President Joe Biden’s $1.9tn Covid-19 relief plan was approved in the Senate on March 6 despite every Republican senator voting against.
This is President Biden’s third major relief bill aimed at helping Americans deal with the impact of the coronavirus.
The House of Representatives – controlled by Democrats – is expected to approve it on March 9.
President Biden described the Senate vote as “one more giant step forward” in delivering the promise to help people.
America’s worst public health crisis in a century has left nearly 523,000 people dead and 29 million infected, with a current unemployment rate of 6.2%.
The package envisages one-off payments worth $1,400 to be sent to most Americans.
Republicans, who have criticized President Biden’s plan as too costly, forced a number of compromises, notably the lowering of federal unemployment benefit from $400 to $300 a week. The benefit would be extended until September 6 under the plan.
The president said: “It obviously wasn’t easy. It wasn’t always pretty. But it was so desperately needed, urgently needed.”
He added he hoped for a quick passage of the bill in the House so that he could sign it into law.
The so-called American Rescue Plan allocates $350 billion to state and local governments, and some $130 billion to schools.
It would also provide $49 billion for expanded Covid-19 testing and research, as well as $14 billion for vaccine distribution.
The $1,400 stimulus cheques will be quickly phased out for those with higher incomes – at $75,000 for a single person and for couples making more than $150,000.
The extension of jobless benefits until September, meanwhile, would mark a key reprieve for millions of long-term unemployed Americans whose eligibility for benefits is currently due to expire in mid-March.
The bill also includes grants for small businesses as well as more targeted funds: $25 billion for restaurants and bars; $15 billion for airlines and another $8 billion for airports; $30 billion for transit; $1.5 billion for Amtrak rail and $3 billion for aerospace manufacturing.
While Republicans broadly backed two previous stimulus plans, passed when they controlled both the White House and the Senate under President Donald Trump, they have criticized the cost of President Biden’s bill.
There was a marathon 27-hour session before the final vote on March 6, and the 50-49 tally along party lines was indicative of the widespread Republican opposition.
The even split between the parties in the Senate meant that every Democratic senator needed to support the party’s plans.