a new program aimed at restaurants and bars hurt by the pandemic. It also has $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, and it allows more nonprofits to apply for loans that are designed to help borrowers meet their payroll and operating costs and can potentially be forgiven.
Can it help renters and homeowners? It provides about $30 billion to help pay the rent and utilities for low-income households and people who are unemployed, and to provide vouchers and other support for people who are homeless. States and tribes would receive an additional $10 billion for homeowners who are struggling with mortgage payments because of the pandemic.