Reed: Evidence-Based Approach, Accountability & Dual Tracking are Paramount to Dealing with Both COVID-19 Relief & Impeachment Trial
WASHINGTON, DC -- As the U.S. Senate devotes significant time this week on the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) notes he is also working with colleagues on making significant progress toward comprehensive COVID-19 relief legislation. Senator Reed says both issues are critically important to our nation’s future, and both require an evidence-based approach and accountability.
“This week we are hearing a historically important impeachment case while also taking significant steps to help eradicate COVID-19 and reenergize the economy. People’s lives and our representative democracy are both at stake. Lawmakers must put partisanship aside, follow the evidence, and ensure accountability when it comes to both impeachment and critical needs that will help reduce COVID-19 infections, speed up vaccinations, and get our economy back on track” said Senator Reed. “In both cases, we need to follow the facts and study the evidence. And before and after the impeachment trial gavel drops, we’re talking to our colleagues on both sides of the aisle and working with our counterparts in the House to try to expedite a bold COVID-19 relief package that will lift the country out of crisis and put us on a better, healthier path forward. We are making significant headway, including on state and local funding, but we’ve got to keep at it until we get the bill across the finish line.”
Senator Reed, who is a senior member of both the Appropriations Committee and the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, has been hard at work on key aspects of the coronavirus relief legislation for months. Reed has been involved with talks on a variety of key aspects of the bill, including matters pertaining to state and local aid, expanded unemployment insurance, housing, transit, and LIHEAP assistance, and support for child care, schools, and libraries.
By passing a budget resolution last week, the House and Senate both set the stage for a process known as “budget reconciliation,” which prevents a filibuster of fiscal legislation that meets very stringent technical criteria. Under the reconciliation process, committees of jurisdiction are tasked with formally approving the details of the legislation, which are packaged in a single bill that must then be ratified by each chamber. Congressional leaders on both sides of the Capitol have been working to ensure that priorities are closely aligned and meet the objectives of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
Senator Reed has already helped score several key victories for Rhode Island, including provisions that will boost state and local aid, housing assistance, transportation dollars, and education and library funds for the state. Reed notes keeping people in their homes will help public health and the economy, and keeping transportation systems operable ensures people are connected to jobs and opportunities during the pandemic and ensuing recovery.
STATE & LOCAL AID
Last year, Reed was part of a 20 person bipartisan working group that developed the CARES Act (Public Law No. 116-136). Senator Reed was the driving force behind the successful effort to create the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) in the CARES Act and successfully secured a small state minimum of $1.25 billion in the law. Senator Reed has helped influence the discussion to ensure the federal funds continue to flow to states, such as Rhode Island, so that they may be effectively put to use saving lives and addressing the economic impact caused by the pandemic.
Senator Reed and his colleagues in the House and Senate are working on a $350 billion 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. Senator Reed notes this formula would benefit Rhode Island, which has the nation's seventh highest unemployment rate (8.1%) -- behind Hawaii (9.4%), Nevada (9.2%), California (9.0%), Colorado (8.4%), New Mexico (8.2%), and New York (8.2%). The other main pot of $130.2 billion for local governments will be appropriated partly based on population, with a carve-out for smaller communities, and with money for cities being divided based on a modified formula for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which enjoys broad bipartisan support. As a result, Rhode Island is estimated to receive an additional $1.7 billion in state and local funding, which would bring Rhode Island’s total to almost $3 billion.
“Different states have different needs, but every community has been hit by COVID and this federal funding will allow state and local governments to target assistance where it can be most effective to save lives, jobs, and businesses,” said Reed.
HOUSING & TRANSPORTATION ASSISTANCE
On the housing front, Senator Reed has helped successfully negotiate provisions that could deliver an estimated $200 million in rent relief, mortgage relief, and homelessness prevention funding for Rhode Island. And notably, 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 draft rescue bill to ensure families can cover the costs of home heating and cooling. This level of funding will deliver over $23 million in LIHEAP aid for Rhode Island households in need.
And in terms of transportation dollars, Reed is working to include another $36.4 million in federal relief for RIPTA, which, when combined with other federal assistance, would bring the transit agency up to 132 percent of its operating budget to keep essential service running amidst a historic deficit due to the pandemic. He also helped carve out another $16.6 to ensure T.F. Green and other local airports can continue providing service for travelers.
The draft bill invests $130 billion in helping K-12 schools safely reopen and address lost time in the classroom, as well as $40 billion for higher education students and colleges and universities, along with $39 billion to boost child care through the Child Care and Development Block Grant Program (CCDBG). This federal funding would 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, the House Education and Labor Committee also included $200 million for Senator Reed’s Library Stabilization Fund Act, which would help support public libraries and ensure they can safely provide much needed services during the pandemic. Reed’s language would ensure Rhode Island public libraries would receive a minimum of $2 million.
After several House committees mark up legislation for key parts of the coronavirus rescue package this week, both the full House and Senate will work to pass identical legislation so it can be sent to President Biden to be signed into law.
Senator Reed concluded: “When it comes to both the impeachment trial and COVID-19 relief, Congress should focus on the facts, avoid partisan gridlock, and act with the urgency this historic moment requires. The eyes of history are upon and we must do what is right to save lives and preserve our democracy. This is about protecting the health and well-being of the American people, our communities, and our representative democracy. This is serious and urgent work. Congress can’t simply dismiss the impeachment trial or downplay the impacts of a pandemic that has cost the lives of over 440,000 of our fellow citizens. Our country can’t afford to repeat the previous administration’s unfocused, indifferent pandemic response or allow the direct assault on our democracy to go unaddressed.”