What will Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill mean for you?

What will Bidens COVID-19 relief bill mean for you?

Sara Mody, Staff Writer

On Jan. 15, President Biden, then president-elect, introduced plans for a 1.9 trillion dollar stimulus package to aid Americans during the COVID-19 crisis.  The proposed bills sought to combine terms of the three trillion dollar stimulus package from March 2020, and the Republican-favored 900 billion dollar stimulus package from December 2020.  The plan aimed to help combat COVID, create an economic plan for recovery, and address climate change.  At the time, Biden’s proposed plan included increasing stimulus payments, unemployment aid, food stamps benefits, vaccine support, virus testing, and much more.

Now that Biden is President, his first hundred days are focused on attacking the pandemic and helping the nation recover.  The plan proposed on Jan. 15, now called the American Rescue Plan, was one of the many programs and bills the President re-introduced on Inauguration Day.  

“Now more than ever, our economy and country need relief. I think that Biden’s bill will give the necessary aid people need and it should continue to be a top priority for his administration,” said junior Olivia Kerrane. 

The President is introducing a new relief package though Congress just passed the second stimulus package in December because most Democrats, like the President and some Republicans, were disappointed with the terms of the second package.  The deal did not give aid to state or local governments, and decreased stimulus checks from $1,200 to $600.  Although the bill increased unemployment aid, the increase of $300 would only last for 11 weeks rather than 16. 

 Many members of Congress are concerned about the pandemic’s surge this winter and the lack of vaccine distribution to combat the virus.  With numerous benefits running out on Mar. 14, Democrats and some Republicans hope to pass the American Rescue Plan as soon as possible.  The House Budget Committee passed the American Rescue Plan, which now awaits approval by the House Rules Committee.  If the House Rules Committee approves the plan, the House of Representatives will vote on it.  The Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, expects the House to pass the American Rescue Plan and advance it to the Senate by Friday or Saturday this week. 

Although the Democrats hold the majority in the Senate and the House, opposition by many Republican members of Congress will not make the process easy.  GOP Senators met with President Biden on Jan. 31, to offer a stimulus compromise; however, the President and fellow Democratic congressmen and women refused to back down from the 1.9 trillion dollar plan.  

The American Rescue Plan met many of Biden’s goals when introducing the intended legislation before his inauguration.  Under the plan, the government will increase stimulus payments from $600 to $1,400 checks for Americans earning $75,000 or less.  Couples earning $150,000 or less will receive $2,800, and dependents will get a check for $1,400.  President Biden also plans to set aside $160 billion for the COVID-19 vaccine program are a few examples of what makes up the plan.  Biden also hoped to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025; however, he has since considered removing the minimum wage increase from the bill.

However, many high school students would be happy about the possibility of an increase in minimum wage.

“In my world an increase in minimum wage is good because it means my boss will increase my pay,” said junior Sydney Siegman.

However, Republican members of Congress are looking to a Congressional Budget Office report that states that the economy is already recovering without more relief.  When the plan goes to the Senate, there may be countless edits by GOP senators that would eliminate paid sick leave and the increase in the minimum wage.  Democrats in Congress are using Budget Reconciliation to quickly pass the relief bill with a simple majority  because the second stimulus bill ends in March.  

“If GOP senators are unwilling to work with Democrats to pass Biden’s bill, Democrats should pass it anyway with a simple majority. However, I wish that Republican and Democratic senators would come together to pass an bi-partisan bill to show a more united Congress,” said junior Emily Benson-Tyler

The debate over the proposal can only last 20 hours, so it cannot be filibustered or delayed in the Senate.  This tool can only be used by Congress for legislation, like the American Rescue Plan, that affects federal spending, debt, and revenue.  Due to the Democratic majority in both the house and the Senate, passing the bill by a simple majority vote is not the problem.  The final draft may exclude funding for school reopenings, the minimum wage increase, and paid sick leave.  Many Americans do not know what Budget Reconciliation is because it can only be used once a year by Congress.  The most recent use of Budget Reconciliation was in 2017 when it was used to repeal considerable amounts of the Affordable Care Act.