Pandemic Relief Bill Now Up to Senate as House Approves $1.9 Trillion Measure

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Mar 1, 2021

The House of Representatives has passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, sending the bill to the Senate, which will develop a version of its own, the Journal of Accountancy reported. The bill would, among a myriad other things:

* Send direct $1,400 payments to most Americans;
* Provide a $400 federal supplement on top of state unemployment benefits;
* Raise the child tax credit and turn it into a monthly payment;
* Send $350 billion in aid to state, local and tribal governments;
* Provide about $75 billion in aid to hospitals and health care workers for vaccine distribution and coronavirus testing;
* Add $7.25 billion in extra Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) funding (there remains about $240 billion left in the fund);
* Provide $15 billion for more Emergency Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL); and
* Provide grants for various industries hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

The bill passed, 219–212, early on Saturday morning. Beyond the above items, the House version of the bill includes an increase of the federal minimum wage to $15. The Senate version, however, will dispense with this provision due to a recent ruling from the Senate parliamentarian, who said that the pandemic relief bill cannot have a $15 minimum wage increase if it is to be passed via the reconciliation process.

There were alternatives to this development. Vice President Kamala Harris could have simply overruled the parliamentarian, but she has declined to do so. Democrats could have instituted tax penalties on corporations that don't pay their workers a $15 wage, but that provision too has been abandoned. Further, the Democrats could have pass the bill via simple majority without conforming to the reconciliation process by abolishing the filibuster, but this too is not currently being considered.

According to the Washington Post, Senate Democrats are hoping to unveil their own version of the relief package and begin Senate debate as early as Wednesday. Their goal is to pass the legislation and send it to President Joe Biden to sign by March 14, the date when the emergency unemployment benefits that Congress approved in December expire. Senate Democrats seem not to want to get drawn into the lengthy political battles, and so they will proceed without the wage increase, believing speed is the biggest priority right now.

Practitioners interested in learning about New York’s response to changes in the CARES Act can register for the on-demand version of  New York State Tax Implications of the Federal CARES Act. The course covers newly proposed legislation, residency issues, and much more.

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