Senate passes $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill

Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., voted with Democrats early Saturday on compromise amendment on unemployment benefits to move the COVID-19 relief bill forwards. File Photo by Graeme Jennings/UPI

March 6 (UPI) — The Senate passed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Saturday after reaching a deal on unemployment benefits in a marathon session.

President Joe Biden’s stimulus package was approved by a 50-49 votes.

The bill includes direct payment checks worth up to $1,400 per person to families earning less than $160,000 a year and individuals earning less than $80,000 a year.

It also extends scaled-back $300-per-week unemployment insurance benefits through Sept. 6, which the Senate approved in a compromise amendment shortly after 1 a.m. with all Democrats voting in favor.

The bill includes a 15% increase in benefits for food stamp recipients through September. And it includes roughly $20 billion to state and local governments to help low-income households, some larger child tax credits, emergency loans for small businesses and expanded health coverage.

The proposal to increase the minimum wage to $15 was not included in the Senate package because the Senate parliamentarian ruled last week that it did not meet the guidelines for the reconciliation process.

The Senate package will have to be approved again by the House before getting Biden’s signature.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a holdout on the unemployment benefits measure, accepted the compromise amendment after an extended meeting with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. The deadlock came amid a so-called “vote-a-rama” on amendments to the $1.9 trillion legislation that resumed shortly before midnight Friday after a nearly 12-hour stalemate.

The compromise extends $300 per week unemployment insurance benefits through Sept. 6, and makes the first $10,200 of benefits non-taxable for households earning less than $150,000. It also extends tax rules regarding excess business loss limitations to 2026.

Manchin previously did not accept a deal between moderates and progressives within the Democratic Party that lowered weekly benefit from $400 to $300, but accepted the compromise amendment which changed income limit for non-taxable benefits and cut some time off the September end date. He also previously appeared to support a Republican proposal that would have extended unemployment only through June.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki welcomed the agreement on unemployment.

“Most importantly, this agreement allows us to move forward on the urgently needed American Rescue Plan, with $1,400 relief checks, funding we need to finish the vaccine rollout, open our schools, help those suffering from the pandemic, and more,” she said.

The House passed its own version of the legislation last week, which included Biden’s called-for $400 weekly unemployment benefits as well as a minimum wage boost to $15.


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