On Friday, CNN reported that House Democrats unveil full $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill with minimum wage increase:

House Democrats took another step Friday in their effort to advance a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, releasing the full bill text, which includes an increase in the federal minimum wage to$15 per hour, $1,400 direct checks for Americans making $75,000 or less a year, an extension of $400 federal unemployment benefits and more money for small businesses struggling amid the pandemic.

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The legislation, which had already been passed in pieces out of individual committees, was packaged together by the House Budget Committee.

The panel will take up the bill Monday and it is expected to come to the House floor for a vote later next week.

The House’s bill closely resembles President Joe Biden’s rescue plan and includes more money for schools, vaccine distribution and funding for state and local governments.

The bill is not expected to attract much, if any, Republican support. On Friday, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise urged Republicans in an email to vote “no” on what his office called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “Payoff to Progressives Act.”

Congressman Scalise also has an op-ed coauthored with Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, in the Washington Post today. We already went ‘big’ on coronavirus relief. More of the same won’t solve the problem. Why do they hate America?

These are the same assholes who supported the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the Fundamentally Flawed 2017 Tax Law Largely Leaves Low- and Moderate-Income Americans Behind. Only two years later, before the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Confirmed The GOP Tax Law Contributes to Darkening Fiscal Future: The report shows a darkening fiscal future, with trillion-dollar deficits and record debt levels expected within a decade.

This is because tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations do not pay for themselves, tax cuts are actually tax expenditures that add to the federal deficit. Faith based  supply-side “trickle down” economics is a disproven and discredited lie. Republicans don’t know shit about real economics.

The only appropriate response to these lickspittle lackeys for the Plutocrat class who gained almost $1 trillion in wealth during the pandemic while millions of ordinary Americans lost their jobs, lost their homes, and had to seek public assistance for shelter and food for the first time in their lives is “fuck off.” No one should be listening to anything Republicans and their media whores have to say, they have no credibility.

Republicans are out of touch with the American people. According a recent CBS News poll, 70 percent of Republicans support the Democratic Covid bill. That includes 66 percent of self-identified “conservatives” and 63 percent of Trump voters. And a survey from The Hill found that 60 percent of Republicans are fine with Democrats using the reconciliation process to pass the Covid bill along party lines if necessary.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office pushed back on the characterization from Republicans.

“With millions of Americans unemployed and demanding relief to reopen schools and get people back to work, House Republican leadership is demanding its members vote against a bipartisan plan to help struggling Americans,” her office said in an email. “Americans need help. House Republicans don’t care.”

Once the House passes the legislation, it will next go to the Senate where Democrats hold the narrowest possible majority. The expectation is that some pieces of the bill will have to change in order to accommodate the rules for the budget process known as reconciliation, which allows Democrats in the Senate to pass the bill with just a simple majority. The Senate has a partisan split of 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to step in and act as the tie-breaking vote.

Pelosi has previously said that she expects the Covid-19 relief package to be on Biden’s desk by March 14, when some jobless benefits expire.

CNN adds Here’s what’s in the House Democrats’ stimulus relief plan:

A key House committee on Friday released the Democrats’ massive coronavirus relief package, pulling together President Joe Biden’s stimulus proposal into a 591-page bill.

The House Budget Committee is expected to consider the legislation, which is based off measures approved by at least nine committees, on Monday. Most of them — but not all — adhere closely to what Biden outlined in his $1.9 trillion relief proposal last month.

The full House may pass the legislation as soon as next week, but it could face hurdles in the Senate, where Democrats can’t afford to lose a single member of their party thanks to the 50-50 split in the chamber. Already, two Democrats — Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — have voiced opposition to one element of the plan, raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

These prima donnas need to stand down and do right by average Americans who are in desperate need of assistance.

Time is of the essence. An estimated 11.4 million workers will lose their unemployment benefits between mid-March and mid-April unless Congress passes its next coronavirus relief package in coming weeks, a recent study by The Century Foundation found.

Here’s what’s in the bill:

Stimulus checks

The House bill would provide direct payments worth up to $1,400 per person. A family of four could receive up to $5,600.

Individuals earning less than $75,000 a year and married couples earning less than $150,000 would be sent the full amount.

But not everyone who received a previous stimulus check would be eligible for this round. The payments would phase out faster and completely cut off individuals earning more than $100,000 and families earning more than $200,000.

The payment will be calculated based on either 2019 or 2020 income. Unlike the previous two rounds, adult dependents would be eligible for the payments.

Unemployment assistance

The House bill would extend two key pandemic unemployment programs through August 29. It would also increase the federal weekly boost to $400, from the current $300, and continue it for the same time period.

It would lengthen the duration of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program to up to 74 weeks, from 50 weeks, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program to 48 weeks, from 24 weeks.

The former provides benefits to freelancers, gig workers, independent contracts and certain people affected by the pandemic, while the latter increases the duration of payments for those in the traditional state unemployment system.

The President’s plan had called for continuing the benefits through the end of September.

Out-of-work Americans will start running out of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits in mid-March, when provisions in December’s $900 billion relief package begin phasing out.

The $300 enhancement also ends in mid-March.

Nutrition assistance

The House plan would extend the 15% increase in food stamp benefits through September, instead of having it expire at the end of June.

It also contains $880 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC, to help increase participation and temporarily improve benefits, among other measures. Biden called for investing $3 billion in the program.

And it would allow states to continue the Pandemic-EBT, which provides families whose children’s schools are closed with funding to replace free- and reduced-price meals the kids would have received, through the summer.

Housing aid

The legislation would send roughly $19.1 billion to state and local governments to help low-income households cover back rent, rent assistance and utility bills.

About $10 billion would be authorized to help struggling homeowners pay their mortgages, utilities and property taxes.

It would provide another $5 billion to help states and localities assist those at risk of experiencing homelessness.

Tax credits for families and workers

The legislation beefs up tax credits for families and certain low-income workers for 2021.

In an effort to combat poverty, it would expand the child tax credit to $3,600 for children under 6 and $3,000 for children under age 18.

The credit would also become fully refundable so more low-income parents could take advantage of it. Plus, families could receive payments monthly, rather than a lump sum once a year, which would make it easier for them to pay the bills.

The bill also enhances the earned income tax credit for workers without children by nearly tripling the maximum credit and extending eligibility to more people. The minimum age to claim the childless credit would be reduced to 19, from 25, and the upper age limit would be eliminated.

This would be the largest expansion to earned income tax credit since 2009.

Optional paid sick and family leave

Unlike Biden’s proposal, the House bill would not reinstate mandatory paid family and sick leave approved in a previous Covid relief package. But it does continue to provide tax credits to employers who voluntarily choose to offer the benefit through October 1.

Last year, Congress guaranteed many workers two weeks pay if they contracted Covid or were quarantining. It also provided an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave to those who were staying home with kids whose schools were closed. Those benefits expired in December.

Education and child care

The bill would provide nearly $130 billion to K-12 schools to help students return to the classroom. Schools would be allowed to use the money to update their ventilation systems, reduce class sizes to help implement social distancing, buy personal protective equipment and hire support staff. It would require that schools use at least 20% of the money to address learning loss by providing extended days or summer school, for example.

The money is also intended to help prevent teacher layoffs next year when some states may be struggling to balance their budgets. The pot of money will remain available through September 2023.
The Democratic bill is in line with what Biden proposed, but calls for more than six times the amount of funding for K-12 schools than a compromise plan offered by a small group of Republican senators.
The House bill now includes nearly $40 billion for colleges. Institutions would be required to spend at least half the money to provide emergency financial aid grants to students.

Altogether, $170 billion would be authorized for K-12 schools and higher education. Last year, Congress approved a total $112 billion between two relief packages that went to K-12 schools and colleges.

The bill would also provide $39 billion to child care providers. The amount a provider receives would be based on operating expenses and is available to pay employees and rent, help families struggling to pay the cost, and purchase personal protective equipment and other supplies.

Health insurance subsidies and Medicaid

The bill would make federal premium subsidies for Affordable Care Act policies more generous and would eliminate the maximum income cap for two years.

Enrollees would pay no more than 8.5% of their income towards coverage, down from nearly 10% now. Also, those earning more than the current cap of 400% of the federal poverty level — about $51,000 for an individual and $104,800 for a family of four in 2021 — would become eligible for help.

In addition, the legislation would bolster subsidies for lower-income enrollees, eliminating their premiums completely, and would do the same for those collecting unemployment benefits in 2021.
The bill would also provide assistance for those who want to remain on their employer health insurance plans through COBRA. These laid-off workers would pay only 15% of the premium through the end of September, though that can still prove costly.

Also, the legislation seeks to entice states that have yet to expand Medicaid to low-income adults to do so by boosting their federal Medicaid matching funds by 5 percentage points for two years.

More money for small businesses

The bill would provide $15 billion to the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan program, which provides long-term, low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration. Severely impacted small businesses with fewer than 10 workers will be given priority for some of the money.

It also provides $25 billion for a new grant program specifically for bars and restaurants. Eligible businesses may receive up to $10 million and can use the money for a variety of expenses, including payroll, mortgage and rent, utilities and food and beverages.

The Paycheck Protection Program, which is currently taking applications for second-round loans, would get an additional $7 billion and the bill would make more non-profit organizations eligible.

Another $175 million would be used for outreach and promotion, creating a Community Navigator Program to help target eligible businesses.

Aid to states

The House legislation would provide $350 billion to state and local governments, as well as tribes and territories.

States and the District of Columbia would receive $195.3 billion, while local governments would be sent $130.2 billion to be divided evenly between cities and counties. Tribes would get $20 billion and territories $4.5 billion.

Additional assistance to states has been among the most controversial elements of the congressional rescue packages, with Democrats looking to add to the $150 billion in the March legislation and Republicans resisting such efforts. The December package ultimately dropped an initial call to include $160 billion.

Vaccines and testing

The House bill provides $14 billion to research, develop, distribute, administer and strengthen confidence in vaccines. It would also put $46 billion towards testing, contact tracing and mitigation, including investing in laboratory capacity, community-based testing sites and mobile testing units, particularly in medically underserved areas.

It would also allocate $7.6 billion to hire 100,000 public health workers to support coronavirus response.

The President’s plan called for investing $20 billion in a national vaccination program.

Minimum wage

The legislation would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 in stages. It would also guarantee that tipped workers, youth workers and workers with disabilities are paid the full federal minimum wage.

The plan would raise the wages of 27 million workers, according to the Budget Committee.

Reuters reports, U.S. Senate to know next week if COVID-19 bill can include minimum wage hike – Sanders:

U.S. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders said on Friday he expects to find out next week whether lawmakers can include a hike in the minimum wage to $15 an hour in the coronavirus relief bill they are racing to pass.

Previously, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) sent a letter to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders concluding that such a hike would have “broad economic effects” and impact most areas of the federal budget. Even better, the CBO said that a minimum wage boost would affect the economy more extensively than two measures Republicans passed in 2017 as part of their tax bill by budget reconciliation: the elimination of the penalty for not maintaining health insurance (better known as the individual mandate), and a program to allow oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Democrats backing the gradual increase in the wage from the current $7.25 per hour have made their case to the Senate parliamentarian on why it should be included in the $1.9 trillion package addressing the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, according to Sanders.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said on Friday his deeply divided chamber will pass the bill before March 14, when the latest round of federal unemployment benefits expire.

Roll Call reports, Next phase of coronavirus relief bill sprint to start Monday:

House Democrats will take a key procedural step on Monday toward moving their $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

Budget Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., has scheduled a 1 p.m. markup to staple together the reconciliation submissions from nine House authorizing committees before sending the measure onto its last stop before the floor, the Rules Committee.

Rules is where the substantive changes will occur, including the likely necessary step of bringing the combined package into compliance with its overall $1.89 trillion limit under the fiscal 2021 budget resolution. The nine committees have so far approved pieces the Congressional Budget office has tallied up to $1.95 trillion.

* * *

House Democrats are seeking offsets to bring the combined cost back down, according to a source familiar with the process who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It wasn’t immediately clear how added costs would be accommodated. But one place to look for offsets could be tax increases House Democrats included in two aid bills that passed that chamber last year before dying in the GOP-controlled Senate.

That includes extending limits on tax losses that owners of noncorporate businesses, like partnerships and S corporations, can apply against other income, as well as capping net operating loss “carrybacks” that firms could use to get refunds on prior tax bills. Those provisions would have raised a combined $254 billion in the two big relief bills House Democrats passed last year that died in the GOP-controlled Senate.

On a call with reporters Thursday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said progressives were continuing to push for eliminating those breaks, either in the Senate or as part of separate legislation.

Alternatively, existing funds in the package could be carved back a little to reduce costs. But House Democrats are already taking heat because the Ways and Means recommendations would cut off enhanced unemployment benefits on Aug. 29 (which would occur during the August congressional recess), a month earlier than President Joe Biden and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., have sought.

* * *

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan watchdog group, criticized House Democrats for ending the unemployment benefits early in part to make room for a long-sought rescue of union pensions, such as a major Teamsters plan, that are headed toward insolvency.

“The financial status of these [pension] funds shouldn’t be addressed in a piece of crisis legislation, and certainly not at the cost of benefits for unemployed workers,” CRFB President Maya MacGuineas said in a statement. “Frankly, no member of Congress should be willing to defend this.”

Those provisions, which would cost nearly $82 billion, weren’t part of Biden’s coronavirus aid proposal but have strong backing from Democrats in both chambers. Similar legislation has been in several iterations of Democratic virus aid proposals, an aide to Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal pointed out.

Democrats keep pitching fixes for the “multiemployer pension crisis because it has only gotten more dire as the pandemic has raged on,” said Dylan Opalich, a spokesperson for Neal, D-Mass. “Not to mention, some of those affected are currently on the frontlines of this crisis, keeping our food supply chains going. This is our chance to meet the moment and simultaneously help Americans facing both short- and long-term consequences from COVID.”

And, Opalich added, the package doesn’t preclude further aid in subsequent legislation: “Delivering the relief they need doesn’t mean the work stops there.”

Minimum wage

Another item that is adding to the House bill’s price tag is legislation that would raise the $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage to $15 in stages over five years, which the CBO said would cost $67 billion over a decade. Jayapal made it clear that the minimum wage language was a top priority for progressives in the aid bill.

“It is really important to us that it happens in this package because we think it is directly related to COVID relief,” she said. “I don’t think we’re pivoting to any other strategy. We’re very focused on getting it into this package.”

The Senate’s “Byrd rule” has been the main obstacle so far, since minimum wage legislation has long been considered primarily a nonbudgetary matter and a business mandate that typically is excluded from reconciliation bills. The reconciliation process affords lawmakers the ability to circumvent a Senate filibuster, and the rules named for the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., are intended to prevent overuse of reconciliation.

But progressives including Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., point to new CBO forecasts taking into account much broader budgetary impacts than in the past, and show no signs of backing off despite Biden himself saying the minimum wage boost probably can’t make it through the Byrd rule.

Democrats have been considering adding a package of small-business tax breaks in the Senate as a sweetener, though that decision appears to be on hold until there’s a parliamentary ruling on minimum wage.

Contact your member of Congress and demand that they support this COVID-19 Relief bill this coming week.

UPDATE 2/22/21:




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