Congress Passes $2.3T Omnibus Appropriations & COVID-19-Relief Package
WASHINGTON, DC – A long overdue, far-reaching 2021 Omnibus Appropriations Bills and COVID-19 Relief Package has been approved by Congress and sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law. The ‘coronabus’ bill combines a $1.4 trillion Omnibus appropriations bill to fund the federal government through September with a $900 billion emergency COVID-19 relief and rescue measure designed to provide targeted assistance for health care providers, COVID-19 testing and vaccines, schools, small businesses, unemployment insurance, and a variety of other programs.
The legislation cleared the U.S. House of Representatives on a vote of 359 to 53 and was then approved 92 to 6 by the U.S. Senate.
U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) voted to pass the bill, which he says is needed to protect public health and provide direct aid to struggling Americans, small businesses, and ailing industries.
“This long overdue bill is a lifeline that will provide much needed assistance to Rhode Islanders and reinforcements in the fight against COVID-19,” said Reed, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Ranking Member of the panel’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Subcommittee. “It is clear that more help is urgently needed and I will work with President-elect Biden and the incoming Administration to provide it.”
Reed played an important role in crafting key pieces of the Omnibus Appropriations bill and the COVID-19 emergency relief bill to help improve public health, strengthen the economy, create jobs, and make critical investments in America’s future.
Reed also worked with Congressional leaders on several key pieces of the agreement, including: extending time for state and local governments to effectively use Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF); enhancing unemployment insurance benefits; delivering rental assistance to those hit hardest by the pandemic, including a small state minimum of $200 million to help renters facing eviction; extending nutrition assistance to prevent families from going hungry; and providing targeted transportation relief. Reed also strongly supported efforts to include significant investments in child care and education, including both K-12 and higher education, as well as key provisions to make applying for financial aid easier, which will result in a historic expansion of Pell grants.
This new legislation builds on the programs established by CARES Act and will provide:
- Another round of direct stimulus payments of up to $600 per person for most Americans with another $600 for each dependent child living in the same household
- 11 additional weeks of unemployment insurance benefits, including for self-employed and independent contractors, and an additional $300 unemployment benefit. As well as 11 additional weeks of federal financing for work sharing programs.
- $325 billion for small businesses, including $284 billion for Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans. This also includes $15 billion for the Save our Stages (SOS) Act, which Senator Reed cosponsored, to provide dedicated assistance for industries that rely on large gatherings, including concert venues and theaters. It also provides $12 billion for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs).
- $69 billion in support for vaccines, testing, and contact tracing, including roughly $32 billion for vaccine procurement and distribution, more than $22 billion for testing, tracing, and COVID-19 mitigation, $4.5 billion in mental health and substance use disorder funding, and $9 billion to support health care providers.
- $82 billion in emergency education funding, including $54.3 billion for K-12 education and $22.7 billion for higher education.
- $25 billion in rental and utility assistance for renters, similar to Reed’s Housing Assistance Fund legislation, and extends CDC’s eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021.
- $13 billion in increased benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other child nutrition benefits and $400 million for food banks through the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) with up to 20 percent for distribution of commodities. It also provides $1.5 billion to fund purchases of food for distribution to those in need, and to provide worker protection measures and retooling support for farmers, fishermen, farmers markets, and food processors to respond to COVID-19.
- $10 billion in child care assistance to families and childcare providers to help stabilize the sector and $250 million for Head Start providers.
- $2 billion to support the motorcoach and bus industry, including intercity bus services, charter bus operators and school bus service providers, based on Reed’s Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act of 2020.
Now that it has passed both chambers of Congress the bill goes to the President’s desk to be signed into law.