President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law on Thursday, a day after the House of Representatives voted for it, 220-211. The $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which marks Biden’s first substantial act as president, represents a wide-ranging effort to provide Americans with some relief as the COVID-19 pandemic crosses the one-year mark. The package is expected to have a positive impact on Latino communities across the country, which have suffered substantial numbers of death, illness, unemployment and wage loss during the pandemic.
The law includes several key components aimed at helping Americans cope with the economic impacts of the pandemic, including a third stimulus payment of up to $1,400 for people making less than $75,000.
It also includes extended unemployment benefits of $300 per week through Sept.6, increased tax credits for parents of children under the age of 17, and eliminates taxes on the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits for households with incomes less than $150,000. The extended unemployment benefits come just before the previously-approved pandemic benefits were due to run out this month.
The relief package also includes $350 billion to state and local governments and nearly $20 billion to increase COVID-19 vaccinations.
Many Latinos have continued to struggle under the pandemic, and data shows Latino communities are disproportionately affected by it. According to the Center for American Progress, Latinos are 1.7 times more likely to contract COVID-19, and much more likely to suffer serious health consequences or death. Latinos are also four times likelier to end up hospitalized, and 2.8 times likelier to die from a COVID infection. The economic impacts of COVID are also disproportionate among Latinos and other communities of color, who accounted for 23% of the initial job losses due to the pandemic.
The package also includes an extension of the 15% increase in nutrition assistance benefits until September and $880 million for what’s known as the WIC program, which provides food assistance for low-income women who are pregnant and young children. Additionally, it provides $10.4 billion in funding for programs that affect food supply, including increasing vaccinations among agricultural workers and increasing access to healthcare in rural areas.
Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX) marked the bill’s passage in the House with a simple but effective message on Twitter: Relief is on the way to Texans.
The bill went through several revisions on its way to the president and ultimately ended up losing the $15 minimum wage component, reducing unemployment benefits by $100, and lowering the income limits for stimulus payments.
As expected, Congressional votes for the bill followed party lines, despite widespread bipartisan support among Americans. According to the Pew Research Center’s recent poll, 70% of Americans supported the bill, while only 28% opposed it. In the Senate, the bill passed with a partisan 50-49 vote, with Republican Senator Dan Sullivan absent. The 220-211 vote in the House was similar, with Jared Golden of Maine as the sole Democrat voting against it, and zero votes in favor from House Republicans.
Biden swiftly signed the bill the day after it was approved by the House, saying, “This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving people in this nation — working people, middle-class folks, the people who built this country — a fighting chance.”
Stimulus payments are expected to begin within days.