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US Senate passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

WASHINGTON DC (Ax-ios): The Senate passed Pr-esident Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package with a 50-49 vote on Saturday.

COVID relief has been a central promise for Biden and passing this bill has been a major priority for the administration and congressional Democrats.

Context: The Senate passed the economic stimulus bill after senators debated for over 24 hours and held a marathon vote on amendments between Friday night and Saturday.

Democrats approved the package through the budget reconciliation process, meaning it did not require any Republican support to pass.

However, the reconciliation process also prevented Democrats from including a provision to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour in the legislation.

The Senate parliamentarian ruled in February that the wage increase does not directly affect the federal government’s finances, meaning it could not be passed through reconciliation.

What’s next: The Senate version of the bill now goes to the House for likely approval next week before President Biden can sign it into law.

Highlights from the bill:

Expanded federal funding for COVID programs, including $46 billion for testing and tracing; $7.6 billion for pandemic respo-nse at community health centers; $5.2 billion to support research, development and manufacturing of vaccines, therapeutics and o-ther medical products; and $7.7 billion to expand the public health care workforce.

$1,400 stimulus payments for Americans making less than $80,000 annually and couples earning less than $160,000.

$128.6 billion to help K-12 schools reopen. $350 billion in state and local aid. $25 billion in aid to restaurants and other food and drinking establishments.

$19 billion in emergency rental assistance.

$7.25 billion in funds for Paycheck Protection Program loans.

Extending the enhanced unemployment insurance of $300 per week through Aug. 29.

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