The Senate Passes the COVID-19 Relief Bill
Comparing the House’s Version to the Senate’s
Over the weekend, the Senate passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. The upper chamber approved its version of the bill along party lines with 50 Democrats supporting the American Rescue Plan, as it’s known, and 49 Republicans voting against it. The Senate’s iteration of the legislation contains more narrow measures than the version passed by the House of Representatives two weekends ago. Here are some key differences:
The House bill attempted to raise the federal minimum wage over the next five years from $7.25 per hour, where it stands currently, to $15 per hour by 2025. The Senate bill does not address the topic of increasing the minimum wage because in February the Senate parliamentarian ruled wage increases could not be included in this type of bill.
Eligibility for stimulus checks has also been tightened. While both the House and Senate agreed on the dollar figure of the checks, which is $1,400, the Senate placed more narrow income limits on who can receive them. For example, the House set an income cap of $100,000 for individuals, $150,000 for single parents, and $200,000 for couples. In the Senate bill the cap was lowered to $80,000 for individuals, $120,000 for single parents, and $160,000 for couples.
Federal unemployment payments would stay at $300 with the Senate’s bill. The House voted to increase them to $400 per week through August 29, but the Senate ultimately settled on $300 per week through September 6.
Lastly, the Senate added a measure in their version of the bill that would exempt student loan forgiveness from income taxes through 2025. Generally, any debt that is forgiven is viewed as taxable income. The bill does not include student debt forgiveness, but it helps pave the way for any potential student loan forgiveness measures in the future.
Some Other Measures Included in the Bill
A few other measures from the bill include:
• $510 million for FEMA
• $750 million for communities negatively impacted by COVID-induced loss in the tourism and travel industry
• $1.25 billion for educational summer enrichment programs
• $1.25 billion for after school programs
• $3 billion for education technology
• $12 billion to nutrition assistance
• $45 billion in rental, utility, and mortgage assistance
• $30 billion for transit agencies
What Happens Next?
The House passed its version of the relief bill at the end of February, but because of the changes in the Senate’s version, the bill will now go back to the House. The House is scheduled to vote on the amended legislation tomorrow.
If the bill is approved by the House, it will then go to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer expressed confidence that the House would pass the Senate version of the bill.
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