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WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats on a pivotal House panel have proposed an additional $1,400 in direct payments to individuals, bolstered unemployment benefits and more generous tax breaks for families with children and for lower earners as Congress began piecing together a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package on Monday.
The plan is expected to closely follow President Joe Biden’s proposed package to address the tolls of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 460,000 Americans, and the nation’s still staggering economy, which has lost 10 million jobs since the crisis began last year. Biden, less than three weeks into his presidency, has declared that defeating the virus and fixing the economy are his top priorities.
The proposal by the Ways and Means Committee, which plans to vote on it by week’s end, would also expand tax credits for families with children, for lower-earning people and for Americans who buy health insurance on marketplaces created by former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. It would also provide health care subsidies for some unemployed workers.
Spending by Ways and Means, one of Congress’ most powerful committees, is expected to exceed $900 billion, nearly half of Biden’s overall plan. The House Education and Labor Committee also previewed its plans on Monday, a roughly $350 billion package that includes $130 billion to help schools reopen safely, $40 billion for colleges battered by the pandemic and gradually raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Top Democrats hope the House will approve the complete bill later this month and send a final House-Senate version to Biden for his signature before mid-March when crucial emergency unemployment benefits will otherwise expire.