$1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Bill Heads to the Senate

The House Passes Sixth Round of Pandemic-Related Federal Aid

On Friday, the House passed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. The bill will now work its way through the Senate. Supporters of the package hope it can reach President Biden’s desk by March 14 when certain unemployment aid is set to expire.

If it becomes law, this will be the sixth round of aid from the federal government during the pandemic. Last week, the 50 millionth COVID-19 vaccination shot was delivered in the US. The country also hit a more sobering benchmark days ago: The death toll in the US from the virus is now above 500,000.

What Is Included in the Bill

The relief package includes:

•  An extension of the supplemental $400 per week in unemployment insurance.

•  $1,400 direct payments to eligible Americans, plus additional payments for each dependent.

•  $20 billion for COVID-19 vaccination rollout and $50 billion for COVID-19 testing.

•  $350 billion in relief for state, local, and tribal governments.

•  $170 billion to help K-12 schools and higher education institutions.

•  An increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, but this portion is unlikely to be included in the Senate’s version of the bill because it “violates the chamber’s rules for legislation that can pass with a simple majority.”

What Happens Next?

Despite the complications with the federal minimum wage portion, the rest of the bill has support among Democrats and is expected to become law, with some possible changes in the Senate. All eyes will now be on the Senate as they move to vote on the bill before the existing unemployment benefits expire on March 14. Pending any changes made to the bill in the Senate, it may need to go back to the House to be passed again.

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