WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden signed the massive Covid-19 stimulus bill into law Thursday, touting provisions that will put money into the pockets of millions of Americans.
But the bill is more than stimulus payments and jobless benefits. It also includes a litany of programs: health insurance subsidies, a cash-for-kids allowance to slash child poverty, state and local aid (which can’t be used to cut taxes) and money for schools, restaurants, pensions, homeowners, renters, farmers and funerals.
Here are some of the key provisions:
Stimulus checks and jobless aid
The bill includes the biggest round yet of direct cash payments: $1,400 for individuals making under $75,000 and $2,800 for married couples making under $150,000. The White House says they’ll begin hitting bank accounts “as early as this weekend.”
Individuals making less than $80,000 or married couples making below $160,000 will get smaller checks. Parents who qualify for their own checks also will get an additional $1,400 per child.
Those who are out of work will get a $300-a-week federal bonus to their unemployment benefits through Sept. 6.
Cash for kids
The bill boosts the child tax credit (currently $2,000) to $3,600 per child under 6 and $3,000 for children ages 6 to 17.
It makes the credit fully refundable — meaning people who would otherwise owe less than that in taxes will be paid the credit. And instead of waiting until they file their taxes, the IRS will send the money out in portions, potentially each month, to act more like a regular income stream.
The changes are for one year, but the White House wants to make them permanent in a future bill.
There is no minimum income to qualify for the tax credit, a major change from the current structure, which requires at least $2,500 in income. Some Republicans have criticized the shift, arguing that parents should have to work to receive benefits.
The bill also raises the child care tax credit, which can cover up to half the cost of child care expenses, to $4,000 per child and $8,000 total and makes it refundable.
A Columbia University study estimated that the overall changes could cut child poverty by half.
Vaccines, funerals, farmers and food
The bill includes a funding surge to help put vaccine shots in Americans’ arms.
It includes $14 billion to distribute and administer vaccinations, $48 billion for testing and contact tracing and $50 billion for Federal Emergency Management Agency relief. As part of the FEMA aid, the government will cover costs of “disaster-related” funeral expenses connected to the pandemic.
It includes loan assistance for “socially disadvantaged” farmers and ranchers who belong to groups that have faced ethnic or racial discrimination.
And it extends a 15 percent boost in SNAP benefits, commonly known as food stamps, through the end of September.
Housing, Amtrak and the arts
The package includes $22 billion in rental assistance, $5 billion in homelessness aid and nearly $10 billion to help homeowners pay mortgages.
The bill allocates $1.7 billion for Amtrak, which the organization suggests it will use to bring back furloughed workers and restore long-distance train services.
There are also grants to the tune of $86 billion to bail out pension plans, a Democratic priority.
And there’s $135 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, $135 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities and $175 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Schools, child care and student debt
The bill includes over $125 billion to help K-12 schools open, with some of the funding targeted at measures that address learning loss since the start of the pandemic.
Republicans offered an amendment to require that schools that receive the funding hold in-person classes once vaccinations are available to teachers, but it failed along party lines.
For younger children, $39 billion goes toward child care providers, who have been financially stressed by the pandemic.
Another $40 billion is set aside for higher education, half of which is reserved for financial aid for students.
The bill also includes a provision that could make it easier for Biden to eliminate student debt later by not requiring beneficiaries to pay taxes on the canceled loans. Biden has said he might cancel up to $10,000 in student debt using executive action; some Democrats are pushing him to go higher.
Obamacare and COBRA money
With surprisingly little fanfare, the legislation includes some of the biggest changes to the Affordable Care Act (often referred to as “Obamacare”) since President Barack Obama signed it in 2010.
The bill boosts subsidies for customers who buy insurance through the ACA, lowering premiums across the board and outright eliminating them on benchmark plans for people making under 150 percent of the federal poverty level.
For the first time, people making over 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($51,520 for individuals) can qualify for federal help, as well, with their premiums capped at 8.5 percent of income. The new subsidies are for only two years; Democrats are likely to try to extend them.
The federal government would also cover a larger share of Medicaid expenses if states that haven’t expanded the program through the ACA choose to do so now. Twelve states have opted out of Medicaid expansion. It’s unclear whether their governors and legislatures will take up the offer.
Outside of the ACA changes, people who have left jobs during the pandemic and want to maintain their existing employer insurance can get 100 percent of their premiums subsidized through COBRA, the law that allows workers to carry over their work plans.
Restaurants owners have received loans and grants through the Paycheck Protection Program, but a prominent coalition led by celebrity chefs advocated for more targeted relief to help independent bars and restaurants make up lost revenue with fewer requirements on how they spend the money.
They got their wish in the new bill, which includes $28.6 billion in grants for restaurants.
The restaurant aid is similar to the RESTAURANTS Act, a bill that had bipartisan support, but it was left out of the December Covid-19 package amid Republican opposition.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., one of the RESTAURANTS Act’s lead sponsors, touted its inclusion in the latest bill as a success even as he voted against the final bill.
State and local funding
There’s a $350 billion pot of cash to help governors, mayors and other local leaders recover lost funds “stemming from the public health emergency.”
That includes $220 billion for states, territories and tribal governments, in addition to an extra $130 billion for metropolitan cities, localities and counties.
The money can be put to a wide variety of uses, including infrastructure projects, but there are some restrictions: States can’t use the relief money to cut taxes — either “directly or indirectly” through rate cuts, deductions, credits, rebates or delaying the onset of a tax. If they do, they’ll have to pay the money back to the Treasury. To enforce that, the bill requires states to give the Biden administration a “detailed accounting” of the use of funds and any changes to tax revenue sources during the relevant time period.
The money also can’t go to pension funds.
CORRECTION (March 11, 2011, 7:35 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misidentified the state Sen. Roger Wicker represents. It is Mississippi, not Arkansas.