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Congress Passes Economic Stimulus Package, Bill Heads to President

On February 10, the Senate approved, 61-37, its version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan (H.R. 1), adopting a substitute amendment by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ben Nelson (D-NE). The House passed its version of the bill (H.R. 1) on January 28; the Senate Appropriations and Finance Committees passed their respective portions of similar legislation (S. 1) on January 27 (see The Source1/30/09).

On February 13, the House passed, 246-183, the conference report for H.R. 1, after defeating, 186-244, a motion to recommit the bill. The Senate passed the conference report, 60-38, later the same day. The president is expected to sign the legislation into law.

The conference report would provide $798.5 billion in government spending and tax relief $29.5 billion and $48.5 billion less than the House and Senate versions, respectively. The report contains:

  • $500 million for the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children. The House provided $100 million, while the Senate allocated $500 million;
  • $100 million for the National School Lunch Program. The Senate bill also provided $100 million; the House bill did not allocate funds for the program;
  • $225 million for violence against women prevention and prosecution programs. Of that amount, $50 million would be allocated for transitional housing assistance grants for victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. The House and Senate bills allocated $300 million;
  • Like the Senate bill, the conference report provides $50 million for state and local law enforcement Internet Crimes Against Children initiatives. The House bill did not allocate funds for the program;
  • $24 million for the Small Business Administration’s microloan program. The Senate bill provided $84 million for the microloan program. The House did not allocate funds for the microloan program;
  • $1.25 billion for state grants for dislocated worker employment and training. Both the House and Senate bills allocated $1 billion for the program;
  • Like the House and Senate bills, the conference report provides $2 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant. Of that amount, $93.587 million would be allocated for activities that improve the quality of infant and toddler care;
  • Consistent with the House version, the conference report allocates $1 billion for Head Start and $1.1 billion for Early Head Start. The Senate bill provided $500 million for Head Start and $550 million for Early Head Start;
  • $12.2 billion for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The House included $13 billion for IDEA, while the Senate included $13.5 billion for the program; and
  • $240 million for military child development centers and $114.607 million for military family housing.

The conference report modifies previous versions of the “Making Work Pay Credit” to provide a 6.2 percent of earned income, or $400, tax credit for individuals ($800 for couples). The bill would begin phasing out the credit at $75,000. The House and Senate versions of the bill would have provided a $500 credit for individuals ($1,000 for couples). The House began phasing out the credit at $75,000; the Senate phase-out began at $70,000.

The report also increases the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for families with three or more qualifying children. In order to reduce the marriage penalty, the report also increases the amount at which the credit begins to phase out by $1,880, regardless of the number of qualifying children.

The conference report would expand eligibility for the refundable child tax credit for tax years 2009 and 2010.The House bill would have eliminated the income threshold for the credit altogether; the Senate version would lower the income threshold for the refundable child tax credit from $8,500 to $8,100.

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