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US President Biden’s huge relief plan to deal with the new crown epidemic was passed in the Senate on Saturday. Although all Republican senators voted against, the $1.9 trillion plan was still passed.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is expected to pass the bill next Tuesday (March 16). Biden called the Senate vote “another big step forward” in fulfilling its promise to help the people.
The worst public health crisis in the United States in a century has caused nearly 523,000 deaths and 29 million infections. The current unemployment rate is 6.2%.
This is the third rescue plan in the United States since the outbreak of the epidemic, and it plans to distribute $1,400 to most Americans in a lump sum. Republicans say the plan is too costly. Some Democrats also criticized certain provisions, leading to some compromises in the aid package, such as reducing federal unemployment benefits from $400 to $300 a week. Under this plan, benefits will be extended to September 6.
“It’s obviously not easy, and it’s not always good. But it’s very needed, urgently needed.” Biden said. He added that he hoped that the bill would become law after the House of Representatives quickly passed it.
What does the new round of assistance include?
This round of rescue plans will allocate 350 billion U.S. dollars to US state and local governments and approximately 130 billion U.S. dollars to schools. The plan will also provide US$49 billion for the expansion of new coronavirus testing and research, and US$14 billion for vaccine distribution.
At the same time, the extension of unemployment benefits to September is a respite for millions of long-term unemployed Americans. Currently, their unemployment benefits will expire in mid-March.
The bill also includes funding for small businesses, as well as more targeted assistance: $25 billion for restaurants and bars; $15 billion for airlines, $8 billion for airports; $30 billion for transportation; 1.5 billion U.S. dollars are used for American railroads, and 3 billion dollars are used for aerospace manufacturing.
Although Republicans widely supported the two previous rescue plans (these two plans were passed by the White House and the Senate during Trump’s tenure), they criticized the cost of the Biden plan.
Before the final vote on Saturday, they held a 27-hour marathon vote. The result of the 50-49 vote showed that the Republican Party generally opposed it.
The two parties in the Senate are evenly matched, which means that every Democratic senator must support the party’s plan.
But on Friday, the moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin expressed opposition on the grounds that this huge bill could overheat the economy. An agreement was reached after 11 hours of overnight negotiations.
Reaching a compromise on reducing unemployment benefits means that this plan can enter the final vote.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the plan will “provide more help to more people than anything the federal government has done in decades”.
Before the vote, Schumer said: “This is a long day, a long night, a long year, but a new day has come. We tell the American people that the rescue will be here soon.”
However, Senate Republican leader McConnell criticized the aid plan. He said: “The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in such a random way or in such a lax procedure.”
Schumer expects that the House of Representatives will approve the bill, and President Biden will sign the bill before the expiration of the previous round of unemployment benefits on March 14.