President-elect Joe Biden unveiled the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion war on the prolonged suffering of Americans hardest hit by coronavirus.
Included in his proposal: a fresh round of direct payments to prop up struggling families; sweetened and extended benefits for the unemployed; evictions and foreclosures forestalled; universal paid sick and family leave; and even a hike in the minimum wage.
“During this pandemic, millions of Americans have lost the dignity and respect that comes with a job and a paycheck,” Biden told the nation in a speech from Wilmington, Del., Thursday evening. “There is real pain overwhelming the real economy.”
Biden, who officially takes office Wednesday at noon, didn’t flinch at the expensive price tag. “The very health of our nation is at stake,” Biden said. “We have to act and we have to act now.”
Check Out Our Guide to COVID-19 Relief
What Is in the American Rescue Plan?
The multi-pronged American Rescue Plan is designed to deliver direct help to families and businesses suffering for nearly a year with the fallout from COVID-19. Here are the highlights.
A Third Stimulus Check
Biden’s plan calls for cutting $1,400 checks on top of the $600 payments Congress authorized in December for a total payout of $2,000.
Recipients of a third stimulus check would include individuals whose 2020 adjusted gross income (AGI) was below $75,000, couples with AGIs below $150,000, and heads of household with AGIs below $112,500.
As has been the case in previous packages, parents would receive $1,400 payments for all dependent children under age 17. This time, however, taxpaying parents supporting college students won’t be snubbed: Biden’s proposal covers dependent college students 23 or younger, as well as elderly parents living with their children.
Extra Unemployment Benefits
The president-elect calls for boosting federal unemployment benefits approved in December by $100 a week, to $400, and keeping the benefit in place through the end of September. The current plan, as well as Biden’s, covers gig economy workers and the self-employed.
Biden proposes adding $30 billion in rental assistance atop the $25 billion approved in December’s $900 billion COVID-19 Relief Act. He’s asking for another $5 billion to help those at risk of homelessness secure housing and legal assistance for those facing eviction.
The Biden plan also includes a nationwide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through the end of September.
The president-elect will ask Congress to extend the 15% bump in monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through Sept. 30. Biden also worked in a $3 billion payment to Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
Increased Tax Credits
Biden would expand the existing tax credit for children in poor and middle-class households from $2,000 to $3,600 for children under and $3,000 for ages 6-17.
Paid Sick and Family Leave
During the campaign, candidate Biden made no secret of his support for universal paid sick and family leave, as well as medical leave for parents managing childcare responsibilities. He’ll ask for exactly that in his initial proposal.
$15 Minimum Wage
Florida voters adopted a phased-in $15-an-hour minimum wage in November while giving its electoral votes to President Trump. If it’s good enough for the politically divided Sunshine State, Biden declared, it’s good enough to go nationwide.
Will the American Rescue Plan Pass in Congress?
It’s early to begin handicapping the dynamics of the Congress that will convene after Inauguration Day. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi oversees a Democratic majority that is both slim and restless, and an aroused GOP minority stung by a rush to impeach Trump a second time.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer presides over an evenly split chamber that includes moderate Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who expressed skepticism about boosting direct payments to $2,000.
On the other hand, Republican senators Josh Hawley (Mo.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) previously backed $2,000 payments.
It’s also unclear whether Leader Schumer will use this first test of the Biden presidency to nuke the filibuster — the Senate rule that requires most legislation to clear a 60-vote threshold — or whether he will attempt to squeeze it through on a procedural vote — budget reconciliation — that requires only a majority.
Biden campaigned on his reputation developed over three decades in the Senate as a hands-across-the-aisle dealmaker. He may have to make good right out of the blocks.
When Will Congress Vote on the American Rescue Plan?
The federal power shift becomes official at noon Wednesday when Biden takes the oath as the 46th U.S. president. What happens then largely depends on Biden’s timetable.
Did he mean what he said Thursday? Is the nation’s future at stake? Does now truly mean, you know, now?
Or will the new president, his honeymoon ticking, be content to let the Senate press ahead with the impeachment trial of Donald Trump — consuming all the oxygen in Washington — while the House takes up the American Rescue Plan?
Biden has said he is content to see the Senate “bifurcate” — divide — its attention. But what will Americans who cheered Biden Thursday night think about that?
Meanwhile, Pelosi and Schumer urged Americans counting on speedy Covid-19 financial relief not to panic: “We will get right to work to turn President-elect Biden’s vision into legislation that will pass both chambers and be signed into law,” they said in a joint statement, adding they “hope that our Republican colleagues will work with us to quickly enact it.”
Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it in 2012, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering the high finance world of college and professional sports for major publications, including the Associated Press, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. His interest in sports has waned some, but he is as passionate as ever about not reaching for his wallet. Bill can be reached at [email protected].
- N.A. (2021, January 14) President-elect Biden Announces American Rescue Plan. Retrieved from https://buildbackbetter.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/COVID_Relief-Package-Fact-Sheet.pdf