CHN: President Biden’s American Rescue Plan would improve the lives of millions of Americans. Here’s how.
President Biden has proposed a robust $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that significantly builds upon the $1.7 trillion relief bill passed by Congress last March as well as the smaller, $900 billion measure approved in December.
Known as the American Rescue Plan, Biden’s proposal includes larger stimulus checks, more aid for the unemployed, help for the hungry and those facing eviction, increased funding for vaccinations, additional support for small businesses, state and local governments and schools, and an increase in the minimum wage to $15. And it would provide more money for child care, extend and expand low-income tax credits, and extend paid sick and family leave.
Here are many of the key components of the American Rescue Plan:
Beefed-up stimulus payments
The plan calls for sending another $1,400 per person to eligible recipients – this would be on top of the $600 payments Congress approved in December, for a total of $2,000. The new payments would go to households with mixed immigrant status, who were left out of the $1,200 stimulus payments passed by Congress last spring. And the new payments would cover adult dependents who did not receive the December stimulus checks, such as children over the age of 17 who are included as dependents on their parents’ tax returns.
Enhanced unemployment aid
Biden has proposed increasing federal unemployment assistance to $400 a week, from the $300 weekly payment Congress approved in December. More importantly, he would extend the payments all the way through September; they currently are scheduled to expire in March. The President’s proposal includes not just this federal add-on to state unemployment assistance, but also the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which applies to jobless Americans who have exhausted their state benefits, and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides benefits to the self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, and certain others affected by the pandemic.
Help for the hungry
Biden’s plan would extend the 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits through September, instead of having it expire in June. He would invest another $3 billion to help women, infants and children secure food (through the WIC program), and give U.S. territories $1 billion in nutrition assistance. And he would partner with restaurants to provide food to needy Americans and jobs to laid-off restaurant workers.
Rental assistance and eviction moratorium
The American Rescue Plan would extend the federal eviction moratorium, which had been set to expire at the end of January, to September 30, and would provide similar relief to homeowners with federally-guaranteed mortgages. It would provide $25 billion in rental assistance for low- and moderate-income households who have lost jobs during the pandemic – that’s in addition to the $25 billion lawmakers provided in December. Another $5 billion would be set aside to help struggling renters pay their utility bills. And it would include $5 billion to help states and localities assist those at risk of experiencing homelessness.
Increased support for vaccines and testing
Biden calls for investing $20 billion in a national vaccination program, including launching community vaccination centers around the country and mobile units in hard-to-reach areas. Biden would also increase federal support to vaccinate Medicaid enrollees. The proposal would also invest $50 billion in testing, providing funds to purchase rapid tests, expand lab capacity and help schools implement regular testing to support reopening safely. It would also fund the hiring of 100,000 public health workers, nearly tripling the community health workforce. It would address health disparities by expanding community health centers and health services on tribal lands. And it would provide support to long-term care facilities experiencing outbreaks and to prisons for mitigation strategies.
More health coverage
The Biden plan proposes to subsidize COBRA health insurance for unemployed people who lost employer health coverage when they lost their jobs, and to expand and increase the Premium Tax Credit offered through the Affordable Care Act to limit the cost of health insurance to 8.5 percent of income. There would also be $4 billion for increased substance use disorder and mental health treatment, and $20 billion for veterans’ health care.
More help for survivors of domestic violence
The American Rescue Plan includes $800 million in supplemental funding for programs to protect women and girls from domestic violence and sexual assault, more prevalent during the pandemic because people are more likely to be confined to their homes.
More assistance for small businesses
The plan calls for providing $15 billion to create a new grant program for small business owners, separate from the existing Paycheck Protection Program. It also proposes making a $35 billion investment in some state, local, tribal, and non-profit financing programs that make low-interest loans and provide venture capital to entrepreneurs.
Aid for state and local governments, transit, and schools
Biden proposes sending $350 billion to state, local, and territorial governments to keep their frontline workers employed, distribute the vaccine, increase testing, reopen schools, and maintain vital services. The plan also includes $20 billion to Tribal governments to increase access to clean water, electricity, and the internet, and to pay for personal protective equipment. Biden’s plan would also give $20 billion to the hardest-hit public transit agencies to help avert layoffs and the cutting of routes. The plan would provide an additional $170 billion to K-12 schools, colleges, and universities to help them reopen and operate safely or to facilitate remote learning.
More money for child care and child tax credits
The American Rescue Plan calls for creation of a $25 billion emergency fund and an additional $15 billion to an existing grant program to help child care providers, including family child care homes, to pay for rent, utilities, and payroll, and increased costs associated with the pandemic like personal protective equipment. It also proposes expanding the child care tax credit for one year so that families will get back as much as half of their spending on child care for children under age 13.
A temporary increase of tax credits
In a major victory for human needs advocates, Biden proposes boosting the Child Tax Credit to $3,600 for children under age 6 and $3,000 for those between ages 6 and 17 for a year. The credit would also be made fully refundable. And he proposes raising the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit for a year to close to $1,500 for childless adults, increasing the income limit for the credit from its current $16,000 to about $21,000. While the fact sheet describing the plan only mentions eliminating the age cap for older workers to receive the EITC, it is expected that the proposal will also include covering younger adults (likely starting at age 19 rather than the current age of 25).
Restoration of emergency paid leave
The American Rescue Plan would reinstate the paid sick and family leave benefits that expired at the end of December until September 30. It would extend the benefit to workers employed at businesses with more than 500 employees and less than 50, as well as federal workers who were excluded from the original program. Under Biden’s proposal, people who are sick or quarantining, or caring for a child whose school is closed, would receive 14 weeks of paid leave. The government would reimburse employers with fewer than 500 workers for the full cost of providing the leave.
A group of 16 senators, evenly divided between the parties, and the co-chairs of the House Problem-Solvers caucus met over the weekend with National Economic Council Director Brian Deese to discuss the $1.9 trillion package. Press reports indicated they questioned the $1.9 trillion cost, and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) said afterwards that she would seek the agreement of the bipartisan group to back a smaller package. There was general agreement on the need for more funding for vaccines. Senator Angus King (I-ME) expressed support for getting a COVID package through the Senate before the impeachment trial begins (scheduled for February 8). The participants expected to take part in the meeting were Senators Capito (R-WV), Cassidy (R-LA), Collins (R-ME), Moran (R-KS), Murkowski (R-AK), Portman (R-OH), Romney (R-UT), Young (R-IN), Durbin (D-IL), Hassan (D-NH), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Kelly (D-AZ), King (I-ME), Manchin (D-WV), Shaheen (D-NH), and Warner (D-VA), and House Problem-Solver chairs Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Reed (R-NY).
In addition to the proposals in the American Rescue Plan, President Biden also signed multiple executive actions and memoranda regarding his national coronavirus response plan and the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic. For more information on these, see the related article in this Human Needs Report.