President-elect Joe Biden released a slew of COVID relief measures as part of a $1.9 trillion economic plan ahead of taking office next week—it includes a new round of relief checks, enhanced unemployment aid, and a minimum wage increase. Here’s a summary of the plan.
Billed as the American Rescue Plan, the package includes funding for vaccinations, state and local governments, and $1 trillion in direct financial relief for Americans. It’s not certain that all these measures will all survive as they wind their way through Congress, but here’s the plan for direct relief, as it stands for now:
- A third round of relief checks: The plan calls for $1,400 checks for “eligible” recipients (presumably based on similar income thresholds used for previous checks), which, with the $600 checks being sent out now, totals $2,000. The plan also expands relief check eligibility to adult dependents and all mixed status households in which one family member is a non-citizen.
- Additional unemployment aid: Weekly unemployment checks would include a $400 top-up in federal funds, as the plan calls for increasing the existing $300 subsidy by an additional $100. The president-elect is also proposing to extend these enhanced unemployment benefits through September 2021.
- Rental assistance: An additional $25 billion in rental assistance funding would be provided to lower-income households who have lost jobs during the pandemic. These funds would beef up the $25 billion in rental assistance that’s available now. Another $5 billion has been earmarked for people struggling to pay overdue utility bills.
- An extended eviction moratorium: As expected, the plan extends the federal eviction moratorium to September 30 (it currently expires January 31). There’s also some relief for people with federally-guaranteed mortgages, as they would be able to apply for forbearance until September 30, as well.
- A $15 hourly minimum wage: The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, and it would be raised to $15 an hour under Biden’s plan, which also calls for the end of tipped minimum wage (currently $2.13 per hour for people who receive at least $30 per month in tips) and sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities. Minimum wage was last raised in 2009.
- More money for child care: Biden wants to create a $25-billion “Emergency Stabilization Fund” for child care providers to help pay for rent, utilities, payroll, and COVID-prevention costs. An additional $15 billion would also be added to existing grant programs. Biden also wants to expand the child tax credit to $3,000 from $2,000 for each child age 17 and younger. Children under age six would be eligible for $3,600.
- Healthcare relief: To help people who have lost employee-sponsored health insurance, Biden wants to expand the Affordable Care Act’s premium subsidies so that enrollees don’t pay more than 8.5% of their income for coverage. The plan also allocates $20 billion to cover the healthcare needs of veterans, as well as $4 billion in funding for mental health and substance abuse services.
- Restoration of emergency paid leave: The plan would reinstate paid sick and family leave benefits that recently expired, and extends them until September 30, while also closing some loopholes so that more people would be eligible (including federal workers). People who are away from work for COVID-related reasons would receive 14 weeks of paid leave. The federal government would reimburse employers with fewer than 500 workers for the full cost of providing the leave.
- Food relief: The plan calls for $3 billion to help women, infants, and children secure food, and it would also give U.S. territories $1 billion in nutrition assistance. The 15% increase in food stamp benefits that’s set to expire in June would be extended till September.