Rush Votes for COVID Package To Deliver Much Needed Resources and Aid To Local Communities
Feb 27, 2021
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) voted in favor of the American Rescue Plan, vital legislation that will deliver urgent aid to Americans in need as our country continues to navigate the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Rescue Plan aims to crush COVID-19 by allocating substantial sums for vaccination, contact tracing, and testing programs, enhancing unemployment benefits for the over 18 million Americans who find themselves out of the workforce, and providing crucial aid for those who find themselves struggling to pay rent and utilities, among other provisions.
“I was proud to vote in favor of this latest COVID relief package, which represents a critical step towards fulfilling the needs of the American people during this public health and economic emergency,” said Rush. “Just last week, the urgency of this crisis was highlighted once again, when the United States passed the somber milestone of 500,000 COVID-19 deaths. With the passage of the American Rescue Plan, House Democrats have demonstrated their commitment to fulfilling President Biden’s pledge that ‘help is on the way.’”
Health Care Provisions in the American Rescue Plan
Rep. Rush worked with Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone to ensure that all safety net hospitals receive the additional funding Congress intended in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. These hospitals provide healthcare access to vulnerable communities, but due to a technical error, Cook County Health received less Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) funding in FY2020 than in previous years. Safety net hospitals operate incredibly thin margins, often barely maintaining positive balances. Even small disruptions to their funding, or unexpected expenses, can make an already precarious financial situation dire. This fix will ensure that Cook County Health and other safety net hospitals around the country receive the boost in Medicaid DSH payments Congress intended so that they keep can their lights on during this dark time.
“I am pleased the American Rescue Plan included a technical fix I proposed that would ensure the financial viability of safety net hospitals. Safety net hospitals have been the heroes of the COVID pandemic, all while they have faced increased costs and declining revenues over the last year. We must ensure they receive the funding boosts Congress intended in previous COVID packages. This technical fix will do just that, ensuring continued access to care for medically underserved communities,” said Rush.
Additionally, the American Rescue Plan allocates over $20 billion for a national vaccination program, and over $50 billion for COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and mitigation. This will increase the speed at which Americans are able to receive vaccines and enhance the ability of public health agencies to monitor and mitigate potential COVID-19 outbreaks and emerging strains.
“I am glad that this package includes increased funding for vaccines, testing, and contact tracing in medically underserved communities as well as direct funding to build a locally sourced, culturally competent public health workforce. I have been a vocal advocate for mobile testing and widespread contact tracing done by individuals from the communities in which they live. That is why I introduced H.R. 726, the Testing, Reaching, and Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act,” said Rush. “My bill would create a $100 billion grant program to provide funding to local stakeholders to help mobilize a local testing and contact tracing workforce. While I do not believe the funding in the package before us today goes far enough or adequately engages local partners, this package still takes a critical step forward to establish the robust vaccination, contact tracing, and testing programs that will be necessary for ending the pandemic.”
Economic Assistance Provisions in the American Rescue Plan
As Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy, Congressman Rush was particularly pleased that this package of provisions includes $4.5 billion for home energy assistance grants through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This measure passed the full Committee on Energy and Commerce on February 12, 2021.
“Historically, LIHEAP has supported millions of Americans in remaining safe and healthy in their homes in the face of adversity,” said Rush. “The ongoing pandemic has impacted the lives and livelihoods of people within our communities — some of whom may be falling on hard times for the first time.
“By delivering $4.5 billion dollars in home energy assistance relief to the American people, we will allow folks to make their way through these difficult times without having to choose between food and keeping their electricity on.”
With an estimated 40 million Americans now struggling to pay rent and fearing eviction, the American Rescue Plan provides the following urgent aid that will help keep Americans in their homes:
- $26 billion for emergency rental assistance, including $5 billion for emergency vouchers to transition those experiencing or at risk of homelessness, survivors of domestic violence, and victims of human trafficking to stable housing;
- $10 billion for the Homeowner Assistance Fund, which allocates funds to states, territories, and tribes to address the needs of homeowners struggling to afford their mortgage payments, property taxes, property insurance, utilities, and other costs due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic; and
- $4.75 billion for the HOME Investment Partnership Program to fund affordable housing, non-congregate shelter programs and supportive services for Americans experiencing homelessness.
Currently, over 19 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits, with many federal unemployment benefits set to expire on March 14, 2021. The American Rescue Plan provides the following provisions through August 29, 2021 to assist Americans who find themselves out of work:
- Extends the Federal Supplemental Unemployment Benefit (FPUC) and enhances the weekly supplemental amount from the current $300 to $400; and
- Extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs.
Small Business Assistance
The economic devastation wrought by COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on small businesses, and eight in ten minority-owned business may be on the brink of closure if Congress does not act swiftly. In order to preserve these vital businesses, which can be the heartbeats of their communities, the American Rescue Plan includes the following:
- $7.25 billion in additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program;
- Expanded eligibility for 501(c) nonprofits;
- $15 Billion for COVID-19 emergency grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program; and
- $25 billion for a Restaurant Revitalization Fund to be administered through the Small Business Administration (SBA).
It is estimated that 24 million Americans are currently experiencing hunger, and 12 million children are experiencing food insecurity. The American Rescue Plan includes the following provisions to assist those who are facing food insecurity:
- Authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to boost the value of the Cash Value Voucher (CVV) in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) by up to $35 per month for women and children for a four-month period;
- Extends Congress’s requirement that increase the value of SNAP program benefits be calculated using the June 2020 value of the thrifty food plan; and
- Allocates more than $5 billion to the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer Program (P-EBT), which assists low-income children and families access school meals and food assistance.
“Sadly, due to the COVID pandemic, too many Americans — including children — are wondering where their next meal is coming from. This is an abomination that Congress should act swiftly and thoroughly to rectify. Fortunately, the American Rescue Plan takes important steps to ensure individuals can put food on the table,” said Rush.
“While no legislation is perfect, the American Rescue Plan represents the bold action Congress must take to alleviate the health and economic crises facing Americans,” said Rush. “Without the kind of robust stimulus provided by the American Rescue Plan, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that it could take four years for America’s economy to recover. The danger is not that Congress will do too much to help the American people recover, but too little. I look forward to continuing my work in Congress to ensure that a rapid and equitable recovery takes place.”