By Mark Valentini, Director of Legislative Affairs
The U.S. House of Representatives is going through the procedural motions to pass the American Rescue Plan, the fifth comprehensive COVID relief bill. It is expected to pass the House by Friday, Feb. 26, though it may have to overcome a few hurdles in the Senate. The bill is a major Biden administration priority that will provide additional emergency funding to state and local governments to fight the pandemic and mitigate its economic and public health consequences.
The package is expected to cost $1.9 trillion and will include:
- $1,400 stimulus payments to qualified individuals. This would supplement the $600 provided in the last round of relief passed at the end of 2020. There is talk in the Senate of prioritizing these payments to Americans in need, especially those who have lost employment and/or income due to the pandemic. President Biden has not signaled opposition to this approach.
- $15 minimum wage increase. Though the increase would be gradual, this provision is expected to face some pushback in the Senate and may not survive.
- Increased federal unemployment pandemic compensation (FPUC). The last COVID relief package set FPUC at $300 per week through March; under the American Rescue Plan, this would be increased to $400 (total) per week through September.
- Emergency paid leave provisions under FFCRA would be extended through September. Participation is voluntary and qualifying businesses would be eligible for government refunds.
- Expanded eligibility to most non-profits to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program, and an additional $7 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program to accommodate them. 501(c)3 and c(6) organizations are already eligible.
- $15 billion additional funding for EIDL grants.
- $25 billion in PPP funds designated specifically for the hotel and hospitality industry.
The legislation is facing fierce opposition from Congressional Republicans because of its price tag, and would not meet the 60-vote threshold in the Senate for consideration and a final vote (a process known as “cloture”). Because of this, Democrats are using the budget reconciliation process to pass the bill, which would require only a simple majority in both houses. This was the same tactic used to pass the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as the “ACA” or “Obamacare”) in 2010.
Director of Legislative Affairs , PHCC-National Association