Stimulus Checks, Child Tax Credits, State Aid and Vaccine Distribution: What's in the $1.9T COVID Bill

In addition to direct payments, the American Rescue Plan includes funds for unemployment, COVID-19 vaccine distribution and for education loss experienced during the pandemic

Joe Biden signs the American Rescue Plan on March 11, 2021
Joe Biden. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty

Joe Biden signed into law a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid package on Thursday, bringing the new president his first legislative win and many Americans closer to another round of stimulus checks amid the now year-long pandemic.

The American Rescue Plan is the third major relief bill meant to stem the financial damage from the pandemic and one of the largest such bills in the country's history. (Democrats passed it through their congressional majority over uniform Republican opposition.)

Below, a look at what is included in the bill, from stimulus checks to an added boost for parents.

Stimulus Checks

The most widely-reported provision in the package is that it will distribute stimulus checks for Americans making less than $80,000.

Similar to the cash payments distributed as part of the previous stimulus bills, single individuals making up to $75,000 will receive a $1,400 payment in the coming weeks, while families earning up to $150,000 will be eligible for the full amounts as well.

Dependents will also receive $1,400 checks, so those who are eligible will receive $1,400 for each parent and child.

People making between $75,000 and $80,000 will receive smaller amounts.

After Biden signed the bill on Thursday, government officials said initial stimulus payments would begin by the weekend. (With the last round of disbursements, many people with direct deposit accounts from the IRS quickly received their money.)

Unemployment Benefits

The bill extends increased federal unemployment insurance benefits through Labor Day (a six-month extension from when benefits were supposed to end). The enhanced payments will remain at $300 per week of unemployment.

The legislation also offers a tax break on jobless benefits received in 2020, waiving federal taxes on the first $10,200 in individual unemployment benefits (or $20,400 for married couples).

The tax break only applies to federal taxes and to individuals and married couples who made less than $150,000 in adjusted gross income in 2020.

According to the Labor Department, more than 10 million Americans were unemployed as of mid-February.

Expanded Tax Credits for Families

Perhaps the most notable provision in the American Rescue Plan is the massive expansion of the existing child tax credit, which provides $2,000 a year for children from birth through age 16.

Under this provision, most Americans will now receive $3,000 a year for each child ages 6 to 17 and $3,600 for each child under age 6. Rather than receiving this money as a credit after taxes are filed, though, a portion of the money can be received by families via direct deposit on a periodic basis.

Small Business Aid

The relief package earmarks $7.25 billion in new funds for the small-business loan program known as the Paycheck Protection Program, and also expands the pool of those who can apply, allowing nonprofits and groups that do advocacy work (including, as NPR reports, those that do some lobbying).

Additional provisions in the legislation will offer support for specific industries that suffered during the pandemic, such as restaurants and bars, which will be eligible for grants via $25 billion given to the Small Business Administration.

An additional $1.25 billion will go toward the SBA's Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, which promises relief for concert venues and theaters.

The transportation sector is also being targeted in the bill, with roughly $30 billion going toward transit costs such as payroll and personal protective equipment. Additionally, airports will receive $8 billion; the aerospace manufacturing industry will receive $3 billion for a temporary payroll support program; and $15 billion will be allocated for airline workers.

Amtrak (a favored mode of transportation for President Biden) will get $1.5 billion to recall and pay the employees who were furloughed during the pandemic.

Funding for Local Governments and Schools

The legislation sets aside $350 billion for states, cities, tribal governments and U.S. territories. That money is meant to aid the municipalities facing deep budget shortfalls since the pandemic began last year.

According to a Washington Post analysis of government data, state and local governments have lost 1.3 million jobs over the past year due to the pandemic. (Not all local governments were uniformly affected, however: In Georgia, for example, tax revenues rebounded in the fall and winter.)

Because of the language used in the bill, a portion of the $350 billion allocated for local governments will be able to be used for education. In fact, the plan requires states to reserve a portion of funds to address learning loss by doing things like increasing summer learning, extending school years and expanding after-school programs.

The American Rescue Plan also includes $2.75 billion in emergency assistance for non-public schools, as well as more than $128 billion in grants to state educational agencies and$39 billion in grants to higher education institutions.

Funding for Vaccine Distribution/COVID-19 Testing

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will receive $7.5 billion of the funds, which will go toward distributing and administering COVID-19 vaccines. The legislation mandates that an additional $46 billion be used to fund testing and tracing of the virus.

According to the White House, the plan also works to establish community vaccination sites nationwide by investing $20 billion in a national vaccination program in partnership with states, localities, tribes and territories. "This will include launching community vaccination centers around the country and deploying mobile vaccination units to hard-to-reach areas," according to a White House announcement.

Housing Assistance

There is $21.5 billion for emergency rental assistance and $5 billion set aside for emergency housing vouchers for those who are experiencing homelessness or who are survivors of domestic violence or victims of human trafficking.

As MarketWatch reported, it's still unclear how quickly the housing aid might make its way to renters, as the previous round of aid was delayed for weeks as a result of bureaucratic delays.

Additionally, $4.5 billion has been set aside for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which aids families with home heating and cooling costs.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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