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House passes $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill

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WASHINGTON — House Democrats on Wednesday passed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill with the ultimate goal of having it on President Joe Biden’s desk by Friday, just days before key federal unemployment benefits start to expire for many workers on March 14.

By a 220-211 vote, with no Republicans voting yes, Democrats handed Biden a crucial first legislative victory. The White House said he would sign the measure into law by the end of the week.

“For weeks now, an overwhelming percentage of Americans – Democrats, Independents, and Republicans – have made it clear they support the American Rescue Plan. Today, with final passage in the House of Representatives, their voice has been heard,” Biden said in a statement praising House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who spoke on the House floor just before the vote.

The American Rescue Plan provides $1,400 direct payments to individuals making up to $75,000 annually, $350 billion in aid to state and local governments and $14 billion for vaccine distribution. The bill also provides $130 billion to elementary, middle and high schools to assist with safe reopening.

It includes an additional $300 billion in weekly jobless benefits through September and an expanded tax credit of up to $3,600 per child, initially distributed in monthly installments. The child tax credit could raise 4 million children out of poverty, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

More than $50 billion will be distributed to small businesses, including $7 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program. The bill also provides $25 billion for relief for small and mid-sized restaurants, which have suffered significantly during the pandemic.

The measure expands eligibility for subsidies to purchase health insurance to people of all incomes under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a provision that was particularly controversial for Republicans who oppose the bill. It also incentivizes states to expand Medicaid under the ACA by having the federal government pay for new recipients. Several million people could save hundreds of dollars in health care costs once the bill becomes law.


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