House Passes $1.9 Trillion ‘American Rescue Plan’ COVID Relief Bill
WASHINGTON – Representative Peter Welch supported the House passed $1.9 trillion ‘American Rescue Plan’ COVID relief bill late Friday night. The bold bill is a top priority of both Rep. Welch and President Joe Biden and will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, extend federal unemployment insurance, deliver immediate financial relief to families, support small businesses and vaccinate more people throughout the country against the coronavirus.
“Congress must help our communities build back better from the coronavirus pandemic,” said Welch. “This bold relief bill is a critical step to get us through and eventually recover from this unprecedented pandemic. The vaccines are here and this bill will help our state deploy and administer the vaccines quicker and to more people. The more people we can vaccinate, the faster we can rebuild. I encourage the Senate to work quickly to make sure that we deliver this badly needed relief to the American people."
The House bill passed last night includes:
- A federal minimum wage hike to $15 an hour. This is an important provision that House Democrats will continue to try to pass by any possible path.
- $1,400 direct payments to Americans making less than $75,000 a year, or couples making less than $150,000 a year. This includes direct payments to full-time students younger than 24 and adult dependents, a priority of Welch’s since the first round of direct payments.
- An extension of the $400-per-week federal unemployment insurance payments through August.
- An extension of the 15% increase in SNAP funding, known as 3SquaresVT in Vermont, through the end of September.
- $25 billion for grants to restaurants who have lost business due to the pandemic. Rep. Welch, as original cosponsor of the even larger RESTAURANTS Act, has long been an advocate for funding specifically to help restaurants.
- $8.5 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for vaccine distribution and administration, including assistance to state and local health departments.
- An additional $6 billion for vaccine manufacturing and purchase.
- $47.8 billion for COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and mitigation measures.
- $350 billion in state and local aid, including an estimated $852 million for Vermont.
- An additional $7.25 billion for small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program.
- An expansion of PPP eligibility to small, local internet news publishers and nonprofits that were previously ineligible.
- An additional $20 billion for rental assistance to keep Americans in their homes. Each state is guaranteed at least $152 million in additional funding.
- $4.5 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP is a vital lifeline for Vermonters during its cold winters. Rep. Welch led a letter in January urging the increase of LIHEAP funds in the COVID relief package.
- $7.6 billion for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) E-Rate Program to expand access to broadband for students and teachers to close the homework gap.
Welch helped craft the health, LIHEAP, E-Rate and state funding provisions in the final bill as a senior member of the powerful House Committees on Energy & Commerce and Oversight & Reform.