DemDaily: Help Is On The Way. Breaking Down the American Rescue Plan

March 9, 2021

The US House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the Senate's version of the American Rescue Plan tomorrow, setting the stage for the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill to become law with President Biden's signature this week.

(Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse)

It is the sixth major relief package for US citizens since the deadly COVID-19 virus was declared a worldwide pandemic a year ago, and one of the largest allocations of federal resources in modern American history.

Following a 27-hour marathon session, the US Senate passed its version of the bill Saturday. The 50-49 party-line vote came after several changes were made to secure the votes of moderate Democrats.

Absent from the bill is the $15 minimum wage increase included in the House version that passed on February 27th. The Senate also bumped the $400 weekly emergency unemployment checks down to $300.

If passed, direct payments of up to $1,400 could start hitting Americans' bank accounts this month.

The House will meet Wednesday morning at 9:00am to debate and vote on the final passage of the bill, which includes vaccine distribution funds, direct relief payments, an expansion of the child tax credit, rental and utility assistance, and state, local and tribal government relief.

Democrats are eager to get the final bill to Biden's desk for his signature before current federal unemployment benefits expire on March 14th.


Key elements of the American Rescue Plan include:

1) Extending expanded unemployment benefits with a $300 weekly supplement through Labor Day, September 6, 2021.

2) $1,400 direct stimulus payments to individuals making less than $75,000 a year and married couples making less than $150,000 a year. Based on your last filed tax return.

For the first time, adult dependents will receive payments, including college students and SSI or SSDI recipients.

3) Extends tax credits to employers who provide paid sick leave and paid family/medical leave to workers through September 31st, 2021.

4) Extends a 15% increase in food stamp benefits through September 2021.


5) Expands the child tax credit, increasing the amount to $3,000 for children ages 6 to 17 and $3,600 for children under age 6.

6) Expands the earned income tax credit by nearly 300% for adults without children, more than doubles the amount at which payments phase-out, and expands eligibility to those over the age of 65 who are receiving Social Security.

7) Small Business Grants
*  $15 billion for the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance Grants Program to provide grants of up to $10,000 per business to small businesses in low-income communities most affected by the pandemic.
*  $28.6 billion for restaurants and bars to meet payroll and other expenses.
*  $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, and an expansion of the eligibility criteria to some non-profit organizations.
*  $1.25 billion in funding for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant for music halls and other concert venues.
*  $1.325 billion in administrative funding to the Small Business Administration.

*  $175 million for a Community Navigator Program to reach out to eligible businesses.

8) $350 billion to help state, local, and tribal governments.

(Scott Olson/AFP)

9) Education Funding
* $130 billion for K-12 to safely reopen schools.
Funds may be used to improve ventilation in school buildings, reduce class sizes to make social distancing possible, purchase personal protective equipment, and hire support staff.
*  20% of the school money must be directed to programs to help counteract "learning loss" from students who missed school during the pandemic.
*  $39 billion for colleges and universities.
*  $15 billion in funds are directed to the Child Care & Development Block Grant program

10) $21.5 billion will go to rental assistance, $10 billion for mortgage assistance, $5 billion for emergency Housing Choice Vouchers and $5 billion for homelessness prevention.

Approximately $160 billion of the bill goes to COVID-19 funding and public healthcare measures.

11) The largest allotment of $50 billion for public health will go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for vaccine distribution and assistance. Another $47.8 billion is dedicated to COVID-19 testing, mitigation, and transmission prevention, including diagnosis, tracing, and monitoring.

(Emma Lee/WHYY)

Other substantial pieces include funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs' healthcare program ($13.48 billion), PPE manufacturing under the Defense Production Act ($10 billion), and increased staffing of public health departments at the state, local, and territorial level ($7.66 billion).

The bill will deliver the first major legislative victory for the President, who promised "Help is on the way."

It can't come soon enough. As of this afternoon, the US had 29.1 million reported cases of COVID-19, including 527,341 deaths.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Washington Post, New York Times, US Congress, USAToday, White House

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