Biden American Rescue Stimulus Plan Provides $1,400 Checks : The Indicator from Planet Money President Biden's Covid relief plan calls for about $1.9 trillion in government spending. Where is all that money going? We discuss a few of the biggest items in the bill.
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The Biden Relief Bill: Who Gets What

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The Biden Relief Bill: Who Gets What

The Biden Relief Bill: Who Gets What

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SYLVIE DOUGLIS, BYLINE: NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF DROP ELECTRIC SONG, "WAKING UP TO THE FIRE")

CARDIFF GARCIA, HOST:

Hey, everyone. Stacey and Cardiff here. This is THE INDICATOR FROM PLANET MONEY. Right now a bill that would spend about $1.9 trillion into the economy is making its way through Congress. It's called the American Rescue Plan, but we're just going to call it the Biden bill because that's kind of what it is. And after it's finished being tweaked by Congress, it is expected to be signed into law by President Joe Biden within the next week or so.

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

It is a big bill - almost $2 trillion, one of the biggest spending bills in American history; equal to roughly 9% of U.S. gross domestic product.

GARCIA: But today on the show, we're not discussing whether the overall size of the bill is too big, too small or just right - a question that economists are still debating. Instead, we are taking a closer look at the details of what's actually in the bill, who is getting the money and how much.

VANEK SMITH: From what parents are getting to what the unemployed are getting to what small businesses and state and local governments are getting to what almost everyone is getting.

GARCIA: And what effect it might have on each of those groups, including how it might directly affect a lot of you, our listeners.

VANEK SMITH: Yes.

GARCIA: That breakdown is coming up right after a quick break.

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GARCIA: OK, who is getting what in the Biden bill? Here we go.

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VANEK SMITH: First up is what most adults in the country are going to get - a one-time payment of up to $1,400. This is the single biggest part of the bill, and here's where the bill stands now. If you made less than $75,000 either last year or the year before, you will get the full amount - 1,400 bucks. Beyond that, if you made between 75,000- and $80,000, you get a smaller amount. And if you made more than $80,000, you will not get one of these checks. For married couples who file their taxes together, the cutoff for getting a check is a combined income of $160,000.

GARCIA: And these checks are both the biggest and the most universal part of the bill. The exact amount of money that your household will get does depend on a few things in addition to your income, like whether you have kids or other dependents. But even so, roughly 80- to 90% of all households in the U.S. are going to get checks for some amount of money. And the hope is that people will spend that money to help boost the economy.

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VANEK SMITH: So next up, people who are getting money in the stimulus bill - the unemployed; $400 per week on top of what they would normally get from their state in unemployment benefits when there isn't a pandemic. And that extra $400 a week will last until nearly the end of August.

GARCIA: And there's a lot of people still claiming unemployment benefits each week, almost nine times as many people as a year ago, right before the pandemic started. That's more than 19 million people claiming those benefits right now, and a big part of the reason why there are so many is the government has expanded the range of people who can qualify for these benefits during the pandemic.

VANEK SMITH: And the reason unemployment benefits matter for the overall economy is that they allow people to continue spending money while they are between jobs - paying their rent, buying groceries, buying school supplies for their kids.

GARCIA: Yeah. Without the extra $400, unemployment benefits would only replace less than half of a worker's lost income on average. But with the extra $400 from the stimulus bill, these benefits will be replacing more than 85% of the lost income for the average unemployed worker.

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VANEK SMITH: Next up, state and local governments - what they're going to get from the bill. So tax revenues for a lot of state and local governments have just dried up during the pandemic. And some of them have been forced to cut back on services that they typically provide, like garbage collection, law enforcement, mental health and addiction treatment services and a bunch of others.

GARCIA: Yeah, state and local governments have also had to lay off 1.3 million workers, especially a lot of workers in public schools - teachers, administrators, janitors. It's one of the hardest-hit sectors of the labor market, so this bill provides $350 billion for state and local governments.

VANEK SMITH: And actually, that might end up being more money than state and local governments lost during the pandemic. Three hundred and fifty billion dollars is above the range of estimates for how much money state and local governments will have lost through next year.

GARCIA: But it's also true that some states and local governments are in worse shape than others. And so one of the big debates in the Senate is over just how to allocate this money between different states and cities.

VANEK SMITH: And we're going to pause here for a second because if we stop right here, just right now and add up the cost of those three things that we have discussed - the checks that go out to almost everybody - the stimulus checks - the bigger unemployment insurance benefits and the money that goes to state and local governments - that is the biggest part of the bill. Roughly half of it, around a trillion dollars, is going to go to those three things combined.

GARCIA: Yeah. And there's all kinds of interesting and important stuff in the rest of the bill too, so here's a few more that we definitely think are worth mentioning.

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GARCIA: Starting with what parents are going to get.

VANEK SMITH: Yes, so parents are going to get an extra $1,400 for each of their children, and this includes adult children who parents list as their dependents.

GARCIA: Yeah, so if you are a family of four people, say, two spouses and two kids, the total amount you're going to get in those one-time checks is up to $5,600. But that's not all. The bill also increases the size of the child tax credit for one year, so parents will now be able to offset their tax bills by $3,600 for each kid under the age of 6, the really young ones, and by $3,000 for other kids who are not yet adults.

VANEK SMITH: Bottom line - take that same family of four. And let's say both parents make less than $75,000 each year. And let's say their two kids are very young. They're toddlers. That family could get a total of nearly $13,000 in checks and tax credits because of this bill.

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GARCIA: OK. And now let's look at what schools are going to get. Kindergarten-through-12th-grade schools are going to get roughly $130 billion, but maybe what's most interesting is what that money is intended for.

VANEK SMITH: Yeah, so this money is not for textbooks. It is for things that make it easier for schools to reopen and operate during the pandemic - so things like improving ventilation, buying more personal protective equipment and even changing the shape of a classroom so that social distancing between students is easier.

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GARCIA: Next up, the bill includes tens of billions of dollars for loans and grants to businesses. And the industry that's going to get the single biggest amount in grants - so that's money that does not have to be paid back - is bars and restaurants.

VANEK SMITH: Yeah, bars and restaurants that can prove they lost money last year will be eligible for up to $10 million each in grants. And the bill has set aside a total of $25 billion for eateries and watering holes and restaurants.

GARCIA: Yeah. And even though that is the most that any industry is getting in this bill, some perspective is important here. Last year, bars and restaurants lost about $145 billion in sales from the year before. That's a 20% decline, and there are still nearly 2.5 million fewer jobs in bars and restaurants than before the pandemic.

VANEK SMITH: And this year - knock on wood - will not be as bad because people are getting vaccinated. COVID cases are coming down, and more of the country is reopening. Still, though, that is a huge hole to dig out of.

GARCIA: And that's it; or rather, that's not it at all, actually.

VANEK SMITH: That's not it. The stimulus bill is never done.

GARCIA: (Laughter) There's lots of other stuff in the bill. Yeah. I mean, this one is hundreds of pages long too. Like, there's money in there for housing assistance, for COVID testing, vaccine distribution, money for children's nutrition - lots of other stuff. We limited ourselves to the biggest spending items and a few others that we thought were notable. But if you want to see more, we'll post lots of reading material about the bill to npr.org/money.

VANEK SMITH: And a final caveat - of course, this bill has not yet been passed by the Senate. And there's a chance that some of these details will change between what's expected right now and what finally lands on President Biden's desk for his signature. You know, Cardiff, it is politics. Weird stuff happens, you know - makes me grateful that we're in economics, which always makes sense.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: Oh, if only that were true.

VANEK SMITH: Right?

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: This episode of THE INDICATOR was produced by Jamila Huxtable with help from Gilly Moon. It was fact checked by Sam Cai. THE INDICATOR is edited by Jolie Myers, and it is a production of NPR.

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