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Lesson Plans

Senate passes $1.9 trillion relief bill

March 8, 2021

Chairman of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks during a hearing advancing the nomination of Deb Haaland to be Secretary of the Interior on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 4, 2021. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Full Lesson



Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. For a transcript of the video, click here

Summary: President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief plan passed in the Senate with a vote along party lines. The bill had passed the House the previous week. While the current bill retains the large size that President Biden had promised — over $1.9 trillion — certain popular provisions were stripped out, including a raise to a $15/hr minimum wage and $2,000 checks despite previous statements in which Biden said $2,000 checks would be sent out “immediately” after the election. Still, the relief bill provides an extraordinary set of economic relief actions, including the following:

  • Relief checks for up to $1,400 per person.
  • Unemployment insurance checks extended through the fall.
  • Tax credits and payments to households per child.
  • Relief payments to state and local governments to be used for infrastructure repair.
  • Relief to schools to help schools reopen.
  • Relief to ailing industries.
  • Tax breaks for those who have received benefits from past relief bills.
  • Subsidies to help pay for private health insurance.


Warm up questions: 

  1. Who will receive benefits from the new COVID-19 relief bill?
  2. What are some of the criticisms of the bill?
  3. Where and When will the bill likely start to take effect?
  4. Why did no Republicans support the bill?
  5. How did the bill change in the Senate?

Focus questions:

  1. Some of the items taken out of the bill were done so to attract Republican support, though no Republican ended up voting for the bill. Do you think gestures of bipartisan deal making are important? Why or why not?
  2. What do you think is the most important federal policy needed to help move past the coronavirus pandemic?
  3. Do you think the government should continue to play a role helping the American people to the degree this bill does even when the pandemic has finally ended? Explain.

Media literacy: Much of the media coverage of the bill has been about the debate over the promised size of checks to individuals, partly because Biden made statements about $2,000 checks and Democratic politicians campaigned on $2,000 checks in Georgia. The final bill offers $1,400 checks per individual. 

Ask your students: Do you think the media should lead stories on the bill by comparing politician promises to results, or explain the actual contents of the bill that has passed? Explain.

Additional resources:

  • Want to study the relief bill and what it contains in detail? Use this press release from the White House as a jumping off point to understand the impact the bill will have. Then ask:
  • What are some ways critics might dispute some of the claims made in this press release?