A sweeping $1.9 trillion spending plan, known as the Build Back Better bill, is making its way through Congress and could make a key part of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda a reality.
A majority of the funding is focused on transforming the nation’s social safety net by reducing the cost of child and health care, as well as combating climate change.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the legislation would increase the deficit by $367 billion over the next 10 years. But the White House has worked to make the case that the bill will be fully paid for when accounting for a proposal to enhance tax enforcement, which the CBO excluded.
The bill passed the House in November but faces a tough road in the Senate, where it is expected to undergo some changes. As currently written, the legislation would create universal pre-K, send families an enhanced child tax credit and provide beefed-up subsidies on the Affordable Care Act exchanges.
Here are 10 of the lesser-known provisions in the Build Back Better bill.
$900 tax credit for purchasing an e-bike
Taxpayers would be allowed to claim a tax credit for purchasing an e-bike before 2026, if the bill passes. It’s one of many provisions in the spending package aimed at combating the climate crisis.
The credit would be equal to 30% of the purchase cost, up to $900. It would gradually phase out for higher-income households, starting at $75,000 of income for individuals.
The bill would also allow companies to provide tax-free commuting benefits for employees using a bike, e-bike or scooter to get to work.
$35 cap on insulin costs
Among the Build Back Better bill’s many drug price provisions is one that would set a $35 monthly cap on insulin for Medicare beneficiaries and those with private insurance. The provision would take effect in 2023.
Medicare Part D plans would not be able to charge more than $35 a month for the insulin products they cover in 2023 and 2024, and for all insulin starting in 2025, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of the bill. Private group or individual plans would have to cover one of each dosage form (either vial or pen) and one of each type (rapid-acting, short-acting, intermediate-acting and long-acting) for no more than $35.
Millions of Americans could save money under the provision, Kaiser said.
The high cost of insulin has been a major concern for diabetic Americans, forcing some to ration their doses – with sometimes fatal consequences.
This has prompted bipartisan efforts to address insulin’s affordability. Biden highlighted the problem in a recent speech about the bill’s drug provisions, noting that the nearly 100-year-old medication costs less than $10 to manufacture but is priced at about $375 for a month’s supply, on average, and as high as $1,000 a month for those who need to take more insulin.
Advocates, however, are concerned that the uninsured would not benefit from the cap and remain at risk.
12 months of Medicaid coverage for new moms
The legislation would require all states to cover pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, for 12 months postpartum. The provision is considered key to addressing the nation’s maternal mortality crisis, which disproportionately affects women of color.
About 720,000 new mothers in a given year would get 12 months of coverage, roughly double the number currently insured postpartum through Medicaid, according to a recent Department of Health and Human Services report.
Medicaid and CHIP cover more than 42% of births nationwide. Currently, states must provide eligible, low-income women with 60 days of postpartum coverage, though some states already offer extended benefits. Some 45% of women become uninsured at the end of the two months, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The American Rescue Plan, which passed earlier this year, created a temporary option for states to provide 12 months of postpartum coverage and receive federal matching funds, starting in April 2022. About half of states have passed legislation or taken other steps to take advantage of this provision, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The bill also includes $50 million to award grants to establish or expand programs to grow and diversify the doula workforce. Doulas provide nonclinical care to pregnant and postpartum individuals. The funding could help 30,000 doulas receive training over a 10-year period, according to The Century Foundation.
Extra assistance for the jobless to buy health insurance
The American Rescue Plan provides those who receive at least one week of jobless benefits in 2021 with generous federal subsides so they can select Affordable Care Act policies with monthly premiums as little as $0 and with low out-of-pocket requirements.
The Build Back Better bill would extend this measure through 2022.
Tax credits for local news outlets
Companies that employ local journalists would receive a new payroll tax credit if the bill is passed. The credit amount would be equal to 50% of paid wages during the first year and 30% of wages during the next four years. The tax credit would expire after 2025.
The tax relief would come as the United States faces a decline in local news outlets. Over the past 15 years, the country has lost 2,100 newspapers, leaving at least 1,800 communities that had a local news outlet in 2004 without any at the beginning of 2020, according to a report from researchers at the University of North Carolina.
News outlets with more than 1,500 employees would be excluded from the tax credit.
College completion grants
There is $500 million in the bill to fund programs that help low-income college students, particularly those at community colleges, finish their degrees. The money may be invested in financial aid grants awarded to students, as well as wraparound services provided by colleges like mentoring, child care and mental health resources.
Millions of students currently leave school before finishing, leaving them to pay tuition and student loan bills without reaping the benefits of a degree. Nearly 1 in 7 adults have taken some college courses but have not completed a degree, and about 40% of first-time, full-time students don’t finish a bachelor’s degree within six years.
Like other provisions in the bill, the money set aside for college completion grants is far smaller than Biden’s initial proposal, which called for a $62 billion investment. The President also wanted to make two years of community college free, but that plan was dropped during negotiations in Congress.
But the bill still includes a measure to increase the maximum Pell grant by $550. The Pell grant program awards financial aid to undergraduate students with exceptional financial need. The bill would also make undocumented students brought to the US as children, who are known as Dreamers, eligible for the grant.
Public housing repairs
The bill would provide $65 billion to address the backlog of repairs needed at deteriorating public housing buildings. It’s a substantial investment that could improve up to 1 million affordable homes for low-income people, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
The bill also includes $25 billion for the construction, purchase or rehabilitation of affordable homes and another $24 billion to expand housing vouchers that help low-income families buy or rent privately owned housing.
The bill would invest $1 billion to support conservation projects for Pacific salmon and steelhead populations and their habitats, including projects that increase climate resilience.
The money would flow through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency that already has a Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund aimed at reversing the decline of salmon and steelhead, as well as stimulating local economies in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska.
National parks and forests preservation
There are billions of dollars in the bill for preserving public lands.
Funds would target the conservation, protection and resiliency of lands and resources administered by the National Park Service, the National Forest System and the Bureau of Land Management.
Several buckets of money are directed at wildfire management efforts, including $10 billion for hazardous fuels reduction projects. Those usually involve removing vegetation so that if a wildfire burns, it is less severe.
Funds for lower-income families to buy food over the summer
The bill would provide the families of 29 million kids with $65 per child each month to purchase food during the summers of 2023 and 2024.
Children who receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year would be eligible for the summer benefit.
The measure is modeled in part on the Pandemic-EBT program that was created at the start of the coronavirus outbreak to replace meals missed when schools were closed.
The Pandemic-EBT, which gave families roughly $375 per child during this past summer, remains in effect for the summer of 2022.
Even before the pandemic, feeding children over the summer was a challenge, with transportation, scheduling and weather proving to be barriers, experts said. Hunger is linked to summer learning loss, as well as a higher likelihood of illnesses and emotional stress.