Final U.S. Economic Stimulus Program Approved

Washington, D.C.–Congress approved a $168 billion economic stimulus plan, including taxpayer rebates and business tax breaks, on Thursday, The New York Times reports.The stimulus plan contains several provisions to help the housing market, including increasing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s home loan limits for a year to help homeowners refinance or get new mortgages in costly housing markets. The new limits for the government-sponsored finance organizations will be tailored to local markets. The cap for loans the Federal Housing administration can insure also was raised.The stimulus plan was extremely similar to the one passed last week by the House, despite a partisan debate over how much the plan should cost. The Senate’s plan–which added a stipulation that the rebate would not be offered to illegal immigrants and put in payments for 20 million Social Security recipients and 250,000 disabled veterans–was $7 billion more than the House proposal.The House quickly accepted the Senate changes with a vote of 380 to 34. The bill is now at the White House, awaiting the president’s signature. Over two years, the plan will cost $168 billion and is expected to add $152 billion to the economy this year, according to Times.Through the plan, taxpayers will receive rebates of up to $600 for individuals and up to $1,200 for couples filing jointly. Families will also receive $300 per child; the plan also includes a payment of at least $300 for individuals who pay less than $300 in income taxes.Individuals with adjusted gross incomes that are more than $75,000 and couples making more than $150,000 will receive reduced rebates. The plan’s business tax incentives include expense write-offs of $250,000. Checks are expected to be in the mail in early May, according to the Treasury Department.Democrats said this week they would separately proceed with a bill to offer housing market-related help, which would include bonds that would allow states to help homeowners facing foreclosure.