This week, the U.S. House of Representatives will finalize details on their version of President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief and stimulus spending package, and could potentially send the bill to the Senate as early as next week.
Unsurprisingly, most of the President’s proposed measures – though not quite all – appear to be included, based upon the various committee approvals.
- Stimulus checks – direct payments of up to $1,400 per individual. Full credit for children as well as adult dependents (who were not eligible for previous stimulus checks). The amount of the checks will decline for those individuals earning over $75,000 and married couples with income above $150,000, phasing out completely at earnings of $100,000 per individual and $200,000 for families.
- Federal unemployment assistance – both the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (which provides relief for freelancers, independent contractors and gig-economy workers) and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (for more traditional workers) programs will be extended through August 29, 2021 (both are currently set to expire in March). The Federal supplemental payment of $300 per week will be increased to $400.
- Enhanced Child Tax Credit – a one-year increase, beginning in July of 2021, of the credit from its current $2,000 for children under the age of 18 to $3,000, and to $3,600 for children under 6. For the term of this increase, the credit will be fully refundable, meaning that families with incomes too low to receive the full credit under current provisions will now be eligible for the full benefit. In addition, the credit will be provided monthly, rather than on an annual basis as is currently the case.
- Education – $130 billion for K-2 schools to upgrade ventilation, reduce the number of students per class for social distancing purposes, purchase personal protective equipment, and hire additional staff, as well as to prevent teachers being laid off. A minimum of 20% of these funds are to be used to mitigate the loss of learning students are currently suffering, through extended school days, summer school, or other provisions. For higher learning institutions, $40 billion is provided, and $39 billion is earmarked for providers of child care.
- State and local governmental assistance – $350 billion to state, local, tribal and territorial governments.
- COVID-19 vaccines and testing – $46 billion for testing, contact tracing and mitigation, $25 billion to address health disparities and protect vulnerable segments of the population, $14 billion toward vaccines, and $7.6 billion for hiring an additional 100,000 public health workers (this will almost triple the current number of such workers).
- $15 per hour Federal minimum wage – to be phased in by 2025. This hourly wage will extend to those currently not covered by the Federal minimum wage provisions, such as those who are tipped, underage, or with certain disabilities.
The last provision listed is the most controversial at present, with two Senate Democrats, Krysten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia already vocal in opposition. This is, of course, significant, as Democrats cannot afford to lose a single Senate vote, given the 50/50 split between the Democrat and Republican senators.
Notably absent is any further provision to help mitigate small businesses’ losses.
The coming debate should be interesting – stay tuned!
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Until next Wednesday –