Breaking down the $1.9T coronavirus plan

Coronavirus Stimulus

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill into law Thursday afternoon, one day after Congress put the final stamp of approval on the bill formally titled the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

The bill was passed by the Senate on Saturday then sent back to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives where it received final congressional approval by a near party line 220-211 vote Wednesday. The $1,400 stimulus check payments are set to go out within days of Biden signing it into law, with the first batch expected to go out to Americans with direct deposit set up with the IRS.

In a nutshell, the package works on three areas: pandemic response, direct relief to struggling families and support for communities and small businesses.

NewsNation’s research team looked into each part of the package. There have been moving parts as Congressional leaders have debated various parts of the bill.

PANDEMIC RESPONSE
$400 billion

Note: The cost above may differ as legislation changes. Once the Congressional Budget Office has final numbers for cost, we will update this article.

  • National vaccination program: The bill includes about $14 billion to speed up the distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines across the country. (Updated 3/6/21)
  • Expanded testing: The bill provides $46 billion to expand federal, state and local testing for COVID-19 and to enhance contract tracing capabilities with new investments to expand laboratory capacity and set up mobile testing units. (Updated 3/6/21)
  • Emergency paid leave: President Biden’s plan called for expanding access to emergency paid leave for millions of Americans and paid sick and family and medical leave for parents juggling child care responsibilities. 
  • School funding: The proposal sets aside $130 billion to help schools reopen. The funds can be used to reduce class sizes and modify spaces for social distancing, improve ventilation and provide personal protective equipment. In higher education, roughly $40 billion in funding would go to public institutions, including community colleges and historically Black colleges. (Updated 3/6/21)
  • Health workers: The proposal also funds 100,000 public health workers to carry out vaccine outreach and contact tracing. It also seeks to tackle health disparities, particularly in communities of color that the pandemic has disproportionately hit. The proposal includes funding for health services in underserved populations, including on tribal lands. 
  • Hospital funding: Hospital trade groups lobbied senators to tack on more money for hospitals to help maintain sufficient staffing and purchase personal protective equipment while caring for large numbers of critically ill patients. The Senate bill adds $8.5 billion for rural providers for COVID-19 relief. (Added 3/6/21)
DIRECT RELIEF TO STRUGGLING FAMILIES
$1 trillion 

Note: The cost above may differ as legislation changes. Once the Congressional Budget Office has final numbers for cost, we will update this article.

  • Stimulus checks: The proposal covers a third round of stimulus checks, this time for $1,400. Disagreement over the size of the second round of stimulus checks nearly imperiled the previous stimulus package after former President Donald Trump held up signing the bill over his demands for larger checks. Many Republican lawmakers have opposed $2,000 total payments, saying the larger checks would benefit too many families with high incomes who are not bearing the brunt of the economic downturn. Originally, individuals earning up to $75,000 — and couples up to $150,000 — would get $1,400 checks per person. The version the House approved last Saturday would gradually phase down those amounts and reach zero for individuals making $100,000 and couples earning $200,000. However, under an agreement on March 3 in the Senate, those checks would end for individuals making $80,000 and couples earning $160,000. (Updated 3/5/21)
  • Expanded unemployment benefits: The $900 billion law passed by lawmakers in December provided $300 in unemployment benefits through mid-March, raising concerns about a looming cliff while millions of Americans were still out of work and many jobs, particularly those in service sectors, may not return until the health crisis ends. The Biden plan originally increased the benefits to $400 per week and extended the program through Aug. 29. However, on March 5, Senate leaders and moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin struck a deal to lower the benefit to $300 per week, but extend the benefits to Sept. 6. The first $10,200 would be tax-free. That was included in the Senate bill, which was passed on March 6. That’s on top of what beneficiaries are getting through their state unemployment insurance program. Biden’s proposal would also extend assistance for people who have exhausted their regular benefits, as well as those who do not typically qualify for unemployment insurance programs, including self-employed people and gig workers. (Updated 3/6/21)
  • COBRA: The measure provides a 100% subsidy of COBRA health insurance premiums to ensure that the laid-off workers can remain on their employer health plans at no cost through the end of September. (Updated 3/6/21)
  • Affordable Care Act: Parts of the legislation advance longstanding Democratic priorities like increasing coverage under the Obama-era Affordable Care Act. Financial assistance for ACA premiums would become considerably more generous and a greater number of solid middle-class households would qualify. Though the sweetened subsidies last only through the end of 2022, they will lower the cost of coverage and are expected to boost the number of people enrolled. (Updated 3/6/21)
  • Eviction protection: The bill provides about $30 billion to help low-income households and the unemployed afford rent and utilities, and to assist the homeless with vouchers and other support. States and tribes would receive an additional $10 billion for homeowners who are struggling with mortgage payments because of the pandemic. (Updated 3/6/21)
  • Addressing the hunger crisis: The bill extends the 15% increase in monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits approved by lawmakers earlier to the end of September. The measure also covers a $3 billion investment in Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). 
  • Expand child tax credit: The plan includes a significant expansion of an existing tax credit for children in poor and middle-class households. The bill increases the credit to $3,000 per child ($3,600 for a child under age 6) and makes 17 year-olds qualifying children for the year. Under current law, most taxpayers can reduce their federal income tax bill by up to $2,000 per child. The legislation also calls for the payments to be delivered monthly instead of in a lump sum. If the secretary of the Treasury determines that isn’t feasible, then the payments are to be made as frequently as possible. Families would get the full credit regardless of how little they make in a year, leading to criticism that the changes would serve as a disincentive to work. (Updated 3/6/21)
  • Earned Income Tax Credit: The bill also significantly expands the Earned Income Tax Credit for 2021 by making it available to people without children. The credit for low and moderate-income adults would be worth $543 to $1,502, depending on income and filing status. (Updated 3/6/21)
  • Student loans: The Senate version of the bill may make it easier for President Biden to deliver student loan forgiveness It includes a provision, which would make any student loan forgiveness passed from 2021-2025 to be tax-free. Under current law, forgiven debt is taxable income. (Updated 3/6/21)
SUPPORT FOR COMMUNITIES AND SMALL BUSINESSES
$440 billion 

Note: The cost above may differ as legislation changes. Once the Congressional Budget Office has final numbers for cost, we will update this article.

  • Help for small businesses: A new program for restaurants and bars hurt by the pandemic would receive $25 billion. The grants provide up to $10 million per company with a limit of $5 million per physical location. The grants can be used to cover payroll, rent, utilities and other operational expenses. The bill also provides $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, a tiny fraction of what was allocated in previous legislation. The bill also allows more nonprofits to apply for loans that are designed to help borrowers meet their payroll and operating costs and can potentially be forgiven. (Updated 3/6/21)
  • Aid to local governments: The bill will send $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local and territorial governments to keep front-line workers paid, distribute vaccines, increase testing and reopen schools. Democrats have long pushed for direct relief for state and local governments facing serious budget shortfalls, including in places that rely heavily on the tourism or energy industries. Republicans have resisted calls for state and local aid, saying it should only be approved as part of a package that includes sweeping legal protections for firms from coronavirus-related lawsuits. In the Senate-approved bill, costs incurred up until the end of 2024 can be used in the $350 billion. The bill also requires that small states get at least the amount they received under virus legislation that Congress passed last March. (Updated 3/6/21)
  • Relief for transit systems: The bill put at least $27 billion toward hard-hit transit agencies that will keep workers on the payrolls and avoid service cuts. (Updated 3/6/21)
  • Supporting tribal governments: Biden’s plan directed $20 billion to support tribal governments’ pandemic response and increase access to personal protective equipment, internet connectivity, clean water and electricity in Indian Country. 

Reuters contributed to this report.

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