Democrats Unveil $825B Stimulus Plan
The plan was developed after weeks of talks with President-elect Barack Obama’s top aides, and includes a strong emphasis on energy, education, health care and highway construction to create jobs.
The twin goals of the legislation are “immediate job creation and continuing job creation,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said at a news conference.
Pelosi said the bill would likely be ready by the mid-February deadline Congress has set for itself. The House proposal, called the American Recovery and Reinvestment bill, will go to the appropriate House committees for review and then move to the Senate.
Mr. Obama has said that stimulus legislation is critical to halting a recession that has gone on for 14 months. Unemployment has risen sharply, and the president-elect has warned that it could reach into the double digits if preventative measures are not taken.
Aides and experts warned however, that the House proposal will not solve joblessness, but rather ensure a lesser rate of unemployment than if the government took no action.
The proposal stated: “This package is the first crucial step in a concerted effort to create and save three to four million jobs, jumpstart our economy, and begin the process of transforming it for the 21st century,” according to The New York Times.
Included in the package is $90 billion in infrastructure spending to modernize roads, bridges, mass transit and waterways. Other components include: $87 billion for temporary aid to states for Medicaid costs, $79 billion to curb the effects of service cuts in schools and colleges, and $54 billion in renewable energy investments, according to The New York Times.
Though largely reflective of Mr. Obama’s wishes, the bill does not include his idea of a $3,000-per-hire tax credit for businesses intended to spur employers to create more jobs. Critics said it was too small to be effective. However, the House proposal does keep a tax cut that enables businesses to write off their losses. There is also a $500 tax credit per worker and $1,000 tax credit per working couple.
To help the most hard-hit in the downturn, the bill would give $27 million to continue unemployment benefits to Dec. 31, 2009; and $9 billion to increase the current unemployment check by $25. Workers receive roughly $300 a week, according to CNN. The proposal also calls for a $20 billion temporary increase in food stamps.
Health insurance aid would be extended as well. The bill calls for $30.3 billion to extend the Cobra health insurance program. Cobra allows recently laid off workers to keep former employers’ health insurance plans.
The bill would also provide $32 billion to upgrade the nation’s electrical distribution system, $20 billion in tax cuts to promote development of alternative fuels as well as additional funds to make public housing and offices more energy efficient, according to the Associated Press.
Spending would occur over the next two years, although the price tag is expected to rise as the legislation moves through Congress.