Mar. 1, 2021 -- Billions of dollars to expand the fight against the coronavirus are included in the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package approved early Saturday morning in the U.S. House of Representatives.
President Joe Biden urged quick action on the “the American Rescue Plan,” which now heads to the Senate.
“We have no time to waste,” Biden said in a brief statement Saturday. “If we act now, decisively, quickly, and boldly, we can finally get ahead of this virus and we can finally get our economy moving again. The people of this country have suffered far too much for too long. We need to relieve that.”
The bill calls for increasing the supply of coronavirus vaccines, expanding the groups of people eligible to receive them, and establishing more community vaccination centers.
There would be more testing and contact tracing, more mobile vaccination centers to reach remote communities, and more pharmacies enlisted to give vaccinations. About $130 billion would go to public K-12 schools as they make changes that would allow in-class education to resume.
The bill calls for the federal government to make greater use of the Defense Production Act in manufacturing vaccines and would launch a public education campaign to combat “vaccine hesitancy,” especially among minority communities.
House approved Biden’s package with the 219-212 vote. Two Democrats joined Republicans in voting against it. The bill could face changes in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority.
Here’s how the Wall Street Journal broke down some of the major allocations:
Fighting the Coronavirus
- $8.75 billion to public-health agencies to distribute and administer vaccines and to track vaccinations.
- $20 billion for vaccine development, with money going to federal biomedical research for vaccine and therapeutic manufacturing and procurement.
- $3 billion to develop a national stockpile of vaccines.
- $25 billion for testing, contact tracing and reimbursing hospitals for lost revenue related to the pandemic.
This round of payments would total $422 billion. It would send $1,400 checks to individuals making less than $75,000 yearly and $2,800 to a married couple that files taxes jointly and has a combined income of less than $150,000 yearly. Adult dependents such as college students and disabled adults, who were not included in the previous stimulus packages, would get $1,400 each.
The package approved by the House would extend enhanced unemployment benefits to Aug. 29 and increase the weekly amount to $400 from $300.
About $130 billion would be allocated to K-12 schools to help school districts reduce class sizes and establish safety measures such as social distancing and improved ventilation.
Aid to State and Local Governments
$350 billion would go for governments who lost tax revenue during the pandemic.
Raising the Minimum Wage
That’s likely off the table for now. The House plan called for raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour from $7.25 by 2025, but that provision will probably be stripped from the package because of procedural concerns raised by the non-partisan Senate parliamentarian. Democrats say they’re looking for another way to approach raising the minimum wage.