Aleasha Hintz—Staff Writer
The House of Representatives passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, also called the COVID-19 Stimulus Package, on Wednesday, March 10. The vote was primarily split by party as all but one Democratic representative voted in favor of the act, and all but one Republican representative voted against the act. The only Republican representative who did not vote against the act abstained from the vote.
President Joe Biden acted quickly. By Thursday, March 11, he signed the act into law. By that weekend, some Americans had already received and begun spending their stimulus checks.
And so, the long-awaited third stimulus check is on its way to the remaining American citizens, but Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 looks to fund much more than just stimulus checks.
This package is slightly larger and broader than previous COVID-19 relief acts. The budget: $1.9 trillion. Besides direct deposits, the $1.9 trillion will be dispersed among other expenses. $20 billion from the budget will fund COVID-19 vaccinations, $25 billion will be dedicated to rental and utility assistance, $30 billion to restaurants, $120 billion to k-12 schools, and $350 billion will go into state, local, and tribal relief.
The average U.S. citizen will receive direct deposits of up to $1,400 (provided they do not exceed the cap on the yearly income), with variance the amount received based on salary, marital status, and the number of dependents on your filed taxes.
For example, those receiving checks for $1,400 are individuals who make less than $75,000 a year, or couples who make less than a combined $150,000. Married couples with four children can receive $5,600. Independent students qualify for the same relief as the average citizen.
As for legally dependent college students such as those attending Dordt University, they can still receive the $1,400 check. This is a distinct difference from the last stimulus package, which barred dependents from receiving the stimulus checks from the last two acts. The catch is that the person who claimed you will receive it on your behalf, meaning dependents do not have direct access to their stimulus checks. If you are lucky, your guardian may feel compelled to share the wealth.
Additionally, some students may qualify for emergency aid. $40 billion of the budget has been dedicated to funding colleges and universities, which is almost double what the last relief act allotted to colleges. Half of this must be spent on students in the form of emergency grants, spread out through the fall semester of 2023.
The initiation of the act is being lauded by Democrats as another step in the right direction. It is considered the natural next step to recovering from a sluggish economy.
Before Biden signed the act, he said, “This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving people in this nation, working people, middle-class folks, the people who built this country, a fighting chance.”
Republicans on the other hand, seem to think ill of the package.
Republican Senator Mitch McConnell commented, “The American people already built a parade that’s been marching toward victory. Democrats just want to sprint to the front of that parade and claim credit.”
Furthermore, some Republicans have criticized the plan for being too broad. About nine percent of the budget is going directly to COVID-19 relief. The rest covers various aspects of the economy.
Democrats countered this by saying they are simply trying to take a holistic view of the economy and prop it up in its entirety. The economy has suffered in various aspects, and so relief should cover various aspects too.
Either way, the fact is that 20 million Americans were receiving different forms of unemployment benefits when the bill became a law. The stimulus checks will provide some much-needed relief to a significant portion of the population, including those who do not receive unemployment benefits.
The bill, whether considered to be prudent or not by different politicians, is meant to help mitigate the economic strife following the lockdown, which it is poised to do, but only time will tell of its successes and failures.