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New COVID-19 Relief Includes Aid for Students

by Madison Jarnot

Photo via the Wall Street Journal.

On Thursday, March 11, President Joe Biden signed the third COVID-19 relief and aid package, called the “American Rescue Plan,” into law. Unlike previous stimulus packages, the American Rescue Plan includes monetary aid for adult dependents such as college students. 

The stimulus package will distribute over $1.9 trillion across various government agencies as well as provide stimulus checks directly to approximately 8 million households. Individual tax filers who make up to $75,000 per year will get a $1,400 check, while couples who file jointly and make up to $150,000 a year will receive a $2,800 check. Anyone under the income thresholds will receive an additional $1,400 per dependent, even if those dependents are adults.

President Biden gave a speech in the White House State Dining Room after signing the bill.

“[The plan] will cut child poverty in half in this country. That’s the estimate. Child poverty will be cut in half as a consequence of what’s in this recovery act,” President Biden said, citing a study by the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University. “It focuses on rebuilding the backbone of this country — working families, the middle class, the people who built this country. 

The American Rescue plan also allotted about $40 billion to universities and colleges in the country. These funds can be used for institutional expenses related to the pandemic, and at least half of the funds must be distributed directly to students as emergency financial aid.

The bill does not include any student loan forgiveness, but it does make any loans that may be forgiven in the future nontaxable. The $15 federal minimum wage increase, which was hotly debated among Democrats, was not included in the final bill either. This was due to the Senate Parliamentarian, who decided that raising the minimum wage gradually, as was proposed in the American Rescue plan, does not comply with Senate rules.

President Biden told CBS News that he will be working with Democrats in the coming weeks to raise the minimum wage in separate legislation.

“I am prepared as president of the United States on a separate negotiation of minimum wage to work my way up from what it is now,” he said. “No one should work 40 hours a week and live below the poverty wage, and if you’re making less than $15 an hour, you’re living below the poverty wage.”

In addition to stimulus payments and aid for colleges and universities, the bill extends the $300 per week supplemental unemployment payments until Sept. 6. The plan also made the first $10,200 in 2020 unemployment benefits nontaxable for anyone earning less than $150,000 per year, relieving thousands of Americans of tax liability.

Vice President Kamala Harris held a press conference in the Rose Garden alongside President Biden on March 12 to discuss the package as well.

KHJB_byAlexBrandonforAP

Photo by Alex Brandon for the AP.

“The president promised help is on the way,” Vice President Harris said, “and today, help has arrived.

The American Rescue Plan provides approximately $360 billion in emergency funding for state, local, and Tribal governments to help offset fiscal stresses they’ve endured during the pandemic.

Small businesses can receive aid through the plan as well, which adds $7 billion in funds to the Paycheck Protection Program, $28.6 billion to a grant program for bars and restaurants, $15 billion for Emergency Injury Disaster Loans, and $1.25 billion to the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant for music halls and event venues.

The full provisions of the American Rescue Plan are available online here

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