AUSTIN, Texas - Congress continues to debate what will be included in President Joe Biden's COVID-19 relief bill. The $1.9 trillion stimulus package passed by the House Saturday is currently making it way through the Senate with some changes. Meanwhile, Texans wait to learn what kind of relief is on the way.
"The Biden administration is making sure that nobody's getting left behind. They're making sure that we're protecting everybody while we build our economy back better. You know, there is no economic recovery until we beat the Coronavirus crisis and this economic recovery, the stimulus package, is going to help us get to that point," said Abhi Rahman, communications director for the Texas Democratic Party.
"I think it makes a lot more sense to not just spit at the wind with a trillion here and a trillion there, but to actually unleash the power of the free market to loosen restrictions on businesses. And there's ways to do that while being safe. There's ways to do that while abiding by the CDC guidelines," said Andy Hogue, communications director for the Travis County Republican Party.
The bill currently includes $1,400 checks to Americans making less than $75,000. It also increases the child tax credit, helps fund schools, local governments, vaccine distribution and extends unemployment benefits.
"Texas still has an unemployment rate of 8.9%. Texas needs direct cash flow right now, and Texas still has millions of Texans who are unemployed," Rahman said.
"Instead of trying to plug the dam one finger at a time, let's just unleash the forces at work. People want to go to work, people want to make money and be productive. So let's do that. Let's generate some," said Hogue.
The Senate version of the bill will likely not include a $15 minimum wage increase, which was passed by the House. That's because a senate parliamentarian ruled the increase could not be included in the bill. Although, several House Democrats are still fighting to find a way to include it.
"It's funny to me, because $15 isn't even a living wage. $15 an hour is something that isn't that much. It's not enough for people to even sustain themselves. So to me there's no even question that we should be raising the minimum wage to $15," Rahman said.
"I don't think a minimum wage increase is right at all. The only way you can make a minimum wage increase work is to control prices. Because once the minimum wage goes up, the price of bread goes up, the price of milk goes up, the price of everything else goes up to where essentially $15 becomes the new $7," said Hogue.
So far only Democrats have supported the stimulus package, while republicans argue it is too expensive and includes too many projects unrelated to COVID-19 relief.
Biden hopes to get the bill passed by March 14, before unemployment benefits expire.