Joe Biden scored a major victory on Wednesday when the U.S. House of Representatives, without the support of a single Republican member, approved the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. The Act will provide aid to millions of Americans and a variety of businesses that have been negatively impacted by the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 220-211 approval of the Act, with only one Democrat voting against it, came on the 50th day of Biden’s presidency, and four days after it was approved, also along strict party lines, in the U.S. Senate. Republicans in both chambers argued the amount included in the Act was too large, and it was not directed solely as providing relief to Americans because of COVID-19, but that it was laden with funds to fill the Democrats’ “leftist” agenda.
Several polls consistently showed the majority of Americans, across party lines, support the bill. Those earning up to $70,000, and their children, will receive a one-time direct stimulus payment of $1,400. The payments will be prorated for those earning over $70,000 and capped for people earning $80,000 and above.
The Rescue Plan Act also includes emergency unemployment benefits of $300 weekly which will continue from March 15 to September 6.
Another direct help contained in the bill for South Florida, and families throughout America, is a tax credit of $3,600 for children under 6 years of age, and $3,000 from 7 to 18 years.
The bill will provide a source of well-needed funding to ailing small businesses, including $29 billion for the struggling restaurant industry.
Billions of dollars are provided for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, schools, state and local governments, and ailing industries from airlines to concert halls. There is aid for farmers of color, pension systems, and student borrowers, as well as subsidies for consumers buying health insurance and states expanding Medicaid coverage for lower-income earners.
Included in the funds allocated to assist states to counter the economic challenges created by the pandemic, Florida will receive $17.7 billion. This includes $10.2 billion for the state administration, $4.1 billion for counties, $1.4 billion for cities, and $1.3 billion for other local governments.
Just before the vote in the House was taken, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “today, we have a decision to make of tremendous consequence…a decision that will make a difference for millions of Americans, saving lives and livelihoods.”
Rep. Jared Golden of Maine was the lone Democrat to vote against passage of the Act, claiming in a written statement that some of the expenditure identified wasn’t urgent.
Many progressive Democrats in the House and Senate were disappointed the Act did not include a $15 minimum wage increase through to 2025. This was originally approved by the House but was not allowed to be even considered by the Senate, according to the rules set by the Senate parliamentarian.
President Biden will be expected to sign the Act into law on Friday. And the $1,400 checks could begin being disbursed to Americans, through the IRS, as early as the end of next week. Americans with bank deposit information at the IRS are expected to get their payments the soonest.