New COVID-19 Relief Bill Benefits College Students
- The fast-tracked $1.9 trillion bill could provide financial relief to many college students.
- Proposals include unemployment insurance, protection for renters, and school aid.
- The ambitious stimulus package would be the third COVID-19 relief bill so far.
Backed by President Joe Biden, the new $1.9 trillion relief bill, known as the American Rescue Plan, includes stimulus checks, child tax benefits, and unemployment insurance for which many college students would be eligible. It also comes with $35 billion for colleges and universities, bringing total relief funding for higher education to around $70 billion.
The budget proposal — which is double the size of the largest government spending packages to date — could be fast-tracked into law by the end of the month. Democrats are advancing the bill through a process known as budget reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority.
The new COVID-19 relief bill — which is double the size of the largest government spending packages to date — could be fast-tracked into law by the end of the month.
After an all-night vote-a-rama (debate on reconciliation bills is limited to 20 hours) on February 5, Vice President Kamala Harris arrived to cast her first tie-breaking vote, advancing the measure over unanimous Republican opposition.
Though not yet law, the relief package, as well as the hundreds of proposed Republican amendments, serve as blueprints for future laws. Budget resolutions direct congressional committees to write certain spending and tax bills and enable them to pass with a simple majority.
In bypassing the need for any Republican support, Democrats point to a deadline of March 14, when the unemployment benefits put in place by the Trump administration are set to expire.
How the New Stimulus Package Impacts College Students
The new COVID-19 relief plan proposes $170 billion in funding for K-12 schools, colleges, and universities, with an additional $35 billion earmarked for higher education. This money will go toward helping campuses meet COVID-19 safety standards, reduce class sizes, invest in virtual technology, and offer summer school to make up for last year's disruptions. It will also provide financial assistance to millions of college students in the form of grants.
Many college students stand to benefit from larger stimulus checks ($1,400), increased unemployment aid ($400 per week), higher child tax credits ($3,000 per child), and renters' relief (the proposal would give another $30 billion to renters and small landlords).
Additionally, the American Rescue Plan aims to raise the national minimum wage to $15 per hour, which would have a major impact on students working their way through college; however, this particular proposal is unlikely to pass given the state of the small-business economy.
With the new stimulus package, college students could benefit from larger stimulus checks, increased unemployment aid, higher child tax credits, and renters’ relief.
While Biden hoped the ambitious COVID-19 relief package would garner at least some GOP support, Senate Republicans unanimously disapproved of it, with many warning of "the risks of too much 'stimulus,'" including higher prices and higher interest rates. They argue that funds should focus on ending the pandemic and that payments should target only individuals below a certain income threshold.
Republicans also point to hundreds of billions of dollars in unspent funds, saying schools and other institutions should take advantage of money already approved in previous relief packages before the government issues more.
COVID-19 Relief Students Have Received So Far
Congress passed a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill last March and a $900 billion relief bill in December. The former, known as the CARES Act, included $14 billion for U.S. colleges and universities, while the latter doled out an additional $20.5 billion in funding for higher education.
College leaders have called the $35 billion available in relief funding "wholly inadequate," but Biden's plan could soon double that amount. Many colleges — especially small, regional institutions — continue to cut faculty and programs due to lost income and increased expenses during the pandemic.
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