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Direct Payments, Minimum Wage Hike: Where The Economic Relief Bill Stands

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Things usually move slowly in Washington D.C. but the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief/stimulus package proposed by President Biden is on a fast track. WBZ-TV's Jon Keller has the latest on where it stands.

Video Transcript

ANARIDIS RODRIGUEZ: --aggressive COVID-19 relief plan is making its way through the House this week. And Democrats hope to have the bill on the president's desk before unemployment insurance benefits run out in mid-March. WBZ political analyst Jon Keller joins us now. Jon, where does this bill stand right now?

JON KELLER: Well, Anaridis, it's a fluid situation, as often happens in Washington, but here's where things stand. The Biden plan calls for people making up to $75 grand a year and couples earning up to $150 grand to get $1,400 checks. The Republican counteroffer, $1,000 to people earning up to $50 grand, individuals, that is, and up to $100 grand for couples.

Now both sides have said they're willing to negotiate, but so far neither has budged. Polling suggests that the Biden plan has overwhelming public support. And one recent poll showed there are even 40% of Republicans backing the higher check amounts.

ANARIDIS RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I saw that. Jon, the Biden bill also wants to boost the current $2,000 child tax credit up to $3,600, depending on the age of the child. It would for the first time reach the poorest families who earn too little right now to qualify. And it would also be given out in the form of monthly payments instead of a once a year lump sum. Where do negotiations stand on this?

JON KELLER: Well, look, this also has little chance of drawing any Republican votes by all accounts, even though there are Republicans who back that monthly payment concept. Keep in mind, former Massachusetts governor now Utah Senator Mitt Romney has introduced his own child tax credit plan that would provide even more than the Biden plan, but it would pay for it by cutting back on other family assistance programs. So I'm not sure whether that will get any traction, Anaridis.

ANARIDIS RODRIGUEZ: Another contentious element is the minimum wage increase. What are you learning about this?

JON KELLER: Yeah, well, that's probably the most controversial piece of all this, the doubling of the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next four years-- which the Congressional Budget Office says would boost the earnings of 17 million Americans, but they also say it could cost 1.4 million their jobs. Now this one has caused rifts within the Democratic party, and it's been attacked by Republicans as really not relevant to pandemic recovery. The Senate Parliamentarian, a woman named Elizabeth MacDonough, will rule on whether or not it belongs in the bill a little later on this week. Anaridis.

anaridis rodriguez: If she does rule that it could remain, they'll definitely need to build consensus quickly. Jon Keller, as always, thank you so much.