WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today voted to pass the American Rescue Plan, which will ramp up vaccine production and distribution to get all Americans vaccinated, and support all Ohioans through the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis. The bill includes several key priorities for which Brown has long fought, including a fix for the multiemployer pensions system to ensure thousands of Ohio retirees receive the pension they have earned.
“The American Rescue Plan will help us deliver on the hope that Americans voted for. Democrats promised shots in arms, money in families’ pockets, children in schools, workers in jobs, and a roof over families’ heads. We’re following through on that promise,” said Brown.
The bill includes funding and resources to combat this virus, and help hardworking Ohioans and their families recover:
SHOTS IN ARMS
· $20 billion for a national, coordinated vaccination program, in partnership with states and localities. This will include launching community vaccination centers around the country and deploying mobile vaccination units to hard-to-reach areas.
· $50 billion for a massive expansion of testing, contact tracing, and genomic sequencing of COVID-19 variants. This includes providing funds for the purchase of rapid tests, investments to expand lab capacity, and support to help schools and local governments implement regular testing protocols.
· $10 billion to utilize the Defense Production Act to produce, purchase, and distribute Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other essential medical supplies in the U.S.
· Additional support to help Americans keep their health insurance by providing COBRA premium assistance for individuals who lost their employer sponsored health coverage and expanding subsidies for folks to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
o Brown led efforts to expand healthcare coverage and ensure these robust COBRA subsidies.
o Brown has worked to lower health insurance premiums for Ohioans who buy health insurance through the ACA.
· Increased federal funding for Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), which is essential for older Americans and people with disabilities who live and receive services in their homes and the workforce that supports them, as well as for state Medicaid programs.
· 12-months of Medicaid postpartum coverage for new mothers. This policy is essential to addressing our nation’s maternal mortality crisis – one that has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and that overwhelmingly affects Black women.
· $8.5 billion in provider relief for rural healthcare providers.
CHILDREN IN SCHOOLS
· $130 billion to help K-12 schools reopen for in-person learning safely. This would help schools implement public health protocols for the safe reopening of schools and meet students’ academic, mental, social, and emotional needs, whether they’re learning in-person, hybrid, or remotely. These flexible funds can be used to facilitate social distancing and modify physical space, improve ventilation, hire more staff, provide PPE, provide mental health services and supports, including through the implementation of full-service community schools, and provide other resources and supports to serve students.
o It also includes funds dedicated to address learning loss and inequities exacerbated by disruptions to education caused by the pandemic.
o This funding includes a $1.25 billion set aside for evidence-based summer enrichment, $1.25 billion for afterschool programs, and $3 billion for education technology.
· In addition, this bill will include $40 billion to support institutions of higher education and their students. Half of the funds for public and non-profit schools will go toward emergency financial aid grants to help students who are experiencing financial hardship due to the economic crisis. The rest of the funds will help stabilize public and non-profit schools who are facing budget cuts and additional expenses navigating educating students amidst the pandemic.
MONEY IN POCKETS
· Another round of direct stimulus payments for people struggling as a result of this pandemic. The proposal would provide a $1,400 per-person check to help pay their bills, bringing their total relief payment from this and the December down payment from Congress to $2,000.
o Brown is also continuing to urge the Biden administration to include recurring relief payments and jobless benefits tied to economic conditions in President Biden’s long-term “Build Back Better” plan.
· Additional weeks of unemployment benefits, through September 6, 2021, including for self-employed and independent contractors. It would include an additional $300 per-week unemployment benefit.
· More than $40 billion in housing assistance, including more than $21 billion for rental and utility assistance, $5 billion for emergency housing vouchers, nearly $10 billion for homeowner assistance, and $5 billion for homelessness assistance and supportive services to help keep people in their homes and to help secure safe housing for those experiencing or at risk of homelessness. It also provides funding for housing counseling.
· An expansion to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC).
o Brown led the Senate Democrats last Congress in re-introducing the Working Families Tax Relief Act, which would cut taxes for workers and families by expanding the EITC and CTC. The EITC and CTC are two of the most effective tools to put money in the pockets of working people and pull children out of poverty.
o The bill also continues a special rule under current law that allows tax filers to use their 2019 wages for purposes of calculating their EITC. Brown led bipartisan legislation to get this signed into law last year.
· An extension of the 15 percent Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit increase. This would maintain the increase through the summer, when childhood hunger spikes due to a lack of school meals.
o This would also include nearly $1 billion to help women, infants and children get the food they need through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
· $425 million to support programs under the Administration for Children and Families that support programs serving kinship caregivers, children and young people in foster care, refugees and immigrant children, and families in need.
o The bill also includes $350 million to support families and provide resources to communities to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect. Last month, Brown reintroduced the Emergency Funding for Child Protection Act to bolster state helplines and support families with their health and material needs.
· $30 billion investment in the Disaster Relief Fund, to ensure sufficient supplies and protective gear, and to provide 100% federal reimbursement for critical emergency response resources to states and local governments, including deployment of the National Guard.
WORKERS IN JOBS
· $50 billion in funding to help small businesses keep their doors open and get back on their feet, including $25 billion for restaurants, an additional $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, and funding to help businesses better understand and navigate the federal programs available to them.
· $10 billion for the State Small Business Credit Initiative, which provides funding to states to create or expand their own small business financing programs.
· $350 billion in state and local funding to help states and municipalities across Ohio with revenue loss due to this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. This will help prevent local layoffs across the country.
o This funding includes a new Critical Infrastructure Projects program to help states carry out critical capital projects directly enabling work, education, and health monitoring, including remote options, in response to COVID-19.
· An increase in tax credits to help cover the cost of child care, to help millions of families and help parents return to work.
o This bill would also create a $24 billion emergency stabilization fund to help hard-hit child care providers reopen safely and provide $15 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant to help families and parents afford child care so they can get back to work.
· $30 billion of further assistance for public transportation relief to prevent layoffs of transit workers and prevent cuts to transit services that essential workers and the general public rely on.
LONG-AWAITED MULTIEMPLOYER PENSIONS FIX FOR OHIO RETIREES
· A financial assistance program for financially troubled Multiemployer Pension Plans. Brown has been fighting for this fix for years and was able to secure key provisions based on his Butch Lewis Act in the bill. Brown named the legislation in memory of Butch Lewis, the former retired head of Teamsters Local 100 in southwest Ohio.
o About 10 million Americans participate in multiemployer pension plans and about 1.5 million of them are in plans that are quickly running out of money. Many of these troubled plans cover workers who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 public health crisis, such as trucking, food processing, grocery store workers, and others. Even before the pandemic, workers, businesses, and retirees faced a crisis and were in dire need of our help.
o To address this crisis, this legislation would create a special financial assistance program under which cash payments would be made by the PBGC to financially troubled multiemployer pension plans to ensure that such plans can continue paying retirees’ benefits.