CHN’s COVID-19 Watch: Tracking Hardship March 5, 2021
March 5, 2021
The Hurry Up Senate edition. The Senate is poised to vote on the American Rescue Plan this weekend, and not a minute too soon. Unemployment benefits are scheduled to expire on March 14 if Congress does not get a bill to President Biden’s desk before then. Even if the bill gets final enactment early next week, some states may face an interruption in benefits because of the short lead time. Despite this, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) demanded a reading of the entire 628-page bill, which took hours.
The plan would expand and extend unemployment benefits, but only through August 29. Advocates are seeking to extend the deadline to October 3, to avoid having benefits expire during a Congressional recess. The bill also expands the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, cutting child poverty in half, continues increased nutrition assistance, expands health coverage and child care, increases housing assistance, provides funding for strapped state and local governments, including K-12 schools, and offers emergency funds to families facing hardship. It provides the extra $1,400 in payments to individuals President Biden promised, and makes those payments available to household members with Social Security numbers; for the first time, that will include 2.2 million children in immigrant families. There may be amendments to take this help away from those children which advocates will fiercely oppose.
The American Rescue Plan targets $350 billion to states, cities, tribes, and territories. It is money desperately needed. Even if the pandemic quickly fades away – a big if – it has imposed massive additional costs at the state and local level to fight the virus, deliver services during a pandemic, and help struggling people and businesses.
“It is not true that this is a big city or blue state problem,” says Mayor Jeff Williams of Arlington, Texas. “I can tell you that there are Republican mayors just like me who are in immediate need of fiscal relief. I can tell you there are cities all across Texas, big and small, that are all facing the same crunch.”
Roughly three of every four Americans support the American Rescue Plan, polls continue to show. In fact, new data compiled by Chris Warshaw, a political scientist at George Washington University, show that President Biden’s proposal is the fifth most popular legislative package in modern U.S. history. Today would be a very good time for constituents to tell their Senators to hurry up and pass this plan. You can do that here.