After a marathon session of debate known as vote-a-rama and some dissension in the Democratic ranks — particularly from Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia — the U.S. Senate finally passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package Saturday.
“We’re not going to make the same mistake we made after the last economic downtown, when Congress did too little to help the nation rebound, locking us into a long, slow, painful recovery,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said just before the vote. “We are not going to be timid in the face of big challenges.”
The vote was the first significant test of the Biden presidency.
It served as a litmus test of how united Democrats would be after four years of having debilitating, Donald Trump-led legislation rammed through a favorable Senate.
During the four years of Republican control, a host of Democrat-proposed bills stalled in the upper chamber in what became known as former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s graveyard.
Manchin, who has discovered new and swing-vote power, has wielded it mightily, forcing changes to the bill that was passed by the House a week earlier.
The moderate Democrat objected to the president’s and fellow Democrats who fought to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Although that portion of the bill had to be removed to permit it through the reconciliation process, Manchin held up the vote for hours wanting – and receiving – a change from $400 to $300 the federal unemployment insurance addition to the bill.
Ultimately, the bill passed along party lines, 50-49, with one Republican senator abstaining. Vice President Kamala Harris would have served as a tie-breaking vote.
The bill still must be returned to the House for final approval before it heads to Biden’s desk for signature.
Once the bill becomes law, it’s believed that the IRS would quickly begin sending out a new round of stimulus payments. Single tax filers making $75,000 or less would receive $1,400, while married couples who file jointly and make less than $150,000 would receive $2,800.
Families will also receive $1,400 per child, and adult children claimed as dependents would also receive $1,400.
Unlike previous stimulus payments, single tax filers making at least $80,000, or couples earning more than $160,000, will not receive a check.
It’s also important to know that the IRS will determine eligibility based on either a 2019 or 2020 tax return.
If you have not filed your 2020 taxes, the government will use 2019 income.
Individuals who may have lost their jobs or whose incomes decreased in 2020 should file as soon as possible.
Otherwise, the IRS will use your 2019 income.
Like the previous stimulus, you are not required to pay taxes on the payments, and those owing child support or student debt to the federal government will be protected from garnishment.
However, lawmakers did not make provisions to protect anyone from garnishment who might have private debt.
The bill allows for the first $10,200 of unemployment payments tax-free, and those who receive food stamps will see a 15 percent increase in those benefits through September. Families whose children’s schools have remained closed are also in line to receive EBT benefits through the summer.
The legislation sends about $20 billion to state and local governments to help low-income households cover back rent and utility bills.
It also contains a provision that allows families with minor children to claim a larger tax credit this year.
Those who qualify would receive a child tax credit of $3,600 for each child under six.
Families will also receive $3,000 for each under age 18, up from the current credit of up to $2,000 per child under age 17.
The American Rescue Plan also provides $15 billion to the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan Program, which provides long-term, low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration.
Severely affected small businesses with fewer than 10 workers will be given priority for some of the money.
Additionally, more people will qualify for higher premium subsidies through the Affordable Care Act.
“Today’s passage of bold relief legislation is exactly what Georgians had in mind when they sent me to the Senate to help our state recover from the devastation of this once-in-a-century pandemic and corresponding economic downturn,” said Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).
“For months, families and communities across the nation have been waiting for the substantive federal assistance they need to pay their rent, buy food and medicine, safely reopen all of our schools and keep essential workers on the job – and because of Georgia, that help is finally just around the corner,” Warnock said.