Specifics of Workforce Policies Come into View as House Committees Consider COVID Relief Bill

February 12, 2021

House committees considered extensions and expansions of unemployment benefits, paid leave benefits, new stimulus payments, and a minimum wage increase in markups of the next round of COVID relief legislation.

Unemployment benefits: The Ways and Means Committee passed a provision extending federal supplemental unemployment benefits until August 29, 2021, and increasing the benefit from $300 to $400 for the weeks ending after March 14 and before August 29.  Federal unemployment programs for those who are self-employed or have exhausted their regular state benefits are also extended to August 29.

Paid leave credits for companies with under 500 employees are extended until March 31, 2021.  The credit had previously expired on December 31, 2020.  Meanwhile, President Biden's proposal, which would apply the FFCRA paid leave mandate to companies with over 500 employees until September 30, 2021, may be featured in the next round of COVID relief. 

Stimulus payments and expanded child and child care tax credits:  The Ways and Means Committee advanced a $1,400 per person stimulus payment and significantly expanded the child tax credit.  For working families with child care expenses, the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit is expanded to a 20% to 50% credit on $8,000 to $16,000 of qualified child care expenses.

Minimum wage:  The Education and Labor Committee passed a provision to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025.  When the bill goes to the Senate, it is unclear whether the raise will be able to survive the Byrd rule, which limits reconciliation to tax and spending provisions.

Looking ahead:  House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) indicated that the House is aiming to pass the measure within two weeks, giving the Senate time to vote on the bill before unemployment benefits expire on March 14.