Nation/World


Congress passes plan to put cash in hands

WASHINGTON – Congress passed an economic stimulus bill Thursday that will give $600 to most individual taxpayers, $1,200 to couples and $300 to more than 20 million low-income seniors and disabled veterans.

President Bush said he’d sign the bill.

“This bill will help to stimulate consumer spending and accelerate needed business investment,” Bush said. “This economic growth package is an example of bipartisan cooperation at a time when the American people most expect it.”

The stimulus plan, which will cost $168 billion in the first two years, will provide money to about 136 million Americans. The government hopes most of them will spend the money and spur the economy.

Families with children will receive an additional $300 per child. The full rebate is available to individuals with adjusted gross incomes up to $75,000 and families with taxable incomes up to $150,000. Partial rebates will be available to families with incomes between $150,000 and $186,000.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who helped broker a compromise with Senate Democrats, said the IRS will begin sending the payments in early May.

Both chambers waived requirements that the stimulus plan be offset with spending cuts. That means it will add to the federal deficit, which is projected to exceed $200 billion in the current budget year ending Sept. 30.

The Senate vote of 81-16 Thursday capped days of political maneuvering that ended when Democrats dropped their demand that the proposal offer more jobless benefits, heating aid for the poor and tax breaks for some industries. Republicans agreed to a compromise that included payments to 20 million senior citizens and 250,000 disabled veterans who don’t pay income taxes.

The measures were added to a stimulus bill that the House of Representatives passed last week and that President Bush supported. The Senate version of the bill passed the House on Thursday night, 380-34.

Senate Democrats originally tried to add unemployment insurance benefits, tax credits for alternative energy, greater tax relief for some businesses and direct energy assistance to the poor in the stimulus plan, but their efforts were defeated Wednesday.

Most mainstream economists put the odds of a recession at 35 percent to 50 percent. Hoping to avoid that, the Federal Reserve late last month slashed interest rates more than 1.25 percentage points in eight days and 2.25 percentage points since last September to make it easier for consumers and businesses to borrow and spend.


 

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