Dems Prevail as $1.9 Trillion Approved by Congress
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was able to tell Americans suffering through the pandemic that “help is on the way.” Not a single Republican backed the COVID-19 Relief Package in the Senate as it narrowly passed with a 50-49 vote on March 6. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, missed the votes to attend his father-in-law’s funeral.
The House passed the bill with a vote of 220-211 after three hours of debate on March 10.
What it now means
This bill has been one of President Biden’s biggest priorities for addressing the health and economic crises of the pandemic. The outcome “gives us optimism about doing more big things in the future — because it worked,” Schumer told The Associated Press in an interview after the vote.
Most Americans will now see direct payments of up to $1,400 as well as extended emergency unemployment benefits. There is also money for school reopenings, eviction protections, and small business assistance.
Other funds will go toward COVID-19 vaccines and testing, and the bill also includes tax breaks to help lower-earning people, families with children and consumers buying health insurance.
An ambitious infrastructure package is also emerging as part of the “Build Back Better” campaign agenda. Within the bill is the addition of $10 billion for states under a new “Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund.” Each state, along with Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., will get $100 million. Tribal governments share another $100 million.
These funds are intended for “critical capital projects directly enabling work, education and health monitoring, including remote options” that respond to the COVID pandemic. While the bill does not specifically note construction, it also does it rule construction out. Text within the bill notes K-12 school facilities will receive funding for “inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement and upgrade projects” to improve schools’ indoor air quality. This includes heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, filtering, fans and window and door replacement.
There is a $1.7-billion allocation for transit projects under the Federal Transit Administration’s capital investment grants program. The package’s transportation section includes $29 billion for transit agencies and most will go for payroll and other operating expenses. Airport agencies are to receive $8 billion for operating expenses as well as aid to airport concessionaires. Amtrak is slated to receive $1.7 billion to keep the railroad in full operation through Sept. 30.
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