Saturday, U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) voted to support the American Rescue Plan – an emergency legislative package to fund vaccinations, provide immediate and direct relief to families bearing the weight of the COVID-19 crisis, and support affected communities.
“Over the last year, I’ve spoken with folks across our region who have lost their jobs, lost their small businesses, and lost loved ones due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve heard a lot of pain. People in our region need help. That’s why I’ve been outspoken in pushing Congress to take action so folks get the help they need to get through this,” said Rep. Kilmer. “I support the American Rescue Plan because it will help us beat back this virus, enable kids to get back to school safely, support our local businesses, and provide a hand to folks that are trying to keep a roof over their heads, feed their families, and pay their bills.”
Among other things, the American Rescue Plan:
Provides Essential Support to Ramp-Up COVID-19 Vaccinations and Contain the Virus
The American Rescue Plan provides $20 billion to mount a national vaccination program that includes setting up community vaccination sites nationwide. It will also take complementary measures to combat the virus, including scaling up testing and tracing, addressing shortages of personal protective equipment and other critical supplies, investing in high-quality treatments and addressing health care disparities.
Invests in Schools to Put Children Safely Back in School
The American Rescue Plan will make a nearly $130 billion investment in school re-opening and making up for lost time in the classroom. These funds can be used for such things as reducing class sizes, modifying spaces so that students and teachers can socially distance, improving ventilation, implementing more mitigation measures, providing personal protective equipment, and providing summer school or other support for students that help make up lost learning time this year. The plan also provides resources for higher education, Head Start and child care facilities. In addition, the bill provides $7.6 billion to expand internet connectivity to students and rural communities to help bridge the digital divide.
Provides Direct Support for Working Families
The plan finishes the job on the President’s promise to provide $2,000 in direct assistance to households across America with checks of $1,400 per person, following the $600 down payment enacted in December. The plan will also provide direct housing assistance, expand access to safe and reliable child care and affordable health care, extend and expand Unemployment Insurance so that 19 million American workers can pay their bills, and support 27 million children with an expanded Child Tax Credit and 15 million low-wage workers through the Earned Income Tax Credit. In addition, the plan provides nutrition assistance for 40 million Americans by making substantial investments in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) Program, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, and other critical programs.
Supports Small Businesses & Essential Workers
The American Rescue Plan will also provide crucial support for the hardest-hit small businesses, increasing funding for the Paycheck Protection Program and expanding eligibility to ensure it reaches nonprofits of all sizes and types. The plan also provides additional funding for emergency grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, provides funding for a new program at the Small Business Administration to offer assistance to small restaurants, and helps increase awareness of, and participation in, COVID-19 relief programs for business owners currently lacking access. In addition, the plan provides critical resources to protect the jobs of first responders, frontline public health workers, teachers, transit workers and other essential workers that all Americans depend on.
Despite the passage of a coronavirus relief package in December, economists agree that additional assistance is needed – both for struggling families and for the American economy. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated in her confirmation hearing, “Economists don’t always agree, but I think there is a consensus now. Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now – and long-term scarring of the economy later. … Right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big. In the long run, the benefits will far outweigh the costs.” Mark Zandi, Chief Economist of Moody’s Analytics, said, “It’s better to err on the side of too much rather than too little. Interest rates are at zero, inflation is low, unemployment is high. You don’t need a textbook to know this is when you push on the fiscal accelerator.”
According to Moody’s, if the American Rescue Plan is not enacted, the United States could see 4 million fewer jobs this year and it could take a year longer to return to full employment. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, without this package, it will take another four years before real GDP returns to its pre-pandemic levels.