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President Joe Biden

Biden's $1.9 trillion Coronavirus stimulus bill needs Congress approval

Contributed By:The 411 News

President signs executive orders on food assistance and federal minimum wage

In his first 3 days as President, Joe Biden took actions he promised on the campaign trail to restore the American economy and defeat the coronavirus.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the United States economy into an economic crisis. Across the country, more than 10 million Americans are unemployed, 14 million renters are behind on payments, and 29 million adults – and at least 8 million children – are struggling with food insecurity," President Biden said Friday as he prepared to sign two executive orders addressing food assistance and wages for low-income workers.

The first executive order will deliver increases to families and individuals receiving federal food assistance.

It extends through September 30, 2021 the 15% increase in SNAP food benefits granted in the 2nd Coronavirus Relief Bill – the $900 billion relief bill that Congress approved in December 2020; SNAP benefit increases were set to expire June 2021.

Biden's executive order also asks the U.S. Dept of Agriculture to include the 12 million SNAP recipients excluded from the first CARES Act legislation in March. That legislation raised all SNAP households to the maximum level of allowable benefits for their household size. SNAP recipients already at the maximum level received nothing.

For families with school children, the executive order increases the amount in the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program. To date, the program has only allowed P-EBT benefit amounts up to $5.70 per child per school day. The President is asking USDA to consider issuing new guidance increasing P-EBT benefits by approximately 15%. P-EBT covers meals missed by school children because of school closures.

The December Coronavirus Relief Bill extended P-EBT benefits to children under 6 years-old.

The second executive order more than doubles the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour. President Biden orders contractors working for the federal government to pay their employees no less than $15 hourly.

Those executive orders go into effect without approval by Congress.

The administration's $1.9 stimulus bill, called the American Rescue Plan, needs Congressional approval.

It includes a $1,400 stimulus check to individuals earning under $75,000 and married couples filing jointly earning less than $150,000 yearly.

It also calls for expanding the minimum hourly wage to $15 for all workers.

Unemployment Assistance
Increase the federal boost the unemployed receive to $400 a week, from the $300 weekly enhancement contained in the December relief package.

The stimulus would also extend the payments, through September. Lawmakers only provided an additional 11 weeks of support in the December package, which would have expired in March.

This applies to those in the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program who have exhausted their regular state jobless payments and those in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides benefits to the self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers and certain people affected by the pandemic.

Rental Assistance and Eviction Moratorium
$25 billion in rental assistance for low- and moderate-income households who have lost jobs during the pandemic. That's in addition to the $25 billion lawmakers provided in December.

Another $5 billion would be set aside to help struggling renters pay their utility bills. Biden is also calling for $5 billion to help states and localities assist those at risk of experiencing homelessness.

Extend the federal eviction moratorium, set to expire at the end of January, to September 30, as well as allow people with federally-guaranteed mortgages to apply for forbearance until September 30.

Money for Child Care and Child Tax Credits
Create a $25 billion emergency fund and add $15 billion to an existing grant program to help child care providers, including family child care homes, to pay for rent, utilities, and payroll, and increased costs associated with the pandemic like personal protective equipment.

Expand the child care tax credit for one year so that families will get back as much as half of their spending on child care for children under age 13.

A Temporary Increase of Tax Credits
Create a fully refundable Child Tax Credit: $3,600 for children under age 6 and $3,000 for those between ages 6 and 17 for a year.

Raise the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit for a year to close to $1,500 for childless adults, increase the income limit for the credit to about $21,000 and expand the age range of eligibility to cover older workers.

Subsidies for Health Insurance Premiums
Subsidize through September the premiums of those who lost their work-based health insurance.

Increase and expand the Affordable Care Act's premium subsidies so that enrollees don't have to pay more than 8.5% of their income for coverage.

Provide $4 billion for mental health and substance use disorder services and $20 billion to meet the health care needs of veterans.

Restoration of Emergency Paid Leave
Reinstate the paid sick and family leave benefits that expired at the end of December until September 30.

14 weeks of paid sick, family and medical leave will be provided to eligible workers, with a maximum paid leave benefit of $1,400 per week for workers earning up to $73,000 annually.

More Assistance for Small Businesses
Provide $15 billion to create a new grant program for small business owners, separate from the existing Paycheck Protection Program.

Proposes making a $35 billion investment in some state, local, tribal, and non-profit financing programs that make low-interest loans and provide venture capital to entrepreneurs.

Aid for States and Schools
Sends $350 billion to state, local and territorial governments to keep their frontline workers employed, distribute the vaccine, increase testing, reopen schools and maintain vital services.

Provide $20 billion to the hardest-hit public transit agencies to help avert layoffs and the cutting of routes.

Provide an additional $170 billion to K-12 schools, colleges and universities to help them reopen and operate safely or to facilitate remote learning.

Congress approved $82 billion in aid for schools in December.

Increase Support for Vaccines and Testing
Invest $20 billion in a national vaccination program, including launching community vaccination centers around the country and mobile units in hard-to-reach areas.

Invest $50 billion in testing, providing funds to purchase rapid tests, expand lab capacity and help schools implement regular testing to support reopening.

Fund the hiring of 100,000 additional health care workers to address health disparities. It would address expanding community health centers and health services on tribal lands. And provide support to long-term care facilities experiencing outbreaks and to prisons for mitigation strategies.

Story Posted:01/24/2021

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