Reed: American Rescue Plan Offers Rx for More Vaccines & a Healthier Economy, But Hard Work & Coordination at Local, State, and Federal Level Still Needed
WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to deliver overdue financial relief to families, support small businesses, boost COVID-19 vaccinations, and safely reopen schools, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) helped pass the American Rescue Plan in the U.S. Senate. This legislation will improve public health, pay for vaccines, medical supplies, and health infrastructure, and uplift the economy by targeting financial relief and investments directly to Americans, small businesses, and communities.
“The American Rescue Plan offers a prescription to crush COVID-19 and provides financial resources to help families and communities still reeling from the pandemic’s impact. I voted for this plan to help boost vaccination efforts, safely reopen schools for in-person instruction, and deliver long-awaited, overdue financial relief to families, communities, and Main Street businesses that have been hit hardest by COVID-19. This will provide many Rhode Islanders with $1,400 direct payments and I expect a lot of that money will flow directly to local businesses. It also targets critical tax relief to working families, makes health insurance more affordable, and will help lift people out of poverty. It will renew unemployment insurance for jobseekers and help get more students safely back into schools for in-person learning. This bill isn’t perfect, but it will do a lot of good and it offers a chance to put America on a stronger, healthier, and more prosperous trajectory,” said Senator Reed.
Senator Reed worked with his colleagues on several key aspects of the bill. He played a key role in ensuring the final package included $350 billion in state and local aid; $45 billion in targeted housing assistance; and a $25 Restaurant Revitalization Fund to provide federal grants to local restaurants that have been hit hard by the pandemic.
Senator Reed noted that Rhode Island will receive several billion dollars from the American Rescue Plan.
Several billion dollars will flow to the state from direct economic impact payments; unemployment insurance; education aid; health care funds; and small business assistance. Additionally, Senator Reed’s work on state and local aid could direct up to $1.7 billion to Rhode Island and he also noted the state will see at least $200 million for rent and mortgage relief programs thanks to Reed’s work on housing provisions in the bill.
“I worked hard to include a strong state and local aid package in this bill and I know the state and cities and towns across Rhode Island and nationwide will use it productively. Innovation at the state and community level can help lead us out of this pandemic and toward a brighter, healthier future. Republicans chose not to support this aid, but I am sure they will be touting it back home as Governors, legislatures, Mayors, and town councils put it to good use and offer tailored solutions that meet their public health and economic development needs. The road to recovery is steep and long. But this package will help get us there. No single piece of legislation itself can end the pandemic, but this offers a plan and federal resources. States, communities, and citizens must all do their part to help keep each other safe and hasten the end of this pandemic,” said Reed.
Key provisions in the American Rescue Plan include:
Direct Payments to Households: Provides low- and moderate-income households with a $1,400 direct payment per adult and an additional $1,400 per dependent, including for both children and non-child dependents. The payments would start phasing out at an individual income of $75,000, and eligibility would be cut off for single people earning over $80,000. Couples who file a joint federal income tax return would begin seeing a phase out for those making $150,000 and end at $160,000. The first two rounds of direct economic impact payments (‘stimulus checks’) to eligible Rhode Islanders from the CARES Act ($1,200) and the ‘Coronabus’ ($600) netted Ocean State residents about $909 million total.
State & Local Aid: At least $350 billion for a state and local aid package that will likely be broken up into to two key categories: $195.3 billion directed to state governments, with $169 billion distributed based on a state’s share of total unemployed workers, with another $25.5 billion evenly divided among all states. The bill also includes a new $10 billion capital projects program to support state broadband deployment efforts.
Pandemic-related Unemployment Insurance: Approximately 18 million Americans are relying on the unemployment insurance program. The bill extends $300-per-week federal unemployment insurance payments through September 6.
Aid to Help Safely Reopen K-12 Schools & Colleges: Nearly $130 billion will be dedicated to helping K-12 schools safely reopen and address lost time in the classroom, assisting students experiencing homelessness, providing resources through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and implementing summer enrichment and afterschool programs. About $40 billion will be directed to higher education students and colleges and universities to address COVID-19 hardships. $40 billion to boost child care through the Child Care and Development Block Grant Program (CCDBG). This federal funding will help child care providers and deliver financial relief for working parents. It also has $1 billion for the Head Start program to ensure families in need may access quality early learning opportunities. Additionally, Senator Reed worked to include $200 million for the Library Stabilization Fund Act, which will help support public libraries and ensure they can safely provide much needed services during the pandemic. Reed’s language will ensure Rhode Island public libraries receive a minimum of $2 million.
Child Tax Credit Expansion: Increases the basic amount of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) from $2,000 to $3,000 per child and provides an additional $600 for children under age 6, with those additional amounts phasing down above incomes of $75,000 for individual filers, $112,500 for head of household filers, and $150,000 for couples.
COVID-19 Testing & Vaccine Funding: The bill would provide $48.5 billion for increased detection, diagnosis, and monitoring of coronavirus infections and money for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for genomic sequencing and disease surveillance. It would also invest over $14 billion to accelerate the distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines nationwide and other critical health needs. The federal funds will support the development of community vaccination centers, as well as new mobile vaccination units that can help serve homebound and hard-to-reach people and communities. It also includes additional funds for public health departments to hire 100,000 public health workers whose duties will include vaccine outreach.
Housing and Transportation Assistance: The bill provides $45 billion in rental and utility assistance and mortgage relief to millions of tenants and homeowners who are in danger of being thrown out of their homes and onto the street. This includes Senator Reed’s $10 billion Homeowner Assistance Fund initiative and is estimated to deliver over $200 million in rent relief, mortgage relief, and homelessness prevention funding for Rhode Island.
And in terms of transportation dollars, Reed worked to include an estimated $36.5 million for Rhode Island transit service and $16.5 million for the Rhode Island Airport Corporation to ensure T.F. Green and other local airports can continue providing service for travelers.
Restaurant Revitalization Fund: Based on the RESTAURANTS Act of 2021, which Senator Reed cosponsored, the bill establishes a $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund for grants to food service and drinking establishments that have lost business due to the pandemic. Eateries showing financial losses due to the pandemic could apply for federal grants to cover eligible expenses, such as payroll support, benefits, rent, utilities, building maintenance and construction of outdoor facilities, supplies (including PPE and cleaning materials), food, operational expenses, paid sick leave, debt obligations to suppliers, and other essential expenses.
Additional Aid for Main Street businesses: The bill sets aside $15 billion of Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance grants of up to $10,000 per business and an additional $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that expands eligibility for nonprofits and digital media companies. It also provides $10 Billion for the Small Business Opportunity Fund. This funding, available through the U.S. Treasury Department, is modeled on the State Small Business Credit Initiative and will support state and local capital and technical assistance initiatives for small businesses responding to and recovering from the pandemic, which will be particularly beneficial to minority-owned and other underserved small businesses. It also includes $3 Billion for the Economic Development Administration to provide flexible grants for rebuilding the local economies of communities that have experienced significant job loss from COVID-19. A $750 million set-aside is included for assistance to states and communities that have suffered from job and GDP loss in the tourism, travel, and outdoor recreation sectors. As well as another $1.25 billion for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, which boosts the Save Our Stages program, and $175 million for Community Navigator pilot program, which is designed to help small businesses in underserved and underbanked communities access the COVID-19 relief resources available to them.
Improving Care & Support for Veterans: $17 billion to improve and expand health care operations and support for veterans, including: $500 million for construction grants for State Veterans Homes; $250 million to provide a one-time payment to be allocated based on the number of eligible veteran residents in each state; and $386 million to initiate a new rapid retraining program to help eligible veterans who lost jobs during the pandemic.
Enhanced Nutrition Assistance: Extends increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through September, and bolsters other vital nutrition assistance to help ensure families, children, and seniors don’t go hungry. Also extends the Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program benefits through the duration of the health emergency, including the summer months, to allow families with children receiving school meals to more easily purchase healthy food during the pandemic. And provides $750 million for programs like Meals on Wheels and $37 million for senior nutrition through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.
LIHEAP: Senator Reed, the leading Congressional champion of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help struggling families afford their utility bills, helped include $4.5 billion in the bill to ensure families can cover the costs of home heating and cooling.
Now that the U.S. Senate has approved the package, it must go back to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration, debate, and a final vote. If the House approves the Senate bill, it then goes to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
“Republican leaders opposed targeting direct relief to everyday working people who have been hit by COVID-19. In past packages they’ve prioritized relief to big corporations. This bill will quickly get more vaccines out to help control COVID-19. It will help families and get children safely back to school for in-person learning,” said Senator Reed. “No one party, state, or zip code can stop this pandemic on its own. It will take everyone working together to get the job done and that is what we’ve got to do. If we work together and make smart choices now, we’ll literally be able to help more people come together in the future. The next several weeks will be critical and this bill is a huge step toward keeping people safe and improving the health of our economy.”
Senator Reed says it is important for Congress to send the bill to President Biden’s desk before March 14, when key pandemic unemployment insurance benefits are scheduled to lapse. If President Biden signs the bill into law before the 14th, it will prevent millions of Americans from going over an economic cliff caused by the lapse in unemployment insurance.
The U.S. House of Representatives is slated to vote on the Senate-passed version of the American Rescue Plan later this week.