House Passes $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Package

March 10, 2021 by Dan McCue
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., leads the vote to approve a landmark $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, March 10, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON – The House voted 220-211 on Wednesday to approve the Senate’s revised version of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, sending the bill to the president’s desk to be signed.

The passage of Biden’s “American Rescue Plan” is the first legislative victory of his presidency, and the first major step the administration and Congress have taken together to fulfill his promise to bring the U.S. out of the coronavirus crisis.

In the end, all but one Democrat voted in favor of the relief package that includes a huge expansion of the country’s social safety net.

Biden is expected to sign the bill Friday.

Once signed into law, the legislation bill provide an additional round of direct payments for many Americans, an extension of federal jobless benefits and billions of dollars to distribute coronavirus vaccines and provide relief for schools, states, tribal governments and small businesses struggling during the pandemic.

According to the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center it will also increase the incomes of the poorest 20% of Americans by about 20%.

“With the stroke of a pen, President Biden is going to lift millions and millions of children out of poverty in this country,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.

“It is time to make a bold investment in the health and security of the American people — a watershed moment,” she added.

The final relief package will provide $350 billion for state, local and tribal governments and $10 billion for critical state infrastructure projects; $14 billion for the distribution of a vaccine, and $130 billion to primary and secondary schools.

The bill also includes $30 billion for transit agencies, $45 billion in rental, utility and mortgage assistance, and billions more for small businesses and live performance venues.

In addition, it will provide another round direct payments to American taxpayers, sending checks of up to $1,400 to individuals making $80,000 or less, single parents earning $120,000 or less and couples with household income of no more than $160,000.

Federal unemployment payments of $300 per week will be extended through Sept. 6, and up to $10,200 of unemployment benefits from last year will be tax-free for households with incomes below $150,000.

It also includes a provision stating the government will fully cover Cobra health care costs for six months for people who have lost a job or had their hours cut and who buy coverage from their former employer.

The package provides a benefit of $300 per child for those age 5 and younger, and $250 per child ages 6 to 17, increasing the value of the so-called child tax credit.

Finally, the relief bill includes a significant expansion of health care subsidies that will dramatically reduce monthly insurance payments for those purchasing coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., called the passage of the relief bill “a seismic step forward in finally getting ahead of this vicious virus, and ultimately, ushering in a new era of government that will work better for all.

“In the 33 years that I’ve served in Congress, I don’t think I have cast a more important or more consequential vote than this one today. We stepped up to this moment and delivered for the American people in a way that will be remembered by the lives saved, and by how we set up our economy to recover more equitably and justly than ever before,” Neal said.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., said, “The American Rescue Plan will go a long way towards crushing the coronavirus. Under President Biden, for the first time we have a national plan to fight the virus that does not force states and local governments to compete with each other for testing, contact tracing, and medical supplies.

“The American Rescue Plan will support the national effort to ramp up distribution and administration of lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines as well the implementation of a national testing strategy that will help us quickly track and contain the virus,” he continued. “It also includes the largest expansion of health care coverage since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, including lower monthly premiums for millions of Americans and a coverage expansion for millions more who are currently uninsured.

“The relief package also includes critical relief to help families with their utility bills so they can keep the lights on, the heat working, and the water running. We also expand internet connectivity to help students and teachers without home internet access so that we can close the homework gap,” Pallone said.

Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., the communications co-chair for the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, said, “Today is a good day for the American people.

“Assistance is on the way for families struggling to keep food on the table or pay another month’s rent,” he continued. “With the passage of the American Rescue Plan today and President Biden’s announcement that there will be enough vaccines for all Americans by this summer, an end to this nightmare is almost in sight. This legislation is a major step to get our country back on track, and we look forward to continuing the hard work to deliver a strong economic recovery and good-paying jobs.”

The passage of the bill was of particular significance to New Democrat Coalition Chair Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., whose district was where the first known cases and deaths from the coronavirus were identified.

“With a pandemic still raging and weak economic data, this bill meets the moment of this crisis to support our workers, families, small businesses, and public health response,” DelBene said. “We look forward to President Biden signing this legislation into law to get immediate relief to the American people.”

“Thanks to science and more than a year of sacrifices by the American people, we are nearing the end of the worst part of this global pandemic. It’s time for us to take strong action to ensure our country has a smooth economic recovery and Americans can return to work,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla. “This new COVID relief package focuses on uplifting families who have been most directly impacted by COVID-19 and getting shots into the arms of more people so Florida can fully and safely reopen. I will keep fighting to help Floridians who are still struggling as a result of this pandemic and make sure all of the funding in this bill is properly spent to help those who need it most.”

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., said “Nearly one year after the virus first arrived in the Commonwealth, we’ve built momentum in Virginia and across the country in our fight against the virus and in our economic recovery. This legislation provides a major vehicle for maintaining this momentum.

“The American Rescue Plan Act passed in the House today includes much-needed assistance for vaccine distribution, schools, small businesses, and Virginia families,” she said.”In response to the financial challenges faced by working parents, the legislation prevents unemployment insurance from expiring in just a few days, provides one-time direct payments to individuals and families, and expands the Child Tax Credit — so that Virginia families will receive an extra boost as we accelerate the fight against the virus. I’m also encouraged that the American Rescue Plan Act establishes a new Restaurant Revitalization Fund to support family-owned restaurants as they work towards inviting customers back in the coming months. I’ve directly heard from many Central Virginia restaurant owners about the hardships they’ve faced throughout the pandemic.

“This strong, coordinated effort to protect our most vulnerable, reopen our businesses, and get our children fully back to school is a wise investment in our post-COVID-19 future,” Spanberger said.

Among those cheering from the sidelines Wednesday was National League of Cities CEO and Executive Director Clarence Anthony, who thanked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for their leadership in advancing the relief bill.

“This is a historic, bold and unprecedented commitment to provide meaningful aid to all 19,000 municipal governments,” Anthony said. “For all cities and towns, especially small and rural communities, this emergency intervention is a game changer, as all communities want to be part of the solution to reopening and recovery. 

“Our communities are one step closer to protecting our front-line and emergency personnel, and helping our residents and local businesses recover from this pandemic,” he continued. “A year into the pandemic, local leaders have done everything in their power to protect more than 200 million Americans living in our cities, towns and villages from the destructive public health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Municipal officials are working tirelessly to deliver critical services our hometowns need, despite rising budget shortfalls and ongoing uncertainty about the future of their finances. We are pleased that Congress has helped deliver the support and clarity they have been calling for since the pandemic began. 

“Even with the encouraging progress we are witnessing in Washington this week, our nation is still a long way from normal. The devastation of this pandemic has continued to hit our communities hard, as COVID-19 case counts remain high and individuals continue to suffer the economic harm caused by shuttered businesses. Signing the American Rescue Plan into law is a much-needed injection of hope for all of us as we fight to rebuild, recover and move forward in the weeks and months to come,” Anthony said.

But not everyone shared in the enthusiam.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in pushing the bill through Congress “House Democrats have abandoned any pretense of unity.”

“This isn’t a rescue bill, it isn’t a relief bill. It’s a laundry list of left-wing priorities that predate the pandemic,” McCarthy said.

House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., struck a similar note on the House floor, complaining, “instead of working with Republicans and Democrats, President Biden tried this go it alone approach to allow Speaker Pelosi to write a bill behind closed doors, bring the bill forward, not allowing a single Democrat to file an amendment on a $1.9 trillion spending bill in the House.”

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