House Passes $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Economic Relief Bill


[Update: The U.S. Senate passed a revised bill on March 6.]

The U.S. House of Representatives passed another round of COVID-19-related legislation that would provide additional relief to workers and employers through expanded federal unemployment benefits and additional small-business aid.

The House approved the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 in a 219-212 vote early Feb. 27. The U.S. Senate will now consider the measure.

"If we act now decisively, quickly and boldly, we can finally get ahead of this virus," said President Joe Biden. "We can finally get our economy moving again."

We've rounded up resources and articles from SHRM Online and other trusted outlets on the news.

Extended Unemployment Assistance

If passed, the bill would extend until Aug. 29 certain benefits offered through temporary pandemic relief programs. The benefits are currently set to expire on March 14. Under the bill, recipients of unemployment compensation would receive $400 a week in federal benefits in addition to state-level benefits. The aid also includes Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for self-employed and gig workers and other workers who don't qualify for state unemployment benefits, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which gives people who have been unemployed long term additional weeks of state benefits. The bill would provide PUA recipients up to 74 weeks (rather than 50) of benefits and PEUC recipients up to 48 weeks (extended from 24 weeks). The bill would also provide an extra $100 a week for certain self-employed workers who aren't receiving benefits through the PUA program.


Relief for Small Businesses and Others

The bill includes $25 billion for a new grant program that would be administered through the Small Business Administration and provide funds to bars, restaurants and other venues that had to close during the pandemic. The bill would also provide financial assistance to individuals and families, schools, and state and local governments. Additional funding would be allocated to COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution.


$15 Minimum Wage Debated

The House stimulus package includes phased increases to the federal minimum wage, which would raise it to $15 an hour by 2025. The Senate parliamentarian, however, has ruled against including the minimum wage hike in the pandemic relief bill. The bill was fast-tracked through the budget reconciliation process, which requires a simple majority vote to pass the Senate rather than the 60 votes typically needed to pass legislation. But strict rules apply for measures to be considered through the budget reconciliation process. The Senate will form its own version of the bill under reconciliation rules, and both chambers of Congress must vote on the final version before it is sent to the president's desk.


Employers May Be Eligible for a Second PPP Loan

An economic relief package that was passed in December 2020 expanded the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP aims to help struggling businesses keep workers employed during the COVID-19 crisis. Employers that received loans through the program last year may be eligible for a second loan if they meet certain criteria. Eligible employers can now apply for a first or second loan through March 31.

(SHRM Online)

Coronavirus and COVID-19 Resources for the Workplace

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we work and manage employees. Here are some resources from the Society for Human Resource Management to help you work your way through the pandemic.

(SHRM Online)



Hire the best HR talent or advance your own career.

Are you a department of one?

Expand your toolbox with the tools and techniques needed to fix your organization’s unique needs.

Expand your toolbox with the tools and techniques needed to fix your organization’s unique needs.



HR Daily Newsletter

News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.