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March 07, 2021

Local elected officials react to Senate passing $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package

The measure now heads back to the House of Representatives for a vote before President Joe Biden can sign the bill into law

President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill took a step closer to becoming law on Saturday after the Senate narrowly approved the measure by a party-line vote of 50-49. 

The American Rescue Plan Act consists of several relief efforts that Democrats say will provide a much-needed boost to families, state and local governments and the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the provisions included in the proposed COVID-19 relief package include the following:

$1,400 federal stimulus payments to individuals making less than $75,000 and married couples making less than $150,00. Dependents would also be eligible to receive a $1,400 check.
•The supplemental $300-per-week unemployment benefit would continue through early September. Biden and House Democrats had pushed to increase the weekly supplemental benefit to $400, but the Senate amended the bill to keep it at its current level of $300 in order to get enough Democratic support for the measure.
•$350 billion in funding to state and local governments.
•$130 billion in funding to schools to help reopen for in-person learning.
•An expansion of the child tax credit for 2021 from up to $2,000 per child under the age of 17 to as much as $3,600 for children ages 5 and under and no more than $3,000 for children ages 6-17.

The legislation, however, does not include an increase to the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour that both Biden and House Democrats had supported. A vote to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025 did not receive enough support in the Senate.

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, as well as New Jersey Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez, voted in favor of the relief package.

"Now that the Senate has passed the American Rescue Plan, the country is one step closer to putting the virus behind us," Casey wrote in a statement on social media.

"In New Jersey and across the country, the American Rescue Plan will provide critical relief to individuals and communities struggling in this pandemic," Booker wrote in a statement on social media. "It brings us one step closer to getting out of this crisis."

"The American Rescue Plan will put the United States on a path to defeat this virus once and for all and restore opportunity in our economy for hardworking families all across the nation," Menendez said in a statement.

Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey joined his fellow Republicans in opposing the measure, accusing the Democrats of "using a health crisis as an excuse to ram through a left wing wishlist."

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy all shared their support for the American Rescue Plan Act.

In a statement posted to social media, Kenney wrote that the bill "brings hope and long overdue relief to Americans in need."

"This relief package will help those Pennsylvanians hurt the most by this pandemic, while providing the funds we need to continue making progress in our vaccination efforts," Wolf said in a statement.

"President Biden, Senator Menendez, Senator Booker, and Congressional Democrats deserve tremendous credit for their leadership and commitment to providing long-delayed relief for millions of American families and small businesses in need," Murphy said in a statement

The relief package now returns to the House of Representatives for final passage before Biden can sign the bill into law. The House will take up the bill on Tuesday, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) said in a statement. The Democratic majority is expected to vote in favor of the legislation, while the GOP minority will likely oppose the measure.

The original version of the bill passed the House along party lines by a vote of 219-212 last month before it was amended to its latest version in the Senate.

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