MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Congress has passed an economic stimulus bill that will send tax rebates of up to $600 to millions of Americans, and $1,200 for couples. The Senate passed the bill this afternoon after dropping controversial additions, such as extended benefits for the unemployed. And now the House has passed it also.
NPR's Brian Naylor joins us now from the Capitol.
Brian, just last night, this bill seemed to be stalled in the Senate, what happened?
BRIAN NAYLOR: Right. Well, let me just recap for a moment. The Senate Democrats tried to amend the bill yesterday by adding rebates for seniors and disabled veterans, adding an employment insurance and low-income heating assistance and some tax breaks. And there is a vote yesterday. Republicans forced Democrats to come up with 60 votes. The Democrats fell one short.
And so afterwards, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. And she told them basically, let's get real. We've got to get thing things done. It's okay if you want to add the money for seniors. Nobody has a problem with that, but forget about the extended jobless benefits. And Reid basically acquiesced. He - today, he brought up the changes that the Republicans and the House Democrats wanted him to. And it was approved overwhelmingly.
NORRIS: Can you give us details on who will be getting these rebates and when?
NAYLOR: Well, it breaks down this way. If you pay income taxes and earn up to $75,000, you'll get $600. Twice that if you file jointly up to an income of $150,000. If you don't earn enough to pay income taxes and this now includes those seniors and disabled vets living on Social Security, you'll get $300. And families with children will get $300 per child.
When? It's a bit uncertain. Treasury Secretary Paulson had said, maybe as soon as May or a bit later. Basically after the IRS is done with the income tax season, they'll get to work on the rebates. And those tax returns by the way will be used to determine just how much folks will get.
NORRIS: And what about the tax breaks for businesses?
NAYLOR: Well, The metric is business have various tax credits to encourage them to buy new equipment. It changes the rules for expensing and depreciation. There's also a provision aimed at some homeowners, the sagging housing market and the subprime prices are seen as a contributor to the economic slowdown. This package would raise the ceiling on the amounts of loans that would qualify for government backing.
One other provision that's been added to this bill, Michele, there were reports and concerns that the original House bill would have made it possible for illegal immigrants to receive the rebate checks. The change is made in the - the Senate will tighten up that provision. So you won't be able to get a check unless your tax return includes a valid Social Security number.
NORRIS: So businesses are encourage to buy new equipment. How else might this help stimulate the economy?
NAYLOR: Well, the hope is is that putting this money into the hands of consumers will get them to go out and spend it. You know, buy things that will help jolt the economy. The businesses might hire new employees to handle all the new sales. The problem, though, is that, you know, at about $150,000 this year, it's a very tiny part of the overall domestic economy. And some economists say it's just too small to do that much good.
NORRIS: And won't it add to the deficit?
NAYLOR: Well, yes. It will. But in this case, economists say that's okay if it helps per growth. The downside, as those who voted against the plan in the Senate, and other economists say that, you know, we're borrowing this money to pay for the stimulus and the cost of that will be paid by, in effect, our children.
NORRIS: Thank you, Brian.
NAYLOR: Thanks, Michele.
NORRIS: That was NPR's Brian Naylor reporting from Capitol Hill.
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