But first, the bill has to go back to the other side of the Capitol, where the House — which already passed its own version of the bill — is scheduled to vote Tuesday to approve the changes made in the Senate. That vote is expected to succeed on a party line, as it did in the Senate, with a narrow Democratic majority.
Only after the House passes the Senate version would it land on Biden’s desk.
The payments do not go all out at once. Those whose bank information is on file with the IRS would likely get the money first because it would be directly deposited into their accounts. Others may receive paper checks or prepaid debit cards in the mail.
This time, individuals earning less than $75,000 and couples earning less than $150,000 would receive the full $1,400 payment, plus an additional $1,400 per dependent. But the third round of checks would phase out faster than earlier payments — completely cutting off individuals who earn more than $80,000 a year and married couples earning more than $160,000, regardless of how many children they have. Payments would reach about 90% of families, according to an estimate from the Penn Wharton Budget Model.
As for unemployment benefits, the Senate and House bills differ on the provisions.
If the House approves the Senate’s changes and the bill is signed by Biden in coming days, the jobless may see little or no break in payments. But it depends on their state.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program provides benefits to freelancers, gig workers, independent contractors and certain people affected by the pandemic, while the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program increases the duration of payments for those in the traditional state unemployment system.
Unlike the relief package Congress approved in December, this legislation should be signed before any laid-off workers run out of benefits, and there are far fewer changes than in the prior bill, said Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation. Still, some states will wait until the US Department of Labor releases all the necessary guidance to reprogram their systems.
Most states should start sending out the jobless benefits in less than three weeks, he said.
Child tax credit
Other measures in the package, however, are new or involve larger changes to existing programs — including temporary enhancements to the child tax credit and federal premium subsidies for Affordable Care Act plans, as well as for COBRA policies for laid-off workers who want to keep their employer health insurance coverage.
These would take longer for federal agencies to implement so it could be several weeks, or even months, before Americans receive them.
The House and Senate bills call for increasing the credit to $3,600 for each child younger than 6 and to $3,000 for each child between 6 and 17 in 2021. It is currently a $2,000 credit for kids between the ages of 6 and 16.
The credit would also become fully refundable for the year and may be paid out monthly, rather than as a lump sum at tax time.
Families could receive half their total credit as a periodic payment starting in July and running through the rest of the year, according to the legislation. They could then claim the remaining half on their 2021 tax returns.
Health insurance subsidies
Americans who would qualify for the relief package’s heftier federal premium subsidies for Affordable Care Act policies would need to wait until the new regulations are programmed into the Obamacare exchanges, which might take a few weeks.
Enrollees would pay no more than 8.5% of their income towards coverage, down from nearly 10% now. Also, those earning more than the current cap of 400% of the federal poverty level — about $51,000 for an individual and $104,800 for a family of four in 2021 — would become eligible for help. The provision, which is retroactive to January, would last for two years.
Lower-income enrollees could have their premiums eliminated completely for the same period, and those collecting unemployment benefits could sign up for coverage with no premiums in 2021.
The adjustments to the existing subsidy programs could be done rather quickly, but the provision for the unemployed may take longer to implement since it is new, said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Also, the Senate legislation provides a full premium subsidy through the end of September to laid-off workers who want to remain on their employer health insurance plans through COBRA. The House bill would require them to pay 15% of the premium, which could still prove costly.
This provision could take longer to roll out since it’s an entirely new benefit.
Meanwhile, food stamp recipients would continue to get a 15% increase in benefits, but the boost would last through September, instead of expiring at the end of June, under the bills passed by both the Senate and House.