What is The American Rescue Plan?: President Biden’s Stimulus Bill Explained
The American Rescue Plan is one of the most ambitious economic packages to date.
COVID-19 has brought upon the U.S. an unprecedented economic calamity not seen since the Great Recession of 2008–09. Millions of Americans unemployed, businesses are shuttered, food queues stretching miles, schools are closed, Americans contemplating how they will pay the bills and provide for their families, over 500,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus. This pandemic has exacerbated our country’s underlying issues, an unjust and unfair economic and healthcare system to disparities within our racial society. The imperative for our nation’s leaders to act boldly via legislation has never been more stark.
President Joe Biden has unveiled his first opening legislative ambition as President: a $1.9 trillion stimulus deal meant to provide relief to the American people and address the health and financial crises aggravated by the pandemic.
The President’s proposal billed as the American Rescue Plan, builds upon many of the measures in Congress’ $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill from March and in the $900 billion legislation from December, which was scaled back to win support from Senate Republicans.
The President’s American Rescue Plan is ambitious in scope and cost, signaling a change from the Obama-era $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that Democrats passed and President Obama signed in February of 2009 in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
The size and scope of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan are a reflection of the lessons Democrats learned in 2009 when they believed they would have the chance to pass another relief bill but never did. President Biden & Congressional Democrats plan to go even further when it pertains to legislation with infrastructure, immigration, and criminal justice reform next on the table.
With that in mind, many Democrats and progressives plan to push the Biden administration and congressional leaders to go even further. Their mantra is that “the real risk is doing too little — not too much.”
Congressional Democrats and President Biden have learned from the lessons of the Obama administration’s battle with Congressional Republicans in passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the first major legislation signed by President Obama. During that battle, Congressional Republicans successfully pressured President Obama and Congressional Democrats in scaling back the bill if they wanted bipartisan support. In the end, every Republican in the House voted against the 2009 stimulus and only two Republicans in the Senate voted for the stimulus package.
Here is what President Biden’s American Rescue Plan hopes to accomplish. Below is a rundown of some of what the President is submitting before Congress:
- A national vaccination program and ramped up testing. The President is pushing to invest $20 billion in a national program designed to contain COVID-19 through partnerships with states, local governments, tribes, and territories, including $50 billion for expanded testing, rapid testing, expanded lab capacities, and aid for educational institutions such as schools and local governments. The President is also pushing for an additional $10 billion to manufacture Personal Protective Equipment, as well as $30 billion to the Disaster Relief Fund for PPE.
- A public health jobs program and funds toward addressing health disparities. Biden’s proposal looks to fund 100,000 health workers to expand the public health workforce. He also wants to increase funding for health services to underserved populations and those who live in congregate settings, such as nursing homes.
- Money for reopening schools. Biden’s proposal calls for $130 billion to help schools reopen safely, $35 billion in funding for higher education, and $5 billion for governors to use to support educational programs for those hardest hit by Covid-19.
- Emergency paid leave: Biden is calling for changes his team says will expand paid sick leave to 106 million more Americans, including renewing the expired requirement for employers to provide leave and expanding emergency paid leave to federal workers.
- Bigger stimulus checks. Biden is proposing adding $1,400 to the latest round of stimulus checks so that they total $2,000. His plan also expands eligibility for the checks to adult dependents left out of previous rounds and to mixed-immigration status households.
- Extended unemployment insurance. Under the current stimulus packages, the unemployed are eligible for an additional $300 in weekly federal unemployment benefits through March 14. Biden’s plan increases that amount to $400 through September and also continues extended benefits to people who have exhausted benefits or wouldn’t normally qualify, such as contractors or freelancers.
- Housing assistance. The president’s plan calls for extending eviction and foreclosure moratoriums through September, directing $30 billion toward rental assistance, and $5 billion in emergency assistance to secure housing for the homeless.
- Food benefits. The plan includes extending the 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits through September, investing $3 billion in the special supplemental nutrition program for WIC, and providing US territories with $1 billion in nutritional assistance.
- Child care assistance. The plan calls for a $25 billion emergency stabilization fund for child care providers and an additional $15 billion to the Child Care and Development Block Grant Program.
- Tax credits for children and low–income workers. The plan expands the child tax credit — another important one for Democrats — to $3,000 per child up to age 17 and $3,600 for children under age 6. And, it increases the earned income tax credit from about $530 to $1,500 and expands eligibility.
- Support for small businesses. Biden is proposing $15 billion in grants to hard-hit small businesses and leveraging $35 billion in government funds into $175 billion in loans and investment in small businesses.
- Support for state and local governments. Biden’s plan calls on Congress to provide $350 billion in funds for state, local, and territorial governments. It’s framed as money that will help pay frontline workers, reopen schools, and get people vaccinated. It also requests $20 billion in relief for public transit agencies and $20 billion to support tribal governments’ pandemic response.
- A $15 minimum wage. Biden’s proposal asks Congress to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour as well as are ending the tipped minimum wage and sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities. It also calls on employers to provide hazard pay.
The President’s American Rescue Plan has broad support from the American people according to a CBS News poll over 70% of Americans support the American Rescue Plan, in that same poll 60% of Republican voters support the President’s American Rescue Plan.
“According to the polls, there is overwhelming bipartisan support,” the President said on Feb. 19 at a Pfizer plant in Michigan that produces vaccines. “The vast majority of the American people — more than 70% of the American people, with all the polls you all conduct, including a majority of Republicans — want us to act, and act big and quickly and support the plan.”
In the early morning hours of February 27, the House voted along party lines (219–217) passed the American Rescue Plan it now goes to the Senate, where it faces a tougher battle as the bill slowly heads to the President’s desk by mid-March.