by Elpidio R. Estioko
We are now part of history! President Joe Biden signed the historic $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on March 11 as Washington pledged to send fresh aid to Americans this month!
With his signature, the plan will send direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans, extend a $300 per week unemployment insurance boost until September 6 and expand the child tax credit for a year. It will also put nearly $20 billion into COVID-19 vaccinations, $25 billion into rental and utility assistance and $350 billion into state, local and tribal relief. This is a milestone for Americans!
Biden said before signing the legislation: “This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country… And giving people in this nation, working people, middle-class folks, the people who built this country, a fighting chance.”
Also, I agree with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when she said that the President’s $1.9 trillion COVID Relief Bill which was approved by the US Senate (50-49) and the House (220-211) will “save lives and livelihoods,” a package dubbed as the American Rescue Plan. The relief package will rescue middle-class Americans and will help them restore their damaged status caused due to the pandemic by extending benefits to those who are unemployed; giving stimulus money to individuals earning less than $75,000 a month; apportioning fund assistance to schools and local governments; and reserving support funds for small and medium-sized businesses.
With the approval, Biden’s famous phrase “Help is on the way” becomes a reality as funds will be immediately released within this month.
In the Senate, the absence of Sen. Dan Sullivan due to a family emergency prevented Vice President Kamala Harris from having to break a tie in the 50-50 chamber. The bill passed 50-49, along party lines with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia finally agreeing to support a provision backed by other Democrats that also allows the first $10,200 of the jobless benefits to be nontaxable for incomes up to $150,000.
Manchin said after the vote: “Today the Senate passed a COVID-19 relief package that will help kill the COVID-19 pandemic and set us on the right track to economic recovery. I am proud to vote for this relief package and I look forward to seeing the president sign this bill into law.”
The Senate’s changes to the House-passed version of the plan include reducing the jobless benefits to $300 (from $400 in the House bill) and extending them slightly to September 6. The Senate limited eligibility for the $1,400 checks by capping the payments for those who make $80,000, or $160,000 for couples.
With assisting those heavily affected by housing and saving lives in mind, the plan would also provide $25 billion in rental assistance for low- and moderate-income households who have lost jobs during the pandemic. That is in addition to the $25 billion lawmakers provided in December.
Another $5 billion would be set aside to help struggling renters to pay their utility bills. Biden is also calling for $5 billion to help states and localities assist those at risk of experiencing homelessness.
The plan would extend the federal eviction moratorium, which expired at the end of January, to September 30, as well as allow people with federally guaranteed mortgages to apply for forbearance until September 30.
There is also help for the hungry under the plan. Biden would extend the 15% increase in food stamp benefits through September, instead of having it expire in June. He would invest another $3 billion to help women, infants, and children secure food, and give U.S. territories $1 billion in nutrition assistance. He would partner with restaurants to provide food to needy Americans and jobs to laid-off restaurant workers.
Making sure people in need get the assistance, the Senate also approved some modest and noncontroversial amendments offered by both parties before passing the final version.
In the House, Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene forced the House to delay debating and voting on the $1.9 trillion relief bill on Wednesday by using a delay tactic she used many times in the past.
She made a motion to adjourn, before the chamber started proceedings, a procedural move that makes every lawmaker come to the floor and vote for or against keeping Congress in session that day. Her attempt however failed when 40 Republicans joined all Democrats in voting against her effort, which delayed the House’s business for roughly one hour. The House ultimately debated, and passed, the stimulus bill, which Greene opposed.
To recap, the first major legislation of the Biden administration, includes $1,400 stimulus checks, $300-per-week jobless benefits through the summer, a child allowance of up to $3,600 for one year, $350 billion for state aid, $34 billion to expand Affordable Care Act subsidies and $14 billion for vaccine distribution.
Biden called the aid package “urgently needed” and praised the Senate for passing it (50-49) Saturday and the House (220-211), saying it will get “checks out the door” to Americans “this month.” The help is right there in our doorsteps!
He praised the Senate and the House and hailed the measure’s “overwhelming bipartisan support of the American people,” referring to polling that showed the Americans supporting the legislation by 61%.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters: “From the beginning, we said this: We had to pass this legislation. We made a promise to the American people that we were going to deliver the real relief they needed. And now we have fulfilled that promise.”
The Maryland Democrat added: “Democrats are delivering on our promise to take action to defeat this virus and provide the assistance the American people need until our economy can reopen safely and fully.”Fellow Americans, “Help is on the way” and our lives will surely be restored and secured! Biden’s $1.9 T relief bill, which became into law, saves lives!
ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and an award-winning journalist in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author @ email@example.com.