Too Little, Too Late

The COVID relief bill passed by the Senate last week offers much more than just a stimulus check, but it still falls shorts in some key areas.

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photo courtesy of CNN

The Senate passed the COVID relief a week before President Biden officially signed it.

Christiaan Titus, Staff Writer

After months of waiting, Americans are finally getting a fraction of the relief that is needed to help them get by during the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. 

President Joe Biden signed a relief package worth $1.9 trillion on Thursday to the excitement of many Americans who are struggling. While the $1,400 one time stimulus payments are at the forefront of the bill, there are also many other aspects that are worth noting.

Firstly, while the $1,400 payment will be helpful to many people, it is still a far cry from the “immediate” $2,000 checks that were supposed to be sent out as soon as Biden became president. It is estimated that over ten million Americans are behind on rent, with the majority of these renters being as much four months past due, so this is not nearly enough to give most people the necessary relief.

Of course, $2,000 would still not compare to what is actually required to help Americans through these times of crisis, but it is easy to see how many may feel cheated and lied to. The bill contains much stricter income requirements, meaning that there will be significantly less people receiving payments. No single person with an income in excess of $80,000 a year and no married couple with an income over $160,000 will receive a stimulus check.

It is estimated that over ten million Americans are behind on rent, with the majority of these renters being as much four months past due, so this is not nearly enough to give most people the necessary relief.”

However, the direct cash payments were only a part of the bill. With the payments, those eligible can expect a $300 weekly unemployment check that will be tax exempt up to the first $10,200 for individuals, or $20,400 for married couples. These checks will be continue until the 6th of September, rather than the original date of March 14th, essentially creating a six months. This will come as somewhat of a relief for the over 18 million Americans collecting unemployment benefits as of this February.

Another major point of the bill was the addition of a major child tax credit. The tax credit is increased from the original $2,000 to $3,600 per child under six, while parents of children between the ages of six and 16 years will receive $3,000 per child. There was also increased eligibility for parents of older children. A $500 tax credit can be claimed for any child that is either 17 or 18 years of age and for any full-time college students between 19 and 24 years.

However, as with the $1,400 stimulus payment, the benefits are phased out rather quickly as income levels increase.  Any joint filing couple with an income level below $400,000 will be eligible for the credits, and the assistance will be decreased for individuals making over $75,000 a year, heads of household earning more than $112,500 a year, and married couples earning more than $150,000 a year. However, they will of course be able to receive some kind of reduced credit, rather than just none at all.

There are also a few other less expensive provisions that were included in the bill. These include emergency rental assistance, mortgage payment assistance, and extension of paid sick leave. While the emergency rental assistance is definitely somewhat helpful, it comes nowhere near close to actually helping renters fully pay off their debt and will still leave many Americans struggling.

With many are calling for rent during the pandemic to be cancelled all together, it is very disappointing to see such a half measure, especially with Democrats in complete control of the Senate and the presidency.

Sick leave was extended for full time employees to 600 hours, or 15 weeks, to give individuals time recover from COVID-19 or care for family members who have the virus. While this sounds nice, employees should not have to use sick hours to recover from COVID-19, as it should be an immediate privilege.

The bill has also left many optimistic that Biden could soon cancel up to $50,000 of student loan debt, as there is a provision that prevents borrowers from facing a surprise income tax bill if their debt is forgiven. This would be a huge first step in helping many Americans. However, considering that Biden could do this with an executive order, some can’t help but ask why it wasn’t done sooner.

Overall, while the emergency COVID-19 stimulus bill is filled with many benefits and assistance for people struggling, there is certainly a lot more that Biden and Senate Democrats could be doing with their strong majority.