Senate Passes $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Economic Relief Bill


The U.S. Senate passed the American Rescue Plan Act in a 50-49 vote on March 6. The bill aims to provide additional COVID-19 economic relief, including expanded federal unemployment benefits and small-business aid.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a version of the bill in a 219-212 vote on Feb. 27 and will now consider the Senate's revisions before sending it to the president for signature.

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

Extended Unemployment Benefits

The federal government's $300 weekly supplement to unemployment benefits is currently set to expire on March 14. The House initially proposed extending the benefits at a higher weekly rate, but the Senate approved an extension of the unemployment payments at $300 a week through Sept. 6. The first $10,200 in unemployment benefits would be tax-free for households earning up to $150,000. The bill also extends 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. More than 18 million people were collecting unemployment benefits as of mid-February, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.


Relief for Restaurants and Others

The Senate bill would allocate $50 billion to small businesses, including $28.6 billion (increased from $25 billion in the House bill) for a new grant program that would provide funds to bars, restaurants and other venues that had to close during the pandemic. The bill would expand the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to cover more nonprofits and digital media companies and add $15 billion to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance Grants Program. 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.

(U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship)

$15 Minimum Wage Removed

The House version of the stimulus package had included phased increases to the federal minimum wage, which would raise it to $15 an hour by 2025. The Senate parliamentarian, however, ruled against including the minimum wage hike in the pandemic relief bill, which was fast-tracked through the budget reconciliation process. So the Senate's version of the bill does not include the minimum wage provision. The House will now vote on the Senate's version of the bill before the measure can be sent to the president's desk. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the House will vote on the Senate's version of the bill on March 9.


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. 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)



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