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$1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill on track to hit Friday milestone: What we know today

Congress is rushing to complete the $1.9 trillion stimulus package with $1,400 checks in the next few weeks. Here's what you need to know about where the bill stands.

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Congress is on track to complete the latest stimulus package much faster than it did the last one.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This Friday, the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill is expected to cross an important marker on its way to passage. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer tweeted that the House will bring the bill to a vote on Feb. 26. Following the House vote, the COVID-19 relief package will move to the Senate and then, if Democrats can hold to their schedule, on to President Joe Biden to sign on or before March 14. Once signed, the package would send a third round of stimulus checks, extend federal unemployment benefits and increase funding for coronavirus vaccine distribution.

The middle of March is only a few weeks away, however. In that time, the Senate and House need to agree on outstanding issues in the bill -- including whether to boost the national minimum wage and cancel student-loan debt. To bypass roadblocks to the bill's passage, Democrats are leaning on a legislative technique called budget reconciliation. The procedure will let them skip over expected Republican opposition, but it comes with rigid guidelines for what lawmakers can and cannot include in the bill. The Democrats' plan to raise the minimum wage, for example, may fall outside those restrictions.

If it can keep to the aggressive timeline, Congress could deliver a new stimulus payment as soon as next month, right in the middle of tax season (here's why that matters). Here's everything important the package could contain. This story is regularly updated with new information.

What's the timeline for the stimulus bill?

After the expected House vote on Friday, the Senate will take up the bill. While Senate Democrats have already agreed to much of the legislation, some pieces, such as the minimum wage, are still being debated. After both the House and Senate reach agreement, the bill will go to the president to sign by mid-March. Below are more details on the bill.

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A $1,400 third stimulus check, with an upper income limit

A $1,400 stimulus check amount looks set. Congressional Democrats, however, are considering new rules to "target" or restrict the checks to lower income earners. Under those proposed eligibility rules, some who qualified for the first two payments may not make the cut for a third. A hard ceiling on income, designed to exclude higher earners from getting a check, would come with a rule change for the use of dependents in the stimulus check formula. Check out our stimulus payment calculator to see how that could work for you.

The new proposal would give the IRS a deadline of Dec. 31 this year to finish sending the stimulus checks.

For this third round of payments, Congressional Democrats are pushing to include adult dependents as well as children and families with mixed-status citizenship. Here are all the ways a third check could bring more money, or how you could get less or be disqualified altogether. Here's what happens to your total if a check arrives during tax season. And here is how the third check compares to the first two payments.

Will student loan forgiveness be part of the bill?

Forgiving student-loan debt is on the table, but Senate Democrats and Biden have different dollar figures in mind for how much to cancel. Biden this month said he supports canceling $10,000 in student debt and extending the pause on student loan repayment. Biden's figure is at odds with a Senate Democrat proposal, however, that calls for canceling up to $50,000 in student debt.

"I do think that, in this moment of economic pain and strain, that we should be eliminating interest on the debts that are accumulated, No. 1. And No. 2, I'm prepared to write off the $10,000 debt, but not $50,000," Biden said on Feb. 16. The House stimulus bill doesn't address student loan debt.

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Democrats are pushing for a minimum wage boost.

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A $15 minimum wage boost? Or $11? Or 10?

minimum-wage hike is in the House version of the relief bill, but it may not make it through the Senate. The proposed legislation would gradually raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years.

Some in the Senate are pushing for a different hourly rate. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said the $15-an-hour rate is too high and would support a raise to $11 an hour. Republican Sens. Tom Cotton and Mitt Romney are proposing going lower, setting the minimum wage at $10.

The Senate could strike the minimum wage provision when it receives the bill, however, because it may not fit the rules for budget reconciliation. Sen. Bernie Sanders, however, said a wage hike would be covered. "Please don't tell me we can't use the same rules to provide a raise to 32 million workers by increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour," he tweeted Feb. 20.

If a minimum-wage raise doesn't make it into the final bill, Biden has said he's committed to increasing it from the current $7.25 an hour as part of a separate negotiation with Congress.

On Jan. 24, Biden signed an executive order directing the Office of Personnel Management to create recommendations for a minimum-wage increase to $15 per hour for federal jobs.

Additional $400 in federal unemployment benefits

If the new bill is approved by March 14, it would renew the federal unemployment aid without a gap in funding. The House version of the plan would send $400 federal unemployment payments through August, with triggers that would extend the benefits after September for those who continue to be out of work and include automatic payment adjustments linked to health and economic conditions.

The weekly $300 federal unemployment checks Congress approved in December as part of the $900 billion COVID-19 relief legislation are set to expire in March.

Expanded child tax credit would bring many families thousands of dollars more

The House bill would expand the child tax credit that currently allows families to claim up to a $2,000 credit for children under age 17. If approved, the plan would extend the benefit to lower-income families who otherwise wouldn't receive the credit. Families could claim up to $3,600 per year for a child under age 6 and up to $3,000 per year for those ages 6 to 17.

The expansion would target low- and middle-income households, according to Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center. "More than one-third of the benefit would go to the lowest income parents, who'd get an average tax cut of almost $3,300," Gleckman wrote on Feb. 10. "Low- and middle-income parents would receive nearly 80% of benefits."

The plan would also expand tax credits for one year to help cover the cost of child care. Families could get back as a tax credit as much as half of their spending on child care for children under age 13, up to $4,000 for a single child and $8,000 for two or more children.

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Congress may set aside more money for child tax credits.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Coronavirus vaccine delivery throughout the US

More than 75 million vaccine doses have so far been distributed in the US -- and nearly 65 million administered -- with the country on track to meet Biden's goal of 100 million vaccine jabs during the first 100 days of his administration (April 30 would be 100 days after Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration). In a town hall-style meeting on CNN on Feb. 16, Biden said that by the end of July, the country will have enough supply to vaccinate everyone in the US. The goal then becomes having enough other supplies and people to administer the vaccine.

Biden's plan would set out $160 billion for a nationwide vaccine program that would help state and local governments get the vaccine into people's systems.

The eviction ban is extended through September

The new proposal would extend the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums until Sept. 30. The plan would provide $30 billion in rental assistance for renters and small landlords, especially for low- and moderate-income households. On Jan. 20, Biden signed an executive order extending the eviction ban through March, which means it may not be part of the final new stimulus bill at all.

Funds to help reopen schools during COVID-19

Getting students back on campus is a critical piece of the economic recovery. The bill would work to return students to schools by having a majority of kindergarten to eighth-grade classrooms safely reopen in the first 100 days of the administration.

Additional money for state, local and tribal governments

Since the fall, economists have pushed for Congress to provide funding for state and local public jobs. "The case for additional aid is strong because the downside risk of doing nothing is quite real," the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, said at the end of last year. "The fact that over 1 million state and local government workers have lost their jobs is a sign that fiscal distress has had real consequences." In addition to state and local funding, the bill would provide funds for food and water assistance and food stamps.

For more information about stimulus money, here are the top facts you need to know about stimulus checks, how to calculate the size of your check and how your dependents could figure into your payment.