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‘Checks Are Coming’ Relief Bill Offers Economic Stimulus and K-12 Schools [Part 1]

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Stimulus

The president’s Rescue America Plan creates a path to COVID economic recovery for Americans. The stimulus bill passed its final vote on March 10, 2021. Joe Biden tweeted, “Checks are on the way.”

Extended unemployment benefits under the former administration’s Cares Act are due to expire on March 14, as are other provisions. Democrats are anxious for Biden to sign the stimulus bill right away. Since he is scheduled to address the country this evening, March 11, Biden will announce he signed the legislation.

COVID Stimulus Checks

According to the Penn Wharton Budget Model’s estimate, most American households will receive a $1,400 stimulus payment — about 90 percent. Families will be sent another $1,400 per child.

Individuals earning less than $75,000 gross income, heads of households who earn less than $112,500, and married couples earning less than $150,000 are going to receive the full amount. Unlike the two previous COVID stimulus payments, the stimulus payments phase out faster as income increases.

CNN reports that an individual earning $80,000, heads of household income exceed $120,000, and married couples earning at least $160,000 will not see any stimulus money in this round — no matter how many children they have.

Weekly Jobless Stimulus Payments Extended

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released February 2021 unemployment figures that reflect little change from January. A little over 6 percent of workers in the United States collected weekly jobless benefits. Another 10 million are unemployed. These stats are lower than those from April 2020, when the country shut down to battle COVID. However, they are higher than the pre-COVID jobless rate of 3.5 percent in February 2020.

StimulusBiden’s stimulus bill called for a $400 federal boost to weekly unemployment benefits and extends two key programs through the end of September 2021. However, the negotiated amount lowered the president’s ask. It remains $300 outlined in Trump’s Care Act from December 2020 and will be available until September 6.

Additionally, the government will also make the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits received tax-free for recipients whose annual household income is less than $150,000.

Under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, independent contractors, freelancers, gig workers, and a select group of similar workers affected by the shutdown. This program increases the duration of traditional state programs.

Billions to Assist Ailing States and Municipalities

Overall, the stimulus allocates $350 billion to states, local governments, territories, and tribes. The breakdown:

  • $195.3 billion goes to states and the District of Columbia.
  • Approximately $130 billion to counties and cities.
  • Tribes will receive $20 billion.
  • $4.5 billion will be distributed to U.S. territories.

The stimulus bill also includes $10 billion for a new “Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund.” This fund, according to Engineering News-Record, may result in construction-related contracts. The news site reports the bill’s text includes its intent is “for ‘critical capital projects directly enabling work, education, and health monitoring, including remote options,’ that respond to the COVID pandemic.”

A spokesman for the Associated General Contractors of America, Brain Turmail, notes the likely list of types of eligible projects “is very large and does not ensure that this money will go to capital construction investments in infrastructure.”

Stimulus Money to Reopen K-12 Schools

StimulusOne hundred-thirty billion dollars are included in the bill to be used to ready K-12 schools’ readiness for in-person teaching. Possible uses for the stimulus money include reducing class size, testing expansion, improved technology to assist disadvantaged students, and funding for summer school programs.

Additional necessities include purchasing personal protective equipment and increased personnel; custodial staff, nurses, teachers.

Schools will require preparation to safely reopening schools during the midst of the pandemic. The stimulus bill states the fund could be used for ‘inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement, and upgrade projects” for the improvement of schools’ indoor air quality — heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, filters, and fans. If needed, the bill allows for window and door replacement.

The Rescue America Package stimulus bill also includes funding for businesses, transportation, food programs, medical care, increased COVID-related costs — vaccines in every arm at no cost to Americans, and increased staff to facilitate vaccination procurement and distribution.

Read how the stimulus bill addresses food insecurity in part two of the series. Part three covers the Rescue America Act’s approach to getting a shot in every arm and President Biden’s goal for the future after the country reopens.

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware

Sources:

CNN: Here’s what’s in the COVID relief package; by Tammy Luhby and Katie Lobosco
USA Today: President Joe Biden’s COVID stimulus bill explained in 6 charts; by Ledyard King and Javier Zarracina
USA Today: Money for colleges, libraries and clubs: 10 things you might not know are in Biden’s COVID-19 relief package; by Joey Garrison
U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Statistics: THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — FEBRUARY 2021
Engineering News-Record: Senate-Passed $1.9T Relief Bill Adds 10B for States’ Capital Projects; by Tom Ichniowski

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Geoff Livingston’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
First Inset Image Courtesy of Burt Lum’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second Inset Image Courtesy of Krissy Venosdale’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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