“This plan will get checks out the door starting this month to the Americans that so desperately need the help,” the president said during an afternoon press conference.
An exhausted Senate narrowly approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Saturday as Biden and his Democratic allies notched a victory they called crucial for hoisting the country out of the pandemic and economic doldrums.
After laboring all night on a mountain of amendments — nearly all from Republicans and rejected — bleary-eyed senators approved the sprawling package on a 50-49 party-line vote. That sets up final congressional approval by the House next week so lawmakers can whisk it to Biden for his signature.
The huge measure — its total spending is nearly one-tenth the size of the entire U.S. economy — is Biden’s biggest early priority. It stands as his formula for addressing the deadly virus and a limping economy, twin crises that have afflicted the country for a year.
“When we took office 45 days ago, I promised the American people that help was on the way. Today, I can say we’ve taken one more giant step forward in delivering on that promise that help is on the way,” Biden said.
The bill provides direct payments of up to $1,400 for most Americans and extended emergency unemployment benefits. There are vast piles of spending for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, states and cities, schools and ailing industries, along with tax breaks to help lower-earning people, families with children and consumers buying health insurance.
It also includes the renewal of $300 weekly emergency unemployment checks — on top of regular state benefits — through September. There will also be an expansion of the child tax credit for one year.
Party leaders also agreed to restrict eligibility for the $1,400 stimulus checks that will go to most Americans. That amount would be gradually reduced until, under the Senate bill, it reaches zero for people earning $80,000 and couples making $160,000. Those amounts were higher in the House version.
As with previous stimulus checks, the majority of payments will be delivered to Americans via direct deposit.