President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which the House approved Wednesday, is more than just a $1,400 direct payment or a robust vaccine distribution program.
The $1.9 trillion COVID relief package includes money to expand health care, extend unemployment benefits and help reopen schools. Small businesses will get another infusion of assistance and renters will get a lifeline to stay in their homes.
“The American Rescue Plan is a beacon of hope for America’s families and struggling small businesses,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told the National League of Cities on Tuesday. “It is a decisive action that is needed to save lives and livelihoods. It’s putting vaccines in people’s arms, money in people’s pockets, children safely back in school and people back to work.”
Here’s a look at some of the key components that the House approved and sent on to President Joe Biden for his signature.
With unemployment benefits from the last relief bill expiring Sunday, the American Rescue Plan extends them through Sept. 6.
The weekly federal benefit remains at $300. The House-passed bill last month raised it to $400 but the Senate dropped it back to $300 and the House went along with that amount in the version it passed Wednesday. The federal benefit is on top of the state unemployment allocation.
It’s still a victory for Democrats. Republicans, who have objected to the bill’s size and scope, had proposed keeping the benefit at $300 but only through mid-July.
Money to reopen schools:
The bill includes $130 billion to allow for a return to full-time, in-person teaching at K-12 schools.
The money could be used for numerous purposes, including expanding testing, modifying classrooms to make them safer, improving ventilation, hiring more custodial staff, ensuring every school has a nurse, increasing transportation capacity; improving technology to help disadvantaged students, and providing summer school.
Assistance to small business, landlords and renters:
The American Rescue Plan continues earlier efforts to help small – but key – elements of the economy: main street business, landlords and their tenants.
Earlier relief bills created the Paycheck Protection Program to help small business. This builds on that with another $50 billion with an emphasis on getting money quickly to the smallest businesses. Small business revenue is down 32% across the country and some 400,000 firms have permanently closed.
The bill also includes $25 billion in rental assistance (on top of the $25 billion in previously approved relief). The money is designed to help small landlords as well. In addition, the bill includes $5 billion to cover home energy and water costs.
The measure provides $34.2 billion to expand health care subsidies in what will be the first significant expansion of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” since its passage in 2010.
Under the COVID-19 relief bill, the insurance subsidies for people not covered through an employer or government plan such as Medicare or Medicaid becomes more generous. They will be newly available to people earning more than four times the federal poverty rate. That’s about $51,520 for a single person and $106,000 for a family of four.
Americans at that income level who are older or live in areas with particularly high premiums will be the biggest beneficiaries of the change.
Child Tax Credit Boost:
The child tax credit will rise to $3,600 per child under age 6 and $3,000 for children up to age 17 for one year to help combat the economic damage of the pandemic.
The current tax credit is up to $2,000 per child. The plan also expands eligibility to families who make no or very little income each year.
The American Rescue Plan puts thousands more into families’ pockets because it makes the benefit fully refundable. Currently, if the credit taxpayers receive exceeds the amount of taxes they owe, they can receive no more than $1,400 as a refund.
Under the new plan, they’re eligible for the full credit – either $3,000 or $3,600 per child – though it phases out when incomes exceed $150,000 for a household, or $75,000 for individuals.
The non-partisan Joint Congressional Committee on Taxation projects the change could cost more than $110 billion for the year the expanded credit is in effect.
One of the few areas of agreement between Republicans and Democrats is the $160 billion the bill provides for vaccine development and distribution to confront a virus that already has killed more than 528,000 Americans and infected nearly 30 million more. The money covers additional testing and personal protective equipment.
The effort includes $20 billion, in partnership with states, localities, tribes and territories, to create “community vaccination centers” around the country and deploy mobile vaccination units to reach remote areas.