The United States Congress passes the final version of the USD 1.9 trillion stimulus plan proposed by the Joe Biden administration after nearly two months of debate and delays. On Wednesday, March 10, the House of Representatives voted 220-211 to approve the America Rescue Plan, almost entirely on the partisan line, with one Democrat voting against it. The plan is hailed as the first major legislative victory for the Biden administration, with several other legislations favored by the president and the Democratic Party still stuck in the legislative process.
The bill shall now be passed on to the president, who is expected to sign it into an act by Friday. The plan will set aside around USD 400 billion for the USD 1,400 stimulus checks to families and low-income households. It also provides for the continuation of an additional USD 300 per week unemployment payments, along with over USD 350 billion in aid to state and local governments, USD 20 billion for the COVID-19 vaccination program, a total of USD 35 billion for rental and mortgage aid for the millions facing evictions, and also provisions for tax benefits for companies to retain their employees to prevent lay-offs. It also sets aside USD 14 billion to prevent mass layoffs in certain key sectors and USD 7 billion for wage protection programs.
A key provision that was attempted to be included in the earlier version bill was the USD 15 per hour minimum wage, which was eventually taken out after the Democrats failed to bypass filibuster possibilities in the Senate. The plan also has brought down the originally planned stimulus payments from USD 2,000, as promised by Biden and the Democrats during the election campaign last year, to USD 1,400, while also putting an income bracket for the beneficiaries. The additional weekly unemployment benefits of USD 300 is also much smaller than the USD 600 that was previously afforded in the CARES Act, passed in March last year.
These shortcomings continue to raise concerns for many, despite the comprehensive nature of the plan, leading to several activists and even progressive sections of the Democratic Party airing dissatisfaction and some even some arguing that the plan continues to fall short of the actually needed stimulus. Cori Bush, among the progressive Democrats in the Congress, while applauding the House for passing the bill in her tweet also reminded that there is still a lot more to fight for. “The fight for monthly, retroactive $2,000 stimulus checks is not over. The fight for at least a $15 minimum wage is not over. The fight for cancelling ALL student debt is not over.”
Activists on the ground did not mix much appreciation for the bill when voicing their concerns. “The bill lives up to its name as a “relief” bill— but just that,” responded Eugene Puryear, a journalist and an activist working with the Party for Socialism and Liberation in his article in the Liberation. In the article Puryear explained that the bill in itself only allows for working class individuals to “cobble together a standard of living approximating their pre-pandemic “normal” however good or bad that may be.”
“The relief bill clearly shows there is a class war going on. Even in the midst of the worst crisis since the Great Depression, the one issue on which the Senate cannot compromise at any cost is preventing a $15 an hour minimum wage,” Puryear added.