Senate approves $1.9T bill, but changes coronavirus stimulus checks eligibility

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Democrats moved one step closer on Saturday to pass the next coronavirus relief package. On Saturday, the Senate approved the massive stimulus package, but with several amendments. One of the amendments was related to the eligibility for the $1,400 coronavirus stimulus checks.

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Senate makes three crucial changes to relief package

On Saturday, the Senate made several changes to the relief package legislation. There were, however, three notable changes – axing the proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, reducing the raise to federal unemployment benefits and narrowing eligibility for the coronavirus stimulus checks.

Despite these amendments, the overall package that passed the Senate is largely the same as was introduced by President Joe Biden in January.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had assured that they would stay in session to finish the legislation last week. Now that the Senate has approved it, the bill will go back to the House for a vote. And, then on to the White House for Biden's signature.

The House is scheduled to vote on the legislation Tuesday. It is believed that the legislation would easily pass the House, and Biden also would sign it this week. This means eligible people could start seeing the checks in their bank account soon.

Democrats are aiming to pass the relief package before enhanced unemployment aid expires on Sunday, March 14.

Senate changes eligibility for coronavirus stimulus checks

Talking about the changes to the eligibility for stimulus checks, the Senate approved version makes the stimulus checks more targeted. Similar to the earlier relief packages, individuals with AGI (adjusted gross income) of $75,000 a year (married couples earning less than $150,000) will get stimulus checks of the full amount.

However, the payment would phase out faster than the earlier rounds. Those earning more than $80,000 a year (married couples earning more than $160,000) would get no payment at all.

In the earlier version of the bill passed by the House, the payment phased out for individuals making $100,000 or more ($200,000 for couples). As per an estimate by the Penn Wharton Budget Model, the changes by the Senate would leave out about 7 million families from getting the payment.

However, unlike the previous two rounds, adult dependents, including college students, would qualify for the payment this time.

As for the unemployment assistance, the Senate version calls for giving a $300 federal boost to the unemployment benefits. Also, the legislation calls for extending two crucial unemployment benefits programs through September 6.

The House bill (and Biden’s version), on the other hand, proposed giving a $400 weekly enhancement through August 29. Also, the House bill extends the pandemic programs for the same period.

Additionally, the Senate bill also makes the first $10,200 worth of benefits payments tax-free for households with an annual income of less than $150,000.