US House passes Biden's $1.9trillion COVID-19 relief bill

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Pelosi US House Speaker

Pelosi US House Speaker: passes COVID-19 relief bill

U.S. House Democrats passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill in a party-line vote early Saturday morning.

Lawmakers passed the bill 219-212, with two Democrats joining all Republicans in voting against it.

Its passage comes days after the COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. surpassed 500,000 people while more contagious virus variants remain a threat to containing the pandemic.

The relief package now heads to the Senate, where Democrats are expected to amend it next week and send it back to the House for approval before unemployment insurance benefits expire on March 14.

The legislation includes provisions to provide a third round of direct stimulus checks of up to $1,400 for individuals, a $400 weekly unemployment insurance boost through Aug. 29, and $8.5 billion in funding for the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to distribute, track and promote public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.

The direct payments of up to $1,400 for individuals or $2,800 for married couples are the largest pandemic impact payments yet, after the two previous rounds last year maxed out at $1,200 and $600.

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Individuals with incomes of up to $75,000 and married couples earning up to $150,000 would be eligible for the full amounts, while the payments would phase out for individuals making up to $100,000 or $200,000 for couples.

Other key parts of the massive package include $350 billion for state and local governments, $130 billion to help K-12 schools reopen for in-person classroom instruction, and an expansion of the child tax credit to $3,000 per child or $3,600 for children under six years of age.

But one component of the bill that the House passed early Saturday is doomed to be left on the cutting room floor once it reaches the Senate: an increase in the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 per hour to $15.

The Senate parliamentarian ruled on Thursday that the minimum wage hike would not comply with the budget rules required to pass bills under the reconciliation process, which Democrats are using so that their pandemic relief package won’t be subject to a GOP filibuster in the upper chamber.

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