By Grace Hwang
Photo Source: The Grand Island Independent
Democrats have been racing to enact their $1.2 trillion stimulus package before early March, which is when federal jobless benefits are set to expire. Although Republicans have raised concerns about passing another massive spending bill shortly after a $900 billion aid plan last December was approved, Democrats argued that the previous bill had simply not been enough to meet the current crisis at hand, and they have already gone ahead with approvals without Republican votes, especially since the delay of the last relief bill left many more Americans struggling financially, unable to afford food and pay their rent.
Several House committees have already approved parts of the relief plan, which include the $1,400 sum to individuals who make under $75,000 and couples who earn up to $150,000. The weekly federal unemployment supplement would also be increased from $300 to $400 and be extended until August 29, as well as keeping currently running programs in place, such as those that expand eligibility for benefits and increase the time period in which people can continue to receive unemployment insurance. Assistance to households with children would also be considerably boosted by this plan, with $3,600 per child under 6 and $3,000 per child under 18 set to be given out.
Other key provisions of this plan would include $350 billion in relief for state and local governments, $170 billion for schools, and $20 billion for a national vaccination program. House Democrats also proposed a plan to increase minimum wage to $15 per hour, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expects will be passed by the House in final legislation. However, it is uncertain if that provision will adhere to the budget rules of the Senate, and there have already been doubts among Democratic senators about passing it.
Nevertheless, Pelosi expects the House to approve the finalized relief bill before the end of February and have the Senate pass the stimulus package in the following weeks, passing it on to President Biden to finalize the bill before March 14, giving millions of Americans the relief that they so desperately need.