Breaking down the differences in the two stimulus bills (UPDATED and CLARIFIED)


Now that both the House and Senate have passed versions of an economic recovery bill, Jewish supporters of the legislation say that there are things to like in each version and are backing both, although some prefer the House package.

William Daroff, vice president of public policy and director of the United Jewish Communities’ Washington office, didn’t express a preference, noting that the final bill which comes out of a conference committee will incorporate parts of both versions. Instead, he’d like to see the "good parts of both bills" incorporated into the final piece of legislation.

Both bills, he said, had the same level of funding for UJC’s top priority — $87 billion for the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage to bolster Medicaid funding in the states. And he noted that each bill had its good points. While the Senate’s $838 billion bill cut the entire $1 billion of funding that the House provided for the Community Services Block Grant, the Senate provided $400 million in funding for the Social Services Block Grant while the House’s version appropriated nothing.

But representatives from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs said that as far as assistance for the most vulnerable, the $819 billion House bill was somewhat better.

“The overall Senate bill is not as strong as the House on social service funding, but we still support the Senate bill as an important step toward reviving the economy,” said Hadar Susskind, Washington director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

“The House bill is much stronger in terms of supporting programs that help Americans hit hardest by the recession,” said Barbara Weinstein, legislative director of the RAC.

While the two bills have the same $27 billion appropriated for unemployment insurance, the Senate compromise bill cuts $3.5 billion from the $20 billion in funding in the House legislation for food stamps, and halves the $200 million each allocated for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program and the Senior Meals Program. In addition, Head Start and Early Start funding is cut in half, from $2.1 billion in the House to $1.05 billion in the Senate, and the $1 billion for low income heating assistance was eliminated.

The Senate bill would only cover 50 percent of an unemployed worker’s COBRA health insurance premium – as opposed to 65 percent in the House bill – and eliminates $8.6 billion that would have gone towards making Medicaid available to low-income and unemployed workers whose COBRA health coverage had expired.

On the other hand, the Senate approved $500 million for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, $400 million more than the House, and  added another $500 million to the $2.5 billion that the House appropriated for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

UPDATE: The Senate bill also eliminates the funding for the "green" modernization of schools. The Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America have been pushing to include funding for non-public schools in that portion of the bill.

Of course, neither bill will be accepted as is, as the two bills will be reconciled in a conference committee.

“As the bill goes through conference, we’re going to continue to make sure members of Congress know that their constituents support the highest levels of funding for those programs and other vital programs that were ignored or underfunded in both bills,” said Barbara Weinstein, legislative director of the RAC.

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