On this day we celebrate the American Rescue Plan
Friday, March 11 marks a convergence of one deadline and two anniversaries – all deeply entwined.
By midnight Friday, in order to keep the federal government running, Congress had to pass either a short-term continuing resolution or a full-year appropriations bill. Actually, they did both: the Senate followed the House in voting for the omnibus on Thursday night (68-31), and also joined the House in passing an extension through March 15 to give time for the bill to be made ready for the President’s signature.
Friday is also the one-year anniversary of passage of the American Rescue Plan (ARP), a roadmap for how to respond to future crises – whether they are pandemic-related or economic-related, or, as in this case, both.
Friday also marks exactly two years since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. Since the pandemic began, more than 6 million known deaths from COVID-19 have been recorded worldwide, with more than 960,000 deaths occurring in the U.S.
Earlier this week, the White House hosted an American Rescue Plan One Year Anniversary Event. It featured Gene Sperling, Senior Advisor to President Biden and ARP Coordinator, and a number of leaders who discussed efforts to get the word out about a trio of tax cuts aimed primarily at helping families with low incomes.
“There’s no question this is one of the most profound pieces of legislation that’s ever been passed,” Sperling said. “Everybody…believes in equitable recovery (but) not everybody recovers in a recovery because they are long-term unemployed, they are out of the workforce for too long.” Sperling pointed to the many provisions that targeted help to those most in need, therefore minimizing the inequitable economic “scarring” economists usually see after a recession.
The trio of tax credits Sperling focused on were:
- The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which will allow some families to recoup as much as $4,000 in child care expenses for one child and $8,000 for two or more children.
- The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which was increased from $540 to $1,500 for workers without dependent children – the first increase since 1983. The EITC was also expanded to cover 17.3 million newly eligible workers, including workers age 19 to 24 who are not full-time students and workers over 65.
- The expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC), the best-known tax credit in the American Rescue Plan. Sperling said the CTC is expected to benefit 40 million families with 65 million children. “This is a tax credit that is as pro-family and pro-child and pro-work as you can have. That is an important point, and we need to make it clear,” he said.
The White House event also featured a number of nonprofit and other leaders who are working to make sure families know they qualify for the CTC and how to apply to get it. Speakers included Colorado Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera; Dorian Warren, President, Community Change; Sarah McKitterick, Project Manager, Shah Family Foundation; Brayan Rodriguez, Senior Policy Analyst, UnidosUS; and Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director, Coalition on Human Needs.
“Sometimes our work is a painful struggle, so it is great to be able to tell families they are potentially owed thousands of dollars,” said Weinstein, who also pledged to “recommit to making sure these forms of assistance continue on.”
Although the White House event focused on the tax credits for low-income families, there is much more in the American Rescue Plan that we should celebrate one year in. ARP provided billions of assistance to more than 5,000 colleges and universities – including the largest one-time investment ever in Historically Black Colleges and Universities. It expanded access to health insurance and reduced the cost of health care premiums for 14.5 million Americans by 40 percent on average.
ARP provided much-needed economic stimulus payments and offered a lifeline for 100,000 restaurants – 72 percent of which are owned by women or people of color. It helped schools re-open, safely. It provided key rental assistance and tax relief for Puerto Rico. It funneled hundreds of billions of dollars of relief to state and local governments.
There’s more, but you get the picture. The pandemic has yet to end. But the American Rescue Plan helped mitigate its harshest impacts. Instead of enduring a long-term recession, we had the shortest one on record. There’s still more to do, especially as we are now being buffeted by the global impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The American Rescue Plan has lessons that demand our attention. It shows how a comprehensive government response can protect our people. And for that, we can say hooray and happy anniversary!