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Paul Zimmerman
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New $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Bill Passes House, Moves to Senate

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a massive $1.9 trillion relief bill advanced by President Joe Biden and his administration. Dubbed the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislation now heads to the Senate, where Democrats are hopeful it will reach President Biden’s desk for signature before March 14 (the day unemployment aid programs are set to expire).

Among other provisions, the relief package passed by the House provides for all of the following:

  1. $400 per week unemployment supplements through August 29, 2021, in addition to new programs that grant millions more Americans eligibility for jobless benefits;
  2. $1,400 stimulus payments to most individuals, though these payments phase out for individuals making over $75,000 per year, and hit zero for those earning $100,000 or more;
  3. Child tax credit expansion, which provides qualifying families $3,000 per child ages 6 to 17 and $3,600 annually for children under 6;
  4. $20 billion earmarked for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, along with an additional $50 billion for COVID testing and tracing;
  5. $350 billion in state, local and tribal government relief;
  6. $25 billion in assistance for those seeking to cover rent payments;
  7. $170 billion for K-12 schools and higher education (specifically for re-opening costs and student aid); and
  8. A $15/hour federal minimum wage, more than double the current hourly level of $7.25.

In terms of the latter, the Senate parliamentarian has ruled that the federal minimum wage hike cannot be included in the bill to be considered. Consequently, the hopes of Democrats for a $15 minimum wage have been dashed.

Minimum wage disappointments aside, Democrats hail the American Rescue Plan as necessary to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations, which will ultimately lead to some semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy, and provide benefits for Americans in need and those currently receiving jobless benefits. Republicans, on the other hand, question the need for such a large stimulus package and claim the bill misses the mark because it is chock full of provisions having nothing to do with the pandemic.

As the Senate tackles the pending legislation, Michelman & Robinson, LLP will continue to track all developments and update this alert as they unfold.

This blog post is not offered, and should not be relied on, as legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice in specific situations.