$1,400 stimulus checks move one step closer as the House passes $1.9 trillion aid package
Shortly after midnight on Saturday, the House passed Democrat’s $1.9 trillion economic aid bill on a 219 to 212 vote.
The bill now moves to the Senate, where Democrats hold an incredibly slim majority. In order to bypass likely united Republican opposition, Democratic leadership has opted to use the budget reconciliation process—which only requires 51 votes to pass it through the Senate chamber versus the 60 it normally takes to prevent a filibuster. Democrats can’t afford to lose any votes if Republicans vote on party lines.
However, a key part of the House bill, raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next few years, looks like a non-starter. On Thursday the Senate parliamentarian ruled that including the minimum wage hike in a bill passed through reconciliation wouldn’t be allowed, as many on the Hill had worried for some weeks. And now it’s unclear whether enough Democrats will fully get on board with the relief package sans minimum wage increase (Some are currently seeking alternatives to raising the minimum wage).
The $1.9 trillion package passed through the Democratic controlled House includes $350 billion in state and local funding, money for vaccines, and $170 billion for education.
The bill would also send most Americans another direct payment. The $1,400 stimulus checks would go to individuals earning up to $75,000, and a $2,800 check would go to couples filing jointly with incomes under $150,000. Individuals with adjusted gross income (AGI) above that level could still get reduced payments, but the payments would phase out completely for single filers earning more than $100,000, and for couples filing together at $200,000.
The bill would also send a $1,400 check to tax filers for each of their dependents—even if that dependent is an adult. That’s notable, since the two rounds of stimulus checks sent in 2020 did not go out for adult dependents.
Additionally, the relief package would extend several pandemic unemployment benefits that are set to expire on March 14. That includes weekly enhanced unemployment payments, which the bill ups from $300 to $400 per week. It also includes provisions to extend Pandemic Unemployment Insurance (PUA)—which expands who is eligible for unemployment benefits to include people like business owners, part-timers, and freelancers; and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits (PEUC)—which grants an extra 24 weeks of jobless benefits to recipients once they exhaust their state benefits.
There remain some potential roadblocks to the bill’s passage in the Senate, but March 14 looms as the deadline leaders in Congress have set for getting the bill onto President Joe Biden’s desk for a signature, in order to prevent those unemployment benefits from lapsing.
In a letter to colleagues last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declared: “We will meet this deadline.”