The latest on the Covid-19 stimulus bill

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 0114 GMT (0914 HKT) March 5, 2021
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7:36 p.m. ET, March 4, 2021

What you can expect to get from the $1.9 trillion Senate stimulus

From CNN's Tami Luhby and Katie Lobosco

The $1.9 trillion coronavirus package being considered by the Senate contains a wide range of proposals to help Americans still struggling with the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Here's how Americans could benefit from the Senate bill:

If your family makes less than $160,000 a year: The Senate bill would provide direct payments worth up to $1,400 per person to families earning less than $160,000 a year and individuals earning less than $80,000 a year. The payments will phase out faster than they would have under the House version of the bill, which set the income caps at $200,000 for couples and $100,000 for individuals. That means that not everyone who was eligible for a check earlier will receive one now — but for those who do qualify, the new payments will top up the $600 checks approved in December, bringing recipients to a total of $2,000 apiece.

If you are unemployed: The Senate and House bills both contain the same provisions for the unemployed. Out-of-work Americans would get a federal weekly boost of $400 through Aug. 29. Those enrolled in two key pandemic unemployment programs could also continue receiving benefits until that date. Freelancers, gig workers, independent contractors and certain people affected by the coronavirus could remain in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for up to 74 weeks and those whose traditional state benefits run out could receive Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation for 48 weeks.

Who is out of luck? Workers being paid at or just above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour will not see a boost in pay. The Senate parliamentarian ruled in late February that increasing the hourly threshold to $15 does not meet a strict set of guidelines needed to move forward in the reconciliation process, which would allow Senate Democrats to pass the relief bill with a simple majority and no Republican votes.

If you are hungry: Under both the Senate and House bills, food stamp recipients would see a 15% increase in benefits continue through September, instead of having it expire at the end of June. And families whose children's schools are closed may be able to receive Pandemic-EBT benefits through the summer if their state opts to continue it. 

If you're behind on your rent or mortgage: Both bills would send roughly $20 billion to state and local governments to help low-income households cover back rent, rent assistance and utility bills.

If you have children: Most families with minor children could claim a larger child tax credit for 2021, under a provision contained in both the Senate and House bills. Qualifying families could receive a child tax credit of $3,600 for each child under 6 and $3,000 for each one under age 18, up from the current credit of up to $2,000 per child under age 17.

If you own a small business: The bills would provide $15 billion to the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan program, which provides long-term, low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration. Severely impacted small businesses with fewer than 10 workers will be given priority for some of the money.

If you're sick: If you're sick, quarantining or caring for an ill loved one or a child whose school is closed, the bills may provide your employer an incentive to offer paid sick and family leave. Unlike Biden's original proposal, the House and Senate bills would not require employers to offer the benefit. But they do continue to provide tax credits to employers who voluntarily choose to offer the benefit through October 1.

If you need health insurance: More Americans could qualify for heftier federal premium subsidies for Affordable Care Act policies for two years, under both the Senate and House versions of the plan.

6:58 p.m. ET, March 4, 2021

Only one senator is present as clerks read 628-page relief bill on Senate floor

From CNN's Ted Barrett

As Senate clerks take turns reading portions of the Covid-19 relief bill, Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, was the only senator present. 

In fairness, while this is an attention getting effort by Johnson, for other senators they are better served working with their staffs off the floor studying the content of the bill. 

More on Johnson: He is leading the Republican effort against President Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, employing extreme tactics by forcing Senate clerks to read its every word and offering a flood of amendments to highlight its astronomical cost.

CNN's Manu Raju and Alex Rogers contributed to this report.

7:22 p.m. ET, March 4, 2021

Democratic whip suggests stimulus vote is far from settled

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Democratic Whip Dick Durbin suggested this afternoon that he may not yet have secured the 50 Democratic votes he needs in order to send the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill to the desk of President Biden without Republican support. 

If no Republican senators support the legislation, Durbin would need the votes of all 48 Democrats, plus the two independents who caucus with Democrats and a tie breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris in order to clear the upper chamber. 

So far, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a moderate, is the sole Republican who has indicated she might consider voting for the package.

"In terms of whether or not we can hold it with 50 Democratic members staying loyal to the the very end and the vice president coming in to break the tie, that still remains to be seen," said Durbin, speaking with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. 

"As a whip, you don't assume anything until the roll call is made," he added. 

When Blitzer pressed Durbin on whether he had doubts on the bill's eventual passage, the Senate's second most powerful Democrat suggested the vote was far from settled.

"There are active discussions under way," he said. "We shouldn't assume the ultimate outcome until it happens."

Watch:

4:44 p.m. ET, March 4, 2021

This Republican senator suggests she might vote for the Covid-19 relief bill

From CNN's Ted Barrett 

Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski indicated she is still weighing whether to vote in favor of the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill even though she voted against a procedural motion to begin debate on it.  

She said she has not seen the just-released Senate version of the measure and is still working off the House-passed bill, aspects of which she criticized as “not very beneficial to a state like Alaska that has high revenue loss, low population, and therefore our numbers of unemployed aren’t that impressive.”

Murkowski, who is up for re-election, is considered the only Republican who might vote for the Democratic-authored bill.  

“I’m going to see what’s in it. We already know there are some things in it that are clearly not Covid related, but I’m looking at some of the things that will provide a level of relief for a state like Alaska.” she said. “So, trying to make a bad bill work better.”

She added she is particularly interested in how the state and local funding in the House bill was changed in the Senate measure and is focused on helping the tourist and seafood sectors in her state, which could be targeted in the amendments she offers to the bill.  

 

5:20 p.m. ET, March 4, 2021

Catch up on where things stand on the Senate relief bill — and what comes next 

From CNN's Clare Foran, Ted Barrett and Lauren Fox

The Senate began a marathon effort to take up President Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill.

Here's what to know about the process so far, and where things are headed:

  • Opening of the debate: The chamber voted this afternoon to open debate on the legislation. In a sign of just how thin Democrats' majority is, Vice President Kamala Harris broke the 50-50 tie advancing the bill.
  • What is happening now: GOP Sen. Ron Johnson objected to dispense the reading of the bill, forcing the 628-page bill to be read out loud before 20 hours of debate can begin in earnest. A Senate clerk started reading the bill out loud around 3:20 p.m. ET and it is expected to take about 10 hours.
  • What happens next: After the bill is read, then the Senate will begin 20 hours of debate. The time is evenly divided. Republicans or Democrats could yield back time, so it could be limited if Democrats decide to give back significant portions of time. At some point, the Senate is expected to then move into a vote-a-rama, a tradition in the chamber that typically involves a large number of votes on amendments that can stretch for hours and last until late in the night. There is no saying how long that will go. You can read more about that here. Eventually, the Senate will vote on the bill. If passed in the chamber, the bill will have to go back to the House for a separate vote before Biden signs it into law.
  • What's in the bill: While the Senate bill reflects similar priorities to the House bill and includes many of the same provisions, the Senate legislation differs in a few ways. Senators narrowed the eligibility for stimulus checks and removed a provision to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. You can read about key parts of the bill here and read the full legislation here.

CNN's Tami Luhby and Katie Lobosco contributed reporting to this post. 

4:21 p.m. ET, March 4, 2021

Democratic congressman blasts full reading of the 628-page stimulus bill as a "stunt"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

CNN
CNN

Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California, this afternoon accused Senate Republicans of pulling a "stunt" by insisting that the entire 628-page stimulus bill be read out loud on the Senate floor. 

GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin objected to dispense the reading of the legislation, so the bill is being read now on the Senate floor by the chamber's clerk.

"Americans should see the bill," said Swalwell, speaking on CNN. "That's why it's posted online." 

"To hold up the process on the floor and to have a clerk read the bill for ten hours when anyone could read it online, that's just a stunt," he added. 

Swalwell went on to say that the delay would directly hurt Americans who are eagerly awaiting relief.

"Every hour that stunts like this are pulled off is an hour that a hungry person is not fed and an unemployed person is not at work and someone in need of a vaccination like a teacher doesn't get it," he said.

Watch more:

3:34 p.m. ET, March 4, 2021

The 628-page relief bill is being read on the Senate floor now

From CNN's Manu Raju, Ali Zaslav and Ted Barrett

GOP Sen. Ron Johnson objected to dispense the reading of the bill, so the legislation is now being read on the floor by the Senate clerk. It's 628 pages long.

Aides have said they expect it to take about 10 hours. 

You can follow along and read the full bill below:

3:29 p.m. ET, March 4, 2021

Senate clears procedural vote opening debate on bill, with Vice President Harris casting tie-breaking vote

From CNN's Ali Zaslav, Lauren Fox and Barrett

Senate TV
Senate TV

The Senate successfully cleared a procedural vote to open debate on the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package. Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote.

Now, we expect Sen. Ron Johnson, Republican from Wisconsin, will force a full reading of the 628-page bill, which could take about 10 hours.

3:38 p.m. ET, March 4, 2021

Senate Democrats just released their Covid-19 relief legislative text. Here are key things to know.

From CNN's Lauren Fox and the Hill Team

Senate Democrats have released their version of the Covid relief bill. It's 628 pages long.

While the bill reflects similar priorities to the House bill and includes many of the same provisions, the Senate legislation differs in a few ways.

Here are some key differences:

  • The Senate bill does not include an increase in the $15 minimum wage after the Senate parliamentarian ruled it would not be allowed under the budget rules.
  • The Senate bill also does not include two controversial transportation projects in New York and California. The bill lowers the income thresholds for who is eligible for stimulus checks.
  • Those thresholds now cut off at $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for couples. Beginning at $75,000 and $150,000, the payments decrease up to that threshold.
  • The Senate’s bill still offers a $400 weekly federal benefit to unemployed workers and provides direct aid to state and local governments. The Senate bill, however, has given more money to lower population states than the House bill.

Many of the changes in the Senate bill reflect weeks worth of conversations between Senate moderates and the White House with those talks intensifying in recent days.

Democratic moderates fought in the final days of these talks to include more money for broadband and for rural hospitals. The legislation also increased the funding for states that were hard hit by losses in revenue from tourism.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had a difficult task. He had to win over support of all 50 members of his caucus. In order to pass the bill without Republican votes, he cannot lose a single one.

Read more about the Senate's bill here.