What's in the $1.9T COVID Relief Bill

Analysts say it could halve child poverty
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2021 9:09 AM CST
Democrats Say COVID Relief Bill Is a 'Turning Point'
Aides place a sign before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer sign the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, in an enrollment ceremony on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, March 10, 2021.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Biden is a day away from signing the landmark COVID-19 relief bill, which supporters say does more to tackle poverty and inequality since the days of FDR—and detractors say is the biggest example of government overreach in decades. The $1.9 trillion relief bill received final congressional approval Thursday with no Republican support. The "American Rescue Plan" includes $1,400 payments for the estimated 85% of Americans who are eligible, along with an extension of the $300-per-week federal unemployment benefit until early September and numerous measures aimed at fighting both inequality and the pandemic. More:

  • What's in the bill. The Guardian lists some of the main provisions, including an extension of $300-per-week federal unemployment benefits until early September and a temporary expansion of healthcare subsidies under ObamaCare. It also includes a major expansion of the child tax credit, which Democrats are hoping to make permanent.
  • More on those payments. USA Today looks at who's eligible and who's not. Low-income people who haven't filed a tax return in the last two years may have to register via an online portal to receive payments. It's not clear when the money will be sent out, but Biden has said many people will receive payments before the end of the month.

  • Households will get the most help. The bill includes $350 billion for state and local governments, but more than half of the $1.9 trillion will go to households, reports the Washington Post reports. Compared to earlier relief measures, little of the spending goes toward businesses.
  • Lesser-known measures. Beyond the measures making the headlines, the bill includes $5 billion for Black and other minority farmers and assistance for concert halls and independent restaurants, per USA Today, which lists 10 lesser-known provisions.
  • Surprise tax hikes. Politico reports that to offset the cost of exempting the first $10,200 in unemployment benefits from taxes, and to avoid exceeding the budget cap, Democrats tacked on three obscure, last-minute tax hikes on corporations and the wealthy, which are expected to raise around $60 billion.
  • Child poverty could be halved. In one of several measures that could cut child poverty in half, the expanded child tax credit can be received in advance even by low-income families that don't pay taxes, meaning some families with children could receive a "European-style child allowance" of up to $300 per month, the BBC reports.
  • Benefits to the middle class. According to the New York Times, the package will help the middle class as well as the poorest Americans, with the income of middle-income families set to rise an estimated 5.5% due to tax cuts and stimulus payments.
  • Could it be too much stimulus? Some economists warn that with the economy already showing strong signs of recovery, greasing the wheels further runs the risk of creating runaway inflation, Politico reports. "If it works out well, Biden will be viewed as a hero and he’ll deserve it,” says economist Len Burman, co-founder of the Tax Policy Center. "This is the first time that we’ve ever really provided enough stimulus and the risk is that it will be too much. And inflation is a real risk. But if it works out badly, at least we’ll know the result of a grand experiment like this."
  • The partisan divide. The partisan divide among Senate leaders was very apparent after the House passed the final version of the bill Wednesday, sending it to Biden's desk, NBC reports. Sen. Chuck Schumer said it marked a "turning point" that return the Democratic Party to its economic populist roots and Republicans were making a "huge mistake" by opposing it, while Sen. Mitch McConnell blasted it as a "classic example of big-government Democratic overreach in the name of COVID relief."
(More COVID relief bill stories.)

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