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A doctor with the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic, walks by a supportive sign on a boarded-up shop while speaking with homeless people about the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Haight Ashbury area of San Francisco California on March 17, 2020. (Photo: Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty Images)

A doctor with the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic, walks by a supportive sign on a boarded-up shop while speaking with homeless people about the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Haight Ashbury area of San Francisco California on March 17, 2020. (Photo: Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty Images)

With $15 Wage Included, House Dems Fulfill Election Promise With Passage of Sweeping $1.9 Trillion Covid-19 Relief Package

"House passage today of President Biden's American Rescue Plan moves us one step closer to the investments needed to crush this virus, distribute the vaccine, reopen our schools and revitalize the economy."

Jon Queally, staff writer

In a vote in the earlier hours of Saturday morning, every Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives—except Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Oregon's Kurt Schrader—overcame unanimous Republican opposition by voting to approve a far-reaching $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package—including a $15 minimum wage proposal—that is now heading to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

With a final vote of 219-212, the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 in the House clears the way for the Senate to take up the legislation that most Democrats vowed would be their first priority in last year's elections. See the full roll-call of the vote here.

Roundly applauded by progressives, the sweeping legislation, as The Hill details,"We urge swift passage, in full, by the Senate to get needed relief to those who need it most." —Didier Trinh, Main Street Alliance

which was modeled after Biden’s proposal, 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 Centers 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.  

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.

With targeted relief for small businesses as well, the Main Street Alliance, a national advocacy coalition, applauded the legislation.

Didier Trinh, the group's government affairs director, said passage by the House "has given small businesses on their last legs hope that we can make it through" the ongoing pandemic and economic crisis.

"We urge swift passage, in full, by the Senate to get needed relief to those who need it most," Trinh said.

"Help could finally be on its way," said Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME, the nation's largest trade union of public employees. "House passage today of President Biden's American Rescue Plan moves us one step closer to the investments needed to crush this virus, distribute the vaccine, reopen our schools and revitalize the economy."

If passed by the Senate and signed by President Joe Biden, said Saudners, the law "would provide $350 billion in aid to cash-starved states, cities and towns, so we can maintain and restore vital public services that have been on the chopping block. This funding would save the jobs of countless everyday heroes who, for the dangers they have confronted and the sacrifices they have made, have been thanked with pink slips—roughly 1.3 million public service jobs have evaporated over the last year."

Like other advocates, Saunders called for the Senate—which Democrats control by the slimmest of margins—"must now move quickly and decisively, passing a strong bill that provides the relief our families and communities need and getting it to the president's desk in short order. We have waited too long already. It is time to fund the front lines."

Morris Pearl, president of Patriotic Millionaires—which has pushed for inclusion of the minimum wage proposal and lobbied for vast investments to help support the nation's working class—also welcomed the vote.

"We celebrate the House of Representatives for taking the first steps to turn this timely and pivotal relief bill into law," said Pearl in a statement on Saturday. "With millions of Americans living on the edge, $1,400 dollar relief checks will go a long way to helping individuals get back on their feet by putting money directly into the hands of those who need it the most."

Pearl also joined with a wave of progressives championing inclusion of the $15 minimum wage as part of the package and called for Vice President Kamala Harris to disregard the guidance by the Senate Parliamentarian who advised excluding the extremely popular increase  in order to conform to her interpretation of the upper chamber's reconciliation rules.

With the Senate split 50-50—and Harris acting as the tie-breaking vote as well as holding the authority to overrule or disregard the Parliamentarian's guidance—the Senate can either use reconciliation to pass the measure or abolish the archaic "Jim Crow-era" filibuster to allow legislation to pass with a simple majority as opposed to higher threshold of 60 votes.

"It's been over eleven years since the federal minimum wage was last raised, and with each passing year low-wage workers fall further behind, unable to support themselves and their families or participate fully in our economy as consumers," Pearl said. "Lasting economic recovery starts from the bottom-up. We strongly urge Vice President Kamala Harris to keep the $15 dollar minimum wage provision and for Senate Democrats to swiftly pass this bill. It's time for our economy to get back on track for everyone."


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