On Feb. 27, the House passed the American Rescue Plan, a 1.9 trillion dollar effort to aid COVID-19 relief. No Republicans voted in favor of this plan, objecting due to its cost and coverage over areas they view as unrelated to the pandemic. Conversely, Democrats are excited for the bill, as it covers vaccine efforts, stimulus payments, housing assistance and more.
One of the areas the American Rescue Plan aids is COVID-19 vaccination efforts. It allocates $20 billion for a national vaccination program in addition to $50 billion to expand virus testing. Its goal is to aid in setting up community vaccination sites, much like the one on Bellevue College’s campus, as well as eliminating vaccine shortages.
Additionally, the plan covers stimulus payments, which would be the third economic payment given directly to Americans since COVID-19 first appeared in the US. The payments would be $1,400 per individual and dependent, including adult dependents. This means that many Americans may receive a stimulus check for the first time, including elderly or disabled adults and college students. As long as individuals earned below $75,000 in taxable income for 2020, or below $150,000 for married couples, they will qualify to receive a check.
For people with children, the plan includes an additional, fully refundable child tax credit for 2021. This would increase the amount from $2,000 per child under 17 to $3,600 for children aged 6 to 17 and $3,600 for children under 6.
Housing assistance is also in the plan. This includes $30 billion in emergency rental assistance and, for homeowners, $10 billion for mortgage assistance. Additionally, $5 billion is being allocated to prevent additional COVID-19 outbreaks among homeless populations by helping to provide stable housing.
On top of the financial relief, the plan would extend unemployment benefits through Aug. 29. Additionally, payments would be raised from an extra $300 a week to an extra $400.
Controversially included in the American Rescue Plan was the possibility of a $15 minimum wage by 2025. However, it is unlikely to make it into the final law. According to nonpartisan Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, the minimum wage increase does not meet the standards legislation must meet in order to pass with only a simple majority through a process called budget reconciliation.
This greatly disappointed many Democrats, including President Joe Biden. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated:
We are not going to give up the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 to help millions of struggling American workers and their families. The American people deserve it, and we are committed to making it a reality.
On the other side, Republicans were celebrating. Senate Budget Committee member Lindsey Graham said:
“Very pleased the Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that a minimum wage increase is an inappropriate policy change in reconciliation. This decision reinforces reconciliation cannot be used as a vehicle to pass major legislative change — by either party — on a simple majority vote.“
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated that the $15 minimum wage will remain in the American Rescue Plan regardless.
Though the American Rescue Plan is predicted to pass through the Senate, it will likely be revised from its current form.