Stimulus bill in the works: Every important thing happening, including your $1,400 check – CNET

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Congress is on track to complete the latest stimulus package much faster than it did the last one.


Sarah Tew/CNET

It took Congress nine months to hash out the details of the stimulus bill that included the second check for $600. This time, Democrats plan to fast-track President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal in less two months, a move that would send the third stimulus check for up to $1,400 out in a matter of weeks, not months (in the middle of tax season, in fact).

According the House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the House of Representatives intends to work through the month on Biden’s American Rescue Plan, with the goal of voting on the bill by the end of February and then passing the bill over to the Senate. In addition to checks for those who qualify, the legislation could extend federal unemployment aid into the fall and lay the groundwork for a $15 minimum wage.

To meet their mid-March deadline, Democrats will use a legislative budget tool that can speed through the bill without bipartisan support but sets strict limits on what Democrats can — and can’t — include in their stimulus bill. Here’s what we know about Biden’s proposal right now.

A $1,400 third stimulus payment, with an upper income limit

$1,400 stimulus check appears to be the set rate. When added to the $600 checks Congress approved at the end of 2020, this would add up to a $2,000 amount some have called on for months.

After days of back and forth, Congress is looking to target the checks at lower income earners than those who qualified for the first two payments, while keeping the income requirements the same. A hard ceiling on income designed to exclude higher earners from getting a check would change a rule about the use of dependents in the stimulus check formula. Check out our stimulus payment calculator to see how that could work for you.

For this third round of payments, Biden is pushing to include adult dependents as well as children and families with mixed-status citizenship. Here are all the ways a third check could bring more money or how you could get less. Here’s what happens to your total if a check arrives during tax season.


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What about student loan forgiveness?

Biden has asked Congress to cancel $10,000 in student debt for all borrowers and extend the pause on student loan repayment. Earlier in the month, Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, put forward their own proposal to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt.

“I do think that, in this moment of economic pain and strain, that we should be eliminating interest on the debts that are accumulated, number one. And, number two, I’m prepared to write off the $10,000 debt, but not $50,000,” Biden said Feb. 16. 

$400 extra in federal unemployment benefits

The weekly $300 federal unemployment checks Congress approved in December as part of the $900 billion COVID-relief legislation are set to expire in March. During his presidential campaign, Biden pushed to reform the unemployment system and said he would work with Congress to extend the unemployment benefits that had been authorized under last year’s CARES Act and renewed in December, “for however long this crisis lasts.”

Biden’s plan would send $400 federal unemployment payments through September with triggers that would extend the benefits after September for those who continue to be out of work and include automatic payment adjustments linked to health and economic conditions.

If a new bill is approved by March 14, it would renew the federal unemployment aid without a gap in funding.

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Democrats will push to extend and increase federal unemployment aid back to $600 extra per week.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Nationwide coronavirus vaccine delivery

Over 70 million doses have so far been distributed in the US — and  55 million administered — and the country looks to be on track to meet Biden’s goal of 100 million vaccine jabs in his first 100 days of his administration. In a town-hall meeting on CNN on Feb. 16, Biden said by the end of July, the country will have enough supply to vaccinate everyone in the US. The goal then becomes having enough supplies and people to administer the vaccine.

Biden’s plan would set out $160 billion for a nationwide vaccine program that would help state and local governments get the vaccine into people’s arms.

Expanded child tax credit would bring families more money

In his plan, Biden proposes expanding the child tax credit that currently allows families to claim up to a $2,000 credit for children under age 17. If approved, the plan would extend the benefit to lower-income families who would otherwise not receive the credit. Under Biden’s plan, families could claim up to $3,600 per year for one young child and up to $3,000 per year for an older child.

According to Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, the expansion would be targeted would target low- and middle-income households. “More than one-third of the benefit would go to the lowest income parents, who’d get an average tax cut of almost $3,300,” Gleckman wrote on Feb. 10. “Low and middle-income parents would receive nearly 80 percent of benefits.”

The plan would also expand child care tax credits for one year to help cover the cost of child care. Under Biden’s plan, families could get back as a tax credit as much as half of their spending on child care for children under age 13, up to $4,000 for a single child and $8,000 for two or more children.

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Biden has asked Congress to forgive student debt up to $10,000.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Is a $15 minimum wage included in the House bill?

One area still up for debate is a minimum-wage hike in the relief bill, which would gradually raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years (longer for some employee groups).

While there’s some doubt it’ll make it in the final package, Pelosi said on Feb. 11 that the House is working on the provision and will send it over to the Senate as part of the bill. The Senate could strike that from its version of the proposal before returning it to the House for a final vote. 

If a minimum wage raise doesn’t make it into the final bill, Biden has said he’s committed to increasing it from the current $7.25 an hour as part of a separate negotiation with Congress.

On Jan. 24, Biden signed an executive order directing the Office of Personnel Management to create recommendations for a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour for federal jobs.

Funds to reopen schools during COVID-19

A critical piece of the economic recovery is getting students back on campus. “We are also going to need tens of millions of dollars to help reopen our schools and open them safely,” Biden said on Jan. 8. The Biden plan would work to return students to schools by having a majority of kindergarten-to-8th grade classrooms safely reopen in the first 100 days of the administration.

Money earmarked for state, local and tribal governments

Along with expanding liability protections pushed by Republicans, Democratic support of funding for state, local and tribal governments was a major roadblock to reaching an agreement on a new economic assistance package through the second half of last year. With Democrats in control of the House, Senate and White House, Biden has pledged support for state and local funding as part of his administration’s relief package. 

Since the fall, economists have pushed for Congress to provide funding for state and local public jobs: “The case for additional aid is strong because the downside risk of doing nothing is quite real,” the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, said at the end of last year. “The fact that over 1 million state and local government workers have lost their jobs is a sign that fiscal distress has had real consequences.”

On Jan. 8, Biden again expressed concern that state and local governments are “slashing jobs” as a result of the pandemic and pledged to provide “immediate relief.” In addition to state and local funding, Biden’s plan would provide funds for food and water assistance and food stamps.

Extending the eviction ban through September

On Jan. 20, Biden signed an executive order extending the eviction ban through March, which means it may not be part of the final new stimulus bill at all. Biden’s proposal would extend the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums until Sept. 30. The plan would provide $30 billion in rental assistance for renters and small landlords, especially for low- and moderate-income households.

We’ll continue to update this story as Biden reveals more details of his plans. For more information about stimulus money, here are the top facts you need to know about stimulus checks.

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