UPDATE: The House of Representatives passed the $ 1.9 trillion US Rescue Plan early on Saturday, a Covid-19 relief and recovery bill that would be Joe Biden’s first legislative achievement if he reached his office.
The huge expenditure bill is now sent to the Senate.
The bill was narrowly passed in the House, 219-212. Two Democrats, Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Jared Golden of Maine, joined with all Republicans in voting against.
PREVIOUSLY: The House of Representatives is expected to pass the US bailout tonight, a first step towards granting Joe Biden his first major legislative achievement.
The $ 1.9 trillion bill is likely to attract few Republican votes, but Democrats have touted its popularity with the general public, especially those seeking additional relief for Covid-19.
DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE leaders urge Congress to adopt $ 1.9 trillion US bailout
This includes much of the entertainment workforce, who throughout the pandemic had to depend on Washington to cope with the unique nature of employment in the industry: both independent contractors and freelancers, and they don’t fall under regular benefits like unemployment.
The legislation spends huge amounts of money on vaccine testing and distribution, but, like other Covid-19 relief bills, also focuses on the workers and businesses that have been hit hardest.
This is what the House bill contains:
Unemployment benefits. Increases the weekly benefit from $ 300 to an additional $ 400; extends benefits until August 29; Self-employed workers, freelancers and independent contractors would continue to be eligible.
Housing assistance. About $ 30 billion would be provided in housing assistance and $ 10 billion in mortgage relief.
Paid leave and employee retention. Companies would be entitled to tax credits if they offer paid time off to their employees. The law would also extend a tax credit for employee retention.
Direct payments. Financial aid would be increased by $ 1,400, in addition to the $ 600 that Congress voted in December.
States and local governments. The bill includes $ 350 billion to help states and local governments close budget deficits. One concern among studios has been that lawmakers looking to cut budgets will target film and TV production incentives.
Minimum wage. The House bill includes a provision to raise the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour, the first boost since 2009, when it was set at $ 7.25. But the provision is unlikely to survive when the bill goes to the Senate. The parliamentarian ruled on Thursday that a minimum wage increase could not be included in the bill, as Democrats seek to pass the legislation by simple majority, in a process known as reconciliation. Otherwise, it would take 60 votes to overcome a threat of obstruction.
Arts. The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities would each receive $ 135 million in emergency aid for direct grants, and to state and regional organizations seeking to recover from a lack of funding.
Small and medium enterprises. The Covid-19 bill that passed in December singled out concert halls and cinemas for $ 15 billion in relief; this bill would target $ 25 billion in restaurants and bars that have seen huge sales declines. The latest bill also expanded the eligibility of newspapers and television stations for the key small and medium-sized business loan program, the Paycheck Protection Program; this legislation extends this eligibility to PPP loans for digital media companies.
Earlier this week, the Biden administration also announced a separate effort that could boost relief for self-employed workers in entertainment and other industries. It is changing the way it calculates the amount that sole proprietors, independent contractors and workers can receive in P3 loans. The formula was a multiple of net profits, according to CNBC. From now on, the calculation will be done via gross income. This is a significant difference, given that many self-employed people break even or report a loss on their taxes after calculating their expenses. The Small Business Administration has also established an exclusive two-week period, until March 10, for the smallest business (less than 20 employees) to apply for PPP loans.