WASHINGTON - House Democrats unveiled their massive $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, releasing the full text of the 591-page bill on Friday.
The legislation includes an increase to the Federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, $1,400 direct payments to Americans making $75,000 or less a year, as well as an extension of $400 federal unemployment benefits.
"This reconciliation bill is the next step toward implementing the American Rescue Plan and finally changing the direction of these crises," said House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth in a press release.
"Without this relief package, conditions will spiral further out of control and families will suffer needlessly. Multiple variant strains of the novel coronavirus are now infecting Americans across the United States, and our vaccine rollout and efforts to contain the virus are in desperate need of resources," Yarmuth said.
"We are in a race against time, and aggressive, bold action is needed before our nation is permanently scarred by the human and economic costs of inaction."
Earlier this week, Democrats beat back hundreds of amendments from Republicans who have raised concerns that the bill’s spending is vastly more than necessary and designed to advance policy priorities that go beyond helping Americans get through the pandemic.
Democrats and President Joe Biden countered that a robust aid package is necessary to prevent a long and painful recovery from the pandemic.
Here are some highlights of the legislation expected to come to the House floor for a vote by the end of the month:
Stimulus checks: $1,400 for individuals, $2,800 for married couples
The legislation provides for stimulus payments that amount to $1,400 for a single taxpayer, or $2,800 for a married couple that files jointly, plus $1,400 per dependent. Individuals earning up to $75,000 would get the full amount as would married couples with incomes up to $150,000.
The size of the check would shrink for those making slightly more with a hard cut-off at $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for married couples.
Some Republicans want to cut the size of the payments as well as the pool of Americans eligible for it, but Biden has insisted on $1,400 checks, saying "that’s what the American people were promised."
The new round of checks will cost the government an estimated $422 billion.
Expanded unemployment benefits from the federal government would be extended, with an increase from $300 a week to $400 a week. That’s on top of what beneficiaries are getting through their state unemployment insurance program.
Raising the minimum wage
The bill would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by June 2025 and then adjust it to increase at the same rate as median hourly wages.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected several positives and negatives that would occur if the minimum wage hike makes it over the finish line.
On the plus side, about 900,000 people would be lifted out of poverty once the $15 hourly wage is fully in place. Some 17 million people making below the new minimum wage would see a pay raise. On the negative, about 1.4 million jobs would be lost as employers look for ways to offset their higher personnel costs.
It’s unclear if the wage hike will make it through the Senate due to opposition among a handful of Democrats and possible procedural hurdles.
Assuming the legislation passes in the House, the bill will go to the Senate, where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. This story was reported from Los Angeles.