Flawed package provides a fraction of needed House-passed aid blocked by Republicans for 219 days

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) today voted in favor of the Fiscal Year 2021 Omnibus and COVID bill put before the House of Representatives. The House passed a larger relief package that has been blocked by Senate Republicans for 219 straight days and a government funding package that was passed nearly five months ago.

“It is unconscionable it took this long,” said Rep. Pascrell. “While this bill does not provide aid to state and local governments that are being bled into bankruptcy, nor sufficient direct payments, it provides nearly a trillion dollars of relief into our fragile economy. It will help struggling Americans and it would be irresponsible to oppose helping people in trouble.

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“There is a lot of back-patting today by the very people who blocked relief for seven months. No one should ever forget that during Republicans’ deliberate obstruction countless Americans have been killed and our nation has been damaged. The bill we passed today offers a fraction of the relief our nation needs and that the House passed 219 days ago. Today’s package is not enough by a long shot. There should be more, but Republicans who sat on the pause button simply won’t agree to anything more. Tens of millions of Americans are crying out every day for help because of this administration’s failed pandemic response that has led to over 318,000 Americans dead, nearly 1 in 18 Americans infected, and growing permanent job loss. I hear these pleas and know this bill will not end the crises many are facing. But it will help ease the pain for some. While vaccine distribution is just getting underway, the crises created by this pandemic are deepening. It will be up to us in Congress to pass more direct relief to Americans and in the House, we will.”

The agreement ratified today provides big aid to New Jersey, of which Rep. Pascrell said: “The Garden State has been hit harder than almost any other state during the pandemic. Throughout this crisis our delegation has labored together to bring back help to our borders, and this agreement reflects that hard work. Funds passed today will keep New Jersey small businesses alive, families afloat, our first responders equipped, and our infrastructure preserved. Our cities and towns are being bled into bankruptcy. The next Congress has no choice but to pass state and local government assistance on a grand scale. If we do not, I fear our communities will take decades to recover. In the 117th Congress, I will not rest until we pass state and local aid and I will not halt until it is enacted.”

Key legislative provisions

Direct payment checks. This legislation provides a new round of direct payments worth up to $600 per adult and child for many Americans, while also ensuring that mixed-status families receive payments.

Enhanced Unemployment Insurance benefits: The legislation prevented the expiration of Pandemic Unemployment Insurance benefits for millions and added a $300 per week UI enhancement for Americans out of work.

Fighting COVID-19: The bill provides $22 billion for COVID-19 testing infrastructure; roughly $20 billion toward procurement of vaccines and therapeutics; nearly $9 billion to the CDC and states for vaccine distribution; over $3 billion for the strategic national stockpile; $9 billion for health care providers; and $4.5 billion in funding for mental health services. In addition, the legislation will allocate $250 million for broadband services for telehealth.

Ends surprise medical billing. The package includes bipartisan, bicameral legislation that will at long last end surprise billing for emergency and scheduled care. This is the same legislation that was agreed upon by House leaders last week and includes the Advanced Explanation of Benefits provision that Rep. Pascrell has championed in the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

Strong Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) support for small businesses: The legislation includes: over $284 billion for first and second forgivable PPP loans; expanded PPP eligibility for nonprofits and local newspapers, TV and radio broadcasters; key modifications for the smallest businesses and struggling nonprofits; $15 billion in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions. The agreement has $20 billion for targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Grants, which are critical to many smaller businesses.  Expenses associated with loans that are forgiven would also be tax deductible.

Transportation: The package provides $45 billion total for various modes of transit, including $15 billion for airlines, $14 billion for transit systems, $2 billion for airports and airport concessionaires, $1 billion for both Amtrak and airline contractors, $10 billion for state department of transportations, and $1 billion for the motor coach, school bus and ferry industries.

Nutrition assistance for hungry families. The bill includes $13 billion in increased SNAP and child nutrition benefits.

Education and child care: There is $82 billion in funding for colleges and schools (including support for HVAC repair and replacement to mitigate virus transmission and reopen classrooms), $54 billion dedicated to K-12; $23 billion dedicated to higher education; and  $4 billion for the CARES Act Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund. Includes $10 billion for childcare assistance to help get parents back to work and keep childcare providers open.

Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions assistance. The legislation contains dedicated PPP set-asides for very small businesses and lending through community-based lenders like Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs). This includes $9 billion in emergency U.S. Treasury capital investments to support lending in low-income and underserved communities, including persistent poverty counties, as well as $3 billion in emergency support for CDFIs to respond to the economic impact of the pandemic on underserved low-income and minority communities.

Rental assistance: The legislation includes $25 billion in rental assistance for families struggling to stay in their homes and an extension of the eviction moratorium.

Helping the Post Office. The package forgives the $10 billion loan made to USPS authorized by the CARES Act requiring no repayment.

Strengthening the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit: The bill enhances the credit to help increase affordable housing construction and provide greater certainty to new and ongoing affordable housing projects.

Pell Grants. The legislation contains the largest expansion of Pell Grant recipients in over a decade, reaching 500,000 new recipients and ensuring more than 1.5 million students receive the maximum benefit.

Paid sick leave tax credit. The bill provides a tax credit to support employers offering paid sick leave, using the Families First framework.

Strengthened Earned Income Tax Credit & Child Tax Credit: The bill helps families who faced unemployment or reduced wages during the pandemic to receive these credits based on their 2019 income.

 Disaster tax relief: For presidentially declared disasters (other than COVID-19), the usual disaster tax relief measures will be available, including allowing residents of disaster areas to borrow or take out a loan of up to $100,000 from a retirement plan or IRA account without penalty; providing a tax credit of 40 percent of wages (up to $6,000 per employee) to employers in disaster zones; and increasing the low-income housing tax credit allocations in states that experienced the most serious disasters in 2020. 

Offshore wind program support. The legislation adds offshore wind to a five-year extension of the existing wind credit. Rep. Pascrell is the longtime sponsor of the Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act (H.R. 4887), which would help reduce reliance on dirtier energy sources by bolstering America’s offshore wind industry, and create thousands of well-paying American jobs.

Legislative provisions relevant to New Jersey

National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC) and Rebuild By Design (RBD) funding: The bill includes $15 million for the NDRC, $230 million for a project across Hoboken, Weehawken and Jersey City, and $150 million for a project in the Meadowlands for RBD programs slated to expire Sept., 30 2022, which will now remain accessible until Sept., 30 2023. These have been top priorities Rep. Pascrell has long fought for in the House.

Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) protections: The bill includes three major items championed by Rep. Pascrell: (1) the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Report for the Hudson-Raritan Estuary Ecosystem Restoration project of New Jersey, which includes work in the Meadowlands; (2) the Peckman River Basin Flood Risk Management project to help protect against habitual flooding, and (3) amendments to update the New York-New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries Study to address damaging storm surges such as the one seen during Superstorm Sandy that rendered enormous damage on the Garden State.

Holy Name Graduate Medical Education: The legislation fixes the arbitrary caps placed on Graduate Medical Education (GME) program at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey, using language Rep. Pascrell has directly pushed to aid the regional hospital.