U.S. Senate just passed Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Here is what it includes

The U.S. Senate on Saturday approved President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

The Senators approved the package on a 50-49 party-line vote, with all the Democrats voting for it and nearly all Republicans opposing it. Republican Senator from Alaska, Dan Sullivan, missed the vote.

The version of the bill approved by the Senate on Saturday does have some major differences from the version that was passed by the House of Representatives last week. The House will first have to sign off on the changes made by the Senate before it can reach the President’s desk.

President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural address Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy) 
President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural address Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The bill passed by the Senate also extends the $300 weekly supplement to unemployment benefits all the way through September 6. The House bill had aimed to raise this to $400 per week.

Notably, the provision that would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour was dropped after the Senate parliamentarian decided that the measure could not be passed with a simple majority.

The Senate’s version of the bill also reduced the number of people that qualify for stimulus checks. Despite changes, the bill still includes $1,400 stimulus checks for Americans who make less than $75,000 a year and $2,800 for married couples making under $150,000.

However, in the Senate’s version the payments phase out for higher-earning individuals more quickly than in the House’s version.

No individual with an average gross income over $80,000 or couples earning over $160,000 will receive a stimulus check. Heads of household earning up to $112,500 will receive the full amount, and it will phase out completely at $120,000 for those filers.

In the previous version of the bill, stimulus checks did not phase out completely until $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for couples.

To help parents and families that are struggling financially, the American Rescue Plan positions the IRS to provide $3,600 in tax credit per child under the age of 6, as well as $3,000 per child of ages 6 to 17. Currently, this tax credit is just $2,000 per dependent.

Families will also be able to claim up to half of their childcare expenses when filing taxes.

The bill reduces health care premiums for low- and middle-income families by increasing premium tax credits through the Affordable Care Act for 2021 and 2022. It also provides subsidies so that it is easier for workers who have recently been laid off or had their hours reduced to keep their health coverage.

The American Rescue Plan sets aside $50 billion for coronavirus testing and contact tracing. It also includes $19 billion for increasing the size of the public health workforce and $16 billion for funding vaccine distribution and supply chains.

To assist small businesses, the bill provides for $25 billion in grants for bars and restaurants that are in financial distress stemming from the pandemic. Additional funds provide for grants to other businesses and companies as well as pension grants.

The bill also includes $350 billion in federal aid for state and local governments, territories, and tribes.

Under the American Rescue Plan, $90 billion would go toward funding for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund, covering funeral expenses related to the coronavirus, airports, aviation manufacturers, and transit agencies like Amtrak.

Funding provided by the bill includes $130 billion for K-12 education that is meant to be used to create a more socially distant and covid-friendly academic environment for students. An additional $40 billion would go toward childcare providers and another $40 billion would go toward higher education.

The bill sets aside $10 billion for mortgage assistance and $30 billion in rental assistance as well as relief for the homeless.

Noah Pitcher is a global politics correspondent for Today News Africa covering the U.S. government, United Nations, African Union, and other actors involved in international developments, political controversies, and humanitarian issues.

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