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Third stimulus check passed: when will Biden sign American Rescue Plan?

US President Joe Biden's flagship $1.9 trillion stimulus package has been approved by Congress and will be signed into law by the end of the week.

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Third stimulus check passed: when will Biden sign American Rescue Plan?
MANDEL NGAN AFP

Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, the American Rescue Plan, cleared the final hurdle toward being signed into law on Wednesday when the House of Representatives voted to approve the bill by 220-211. The passage of Biden’s flagship legislation through the chambers of Congress has been fairly painless compared to previous negotiations over economic aid, marking a significant victory for the new administration less than two months after Biden, who promised to make a new package containing another round of stimulus checks for US citizens a priority, was sworn in.

In the second House vote on the American Rescue Plan only one Democrat, Jared Golden, refused to toe the Democrat party line by voting against the bill, compared to two when the proposal was first presented. The bill also narrowly squeezed through the Senate last Saturday after an amendment process with the Democrats pulling together and using their numerical advantage to ensure its success. Among the key victories for the Biden administration in the upper chamber was the shelving of a Republican proposal that would have scaled the bill back to $650 billion.

Passed back to the House for final approval on Wednesday, the relief package now only requires the signature of the president to be enacted into law, upon which the federal coffers will be unlocked once again as the US seeks to get its economy back on track after a year of covid-19 lockdowns leading to a huge downturn in output and the shedding of millions of jobs.

What does the American Rescue Plan contain?

The $1.9 trillion legislation includes $1,400 one-off stimulus checks payments for individuals, $300-per-week jobless benefits through the summer, a child allowance of up to $3,600 for one year, $350 billion for state aid, $34 billion to expand Affordable Care Act subsidies and $14 billion for vaccine distribution.

The bill’s inclusion of enhanced child tax credits has also been met with wide approval. The scheme has been praised as going some way to solving one of the fundamental issues of the US labor market: a lack of paid family leave.

Under the provisions of the aid package, child tax credits will be expanded from $2,000 to $3,000 annually per child aged 6-17 and to $3,600 for kids under six for single parents earning less than $75,000 annually, $112,500 for head of households, and $150,000 for married couples. The bill will also provide periodic IRS cash payments valued at half the amount of tax credit to low- and middle-income families this year.

Among the American Rescue Plan’s primary goals is to reduce child poverty in the US and Colombia University researchers said the draft legislation drawn up in January, if implemented, had the capacity to reduce the child poverty rate by half. Experts and Democrats agree that the enhanced child tax credit scheme is a solid basis for achieving that objective.

However, there remain holes in the American Rescue Plan Act that Democrats hope to fill at a later date. Chief among these are setting the federal minimum wage at $15 an hour, which was struck from the bill during the amendment process in the Senate, and a provision for recurring stimulus checks valued at $2,000, an initiative being led by a group of 11 Democratic senators but that is unlikely to bear fruit given Republican concerns over the strain on federal funding the current legislation represents.

When will Biden sign the stimulus relief bill?

The president is expected to put pen to paper on Friday, signing the American Rescue Plan into law less than two months after its initial drafting. Democrats has set a deadline of 14 March for the legislation to be enacted as unemployment benefits put in place under a previous $900 billion aid package passed last December are due to expire then.

Biden said ahead of Wednesday’s vote that he would sign the legislation “as soon as I receive it,” so with the Act now having been passed to the president it merely requires a stroke of the presidential pen to be enacted. Biden is planning a White House signing ceremony on Friday.

Stimulus relief bill: latest news

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