House Democrats are taking the lead in drafting a new COVID-19 relief bill for President Joe Biden and it’s expected to cost taxpayers a whopping $1.9 trillion.
Called the American Rescue Plan, Biden’s version of the fourth coronavirus relief package is expected to “augment many of the measures in Congress’ historic $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill from March and in the $900 billion legislation from December, which was scaled back to garner support from Senate Republicans.” It also increases financial aid for the unemployed and bumps “support for small businesses, states, and local governments.”
House Democrats, however, have been hard at work on their own version of the plan, in the hopes that they can include a number of items jettisoned from December’s bill and push for things like a $15 minimum wage as part of the larger relief effort.
It’s not a guaranteed success. According to CNN, the “House Budget Committee will assemble a final bill based off the measures approved by at least nine committees. Most of them — but not all — adhere closely to what Biden outlined in his proposal last month.”
“The full House may pass the legislation as soon as next week, but it could face hurdles in the Senate, where Democrats can’t afford to lose a single member of their party thanks to the 50-50 split in the chamber. Already, two Democrats — Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — have voiced opposition to one element of the plan, raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour,” the outlet noted.
The House bill would, however, include $1,400 individual stimulus payments for taxpayers, similar to those outlined in Biden’s bill — and less than the $2,000 payments that many Democrats were reportedly expecting when they cast a ballot for Biden in November’s presidential election.
Unlike earlier bills, the payments under the new bill “would phase out faster and completely cut off individuals earning more than $100,000 and families earning more than $200,000.”
The House bill also extends federal supplemental unemployment benefits and adds $880 million to the WIC food stamps program. It gives $10 billion to states to provide mortgage payment assistance and $11 billion for rental assistance, “homeless services and support, housing counseling, and mortgage support.”
More controversially, the bill contains a provision increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, making that the standard across the country, and it sends $350 billion in aid to state and local governments — a provision that was stripped out of earlier bills over concerns that Democrats would direct the money to cash-strapped states like New York, California, and Illinois, whose budget woes long predate the coronavirus pandemic.
Democrats are also pushing an increase in funding to schools, in line with the Biden administration’s recommendations that schools receive supplementary benefits in order to make major infrastructure changes so that students and teachers can return to classrooms safely.
Several times over the last week, members of the Biden administration have stressed the need for increased education funding, and the House appears to have put together their bill draft with such requirements in mind. The bill sends “nearly $130 billion to K-12 schools,” but while some of it may be used to purchase ventilation systems and update cleaning protocols, the House is also offering a bone to teachers’ unions. “The money,” CNN reports, “is also intended to help prevent teacher layoffs next year when some states may be struggling to balance their budgets. The pot of money will remain available through September 2023.”
As with previous versions of Democrat COVID-19 relief, the bill, which will likely become available later this week, is also expected to make handouts to pet projects.