US lawmakers on Wednesday approved President Joe Biden”s landmark $1.9 trillion (€1.6 trillion) COVID-19 relief bill.
The bill has been sent to the White House for Biden to ratify after the House of Representatives gave its backing with 220 votes in favour and 211 against.
The White House described it as a “historic legislative package that will turn the page on this pandemic, deliver direct relief to Americans, and jumpstart our economy.”
Biden tweeted: “Help is here — and brighter days lie ahead”.
The American Rescue Plan bill is the US’s sixth relief package since the beginning of the pandemic. It will provide checks of up to $1,400 (€1,175) this year to most adults and extend $300 (€251) per week emergency unemployment benefits into early September.
It also allocated hundreds of billions for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, schools, state and local governments and ailing industries from airlines to concert halls.
There are expanded tax credits over the next year for children, child care and family leave — some of them credits that Democrats have signalled they’d like to make permanent — plus spending for renters, feeding programs and people’s utility bills.
There’s aid for farmers of colour, pension systems and student borrowers, and subsidies for consumers buying health insurance and states expanding Medicaid coverage for lower earners.
Democrats overwhelmingly approved the deal with just one of them voting against but Republicans massively rejected it, denouncing it as “a pay-off for progressives”.
Democrats are “using COVID as an excuse to ram through their far-left agenda,” the House of Representatives official Twitter account stated.
A poll by the Pew Research Centre released on Tuesday found that 70 per cent of the more than 12,000 American surveyed were in favour of the legislation.
The US economy contracted by 3.5 per cent in 2020 — its worst performance since the end of World War II.