WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03) voted to pass H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, an urgently needed relief package put forth by President Joe Biden to address the needs of working families and set the nation on course to defeat the virus, get kids safely back into classrooms, and rebuild the economy.
“When Congress passed the most recent relief package in December, I joined then-President-elect Biden in promising that it was just a down payment and that we would immediately begin work on another package that met the needs of the American people. Passage of the American Rescue Plan fulfills that promise,” Congresswoman Trahan said. “This robust round of relief will get people the help they need to keep their families healthy, housed, and fed, help us finally crush COVID-19, and build our economy and our nation back better than ever before. Now that this legislation has passed the House, it’s critical that the Senate do their part to get it to President Biden’s desk as soon as possible.”
The health and economic crises resulting from the coronavirus pandemic continue to rage at dangerous levels. This week, the total number of Americans who have died from COVID-19 surpassed 500,000, and to date, more than 28 million people have tested positive for the virus, including nearly 580,000 in Massachusetts. Meanwhile, more than 18 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits, nearly 24 million people are experiencing hunger and 12 million children are living in food insecure households, as many as 40 million Americans are behind on housing payments or living in fear of eviction, and more than 2.3 million women have been forced out of the workforce entirely, including nearly a million mothers.
Trahan supported passage of the American Rescue Plan because it includes provisions necessary to keep families afloat and crush the virus, including:
- Survival Checks: Fulfills President Biden’s promise to provide $2,000 in direct assistance to households by providing $1,400 checks per person, following the $600 down payment passed in December;
- Extending Unemployment: Extends access to unemployment benefits beyond the March 14th expiration date for workers laid off as a result of the pandemic and increases the critical monthly supplemental benefit to $400;
- Food Assistance: Makes key investments in SNAP, WIC, Pandemic EBT, and other nutrition assistance programs, including an extension of the maximum SNAP benefits by 15 percent through the end of September;
- Housing Assistance: Provides $26 billion for Emergency Rental Assistance, $10 billion for the Homeowner Assistance Fund, and another $5 billion for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program to help families struggling to keep a roof over their heads and afford their utility bills, while also allocating nearly $5 billion for the HOME Investment Partnership program to support solutions for Americans experiencing homelessness;
- Strengthened Access to Affordable Health Care: Significantly expands the subsidies in the ACA Marketplaces to cover more middle-class families and to be more generous for those already receiving them, provides individuals receiving unemployment with access to the ACA marketplace, and provides an 85 percent subsidy for individuals who lose their job and employee sponsored health insurance to continue their existing employer-sponsored health coverage;
- Expanded Child Tax Credit: Makes the child tax credit fully refundable for 2021 and increases the annual amount to $3,000 per child and $3,600 for a child under the age of 6. Making the tax credit fully refundable will ensure that 27 million American children receive the full value of the tax credit and this policy is estimated to cut the child poverty rate in half;
- Direct Assistance to Vulnerable Families: Provides an additional $1 billion for states to cover the additional cash assistance that Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients need and establishes a $1 billion Pandemic Emergency Fund to be distributed to states for providing emergency assistance to low-income families with children;
- National Plan to Increase Vaccinations: Provides more than $20 billion to establish a National COVID-19 Vaccination Program and improve the administration and distribution of vaccines, including allocating funds for FEMA vaccination sites across the country and strengthening the CDC’s ability to promote, distribute, monitor, and track COVID-19 vaccines;
- Scaling up Testing, Tracing, and Mitigation: Allocates $49 billion for testing, contact tracing, and mitigation activities that include implementing a national strategy for testing, contact tracing, surveillance, and mitigation; and the manufacturing, procurement, distribution, and administration of tests, including personal protective equipment and supplies necessary for administration of the tests;
- Reopening Schools: To support efforts to safely reopen elementary and secondary schools, the American Rescue Plan provides nearly $130 billion, which will be made available to states and school districts so they can work with public health experts to ensure the safe return of students and educators. This provision of the bill will deliver an estimated $1.9 billion to Massachusetts schools and another $13.6 million for Head Start programs;
- Ensuring Accessible and Affordable Child Care: To rescue America’s child care system from the brink of collapse, the bill provides $39 billion through the Child Care and Development Block Grant for child care providers as the country reopens and provides financial relief for families struggling to cover tuition. The American Rescue Plan will deliver an estimated $512 million in federal child care investments and another $13.6 million Head Start funding to the Commonwealth;
- Strengthening America’s Pandemic Supply Chain: A major priority of Trahan’s, the package provides $10 billion in funding for the Defense Production Act to boost domestic production of critical PPE, secure supply chains and increased capacity for vital vaccine production and to help onshore production of rapid COVID-19 tests;
- Support for Small Businesses and Nonprofits: Increases Paycheck Protection Program funding and expands eligibility to ensure it reaches nonprofits of all sizes and types while also creating a $25 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund to offer assistance to restaurants and bars with 20 or fewer locations that have been hit hard by the pandemic;
- State and Local Funding: Provides $350 billion in new relief funding to help state and local governments keep first responders, frontline health care workers, and other essential workers on the job. Since the pandemic began, 1.4 million of these workers have lost their jobs due to budget constraints. The Commonwealth is estimated to receive more than $4.5 billion and local governments in Massachusetts are estimated to receive nearly $3.4 billion;
- Improved Worker Safety: Strengthens workplace protections for essential workers by providing $150 million for the Department of Labor – of which, $75 million is set aside for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – to implement COVID-19 worker protection programs and continued Unemployment Insurance oversight;
- Delivers for Veterans: Ensures veterans won’t have any copays or cost-sharing retroactive to April 2020 for preventative treatment related to COVID-19, includes more than $13 billion for the VA to provide health care services other support, and includes $272 million for the VA to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the benefits claims and appeals backlog;
- Assistance for Transit Agencies: Includes $30 billion for transit agencies working to recover from a 79 percent ridership drop in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. Also provides emergency assistance to airports and payroll support to prevent airline worker furloughs and layoffs.