SPRINGFIELD — U.S. Rep. Richard Neal expects the House to pass the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan by Friday, he said in a Monday news conference.
The package would send $1,400 stimulus checks to most individuals, extend unemployment benefits through August and expand a range of tax credits that Neal said would provide relief to workers and families with young children.
“I hope by end of March, people will start to feel it,” said Neal, a Springfield Democrat who represents the Berkshires. Neal chairs the Ways and Means Committee, which wrote legislation allocating over $941 billion worth of the bill’s funding.
Although some Republicans have gawked at the bill’s price tag, Neal said the extent of coronavirus pandemic-related job losses — he estimated that 19 million Americans currently receive unemployment benefits — justify the investments.
“Oftentimes when it comes to government spending or investment, people complain about it in general and support it in the specific,” Neal said. “I think that simply what we’ve done here is sound, and I think it stands up under the magnifying glass of analysis. And it’s necessary.”
Neal said he wants to make some provisions in the bill permanent, including an expanded child tax credit.
Under the proposal, parents could receive up to $3,000 per child 6 to 17, or $3,600 for children younger than 6. Another tax credit would cover up to half of child care expenses up to $4,000.
Neal said the CARES Act, which sought to provide immediate relief in March, “was clearly an effort to buy time, to see how things would shape up and look.”
“So, we were able to get … people at the top of the economy — they got back on their feet very quickly,” he said. “Essential workers, people at the lower end of the economic spectrum — it’s been a long haul for them.”
Neal said the new package can provide “a bridge” back to “a trajectory for growth,” adding that full recovery requires the public health picture to improve.
The Senate, where each party holds 50 seats, might determine the fate of some provisions. Democrats included a proposal to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, but President Joe Biden since has downplayed the likelihood for the provision to pass. Neal said that when he met with Biden and Democratic leaders earlier in February, they discussed an infrastructure package, which they hope to pass next after the stimulus. The storm-related failure of the electrical grid in many parts of Texas, Neal said, demonstrates the need to put more into electric infrastructure.
“Upgrading the grid everywhere is going to be a big deal, and in Massachusetts as well,” he said, noting that El Paso, which is separate from Texas’ largely market-driven grid, did not face the same devastation as other cities.
“There are parts of the grid in Massachusetts that are ancient, and I think the upgraded investment there makes a good deal of sense.”