On March 9, 2021, the United States Congress passed H.R. 1319 – American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Democrats passed the budget resolution 51-50 in the evenly split Senate, as Vice President Kamala Harris had to cast her first tie-breaking vote. The final rescue package is expected to pass through the House and Senate once all elements are finalized in a reconciliation package.
What is the reconciliation process? According to the U.S. Senate, it is a process established in the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 by which Congress changes existing laws to conform tax and spending levels to the levels set in a budget resolution. All changes recommended by committees pursuant to a reconciliation instruction are incorporated into a reconciliation measure. Reconciliation can be controversial though both parties have used the process for major legislation. For example, Republicans used reconciliation to enact a massive tax bill, but they failed to use it to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017 after internal differences split the party.
Here is the timeline for the passage of American Rescue Plan Act of 2021:
Jan 14th – Relief plan has been proposed: President Joe Biden has proposed $1.9 trillion relief plan that includes $1,400 stimulus checks, $15 minimum wage, expanded federal unemployment benefits, ans support for struggling businesses and local governments
Feb 5th – Congress approved the relief plan: The Congress approved and passed the budget resolution 51-50 in the evenly split Senate.
Feb 25-27th – The House votes on the relief plan: The House of Committee will vote on the bill, the American Rescue Plan.
March 2-5th – The Senate will reflect the legislation change: The Senate takes up the legislation and possibly amends it before a vote.
March 8-12th – The House votes again: The House votes on the relief plan again if the Senate addresses additional legislation changes.
The new rescue plan includes major bullet points to improve the COVID-19 outbreak by building a bridge towards economic recovery:
- Mount a national vaccination program, contain COVID-19, and safely reopen schools
- Deliver immediate relief to working families bearing the brunt of this crisis
- Support communities that are struggling in the wake of COVID-19
President Biden is targeting to ensure that all Medicaid enrollees will be vaccinated, and all people can access the vaccine free-of-charge and without cost-sharing. The Biden proposal will invest $20 billion in a national vaccination program in partnership with state, localities, Tribes and territories. This will include launching community vaccination centers around the country and distributing mobile vaccination units to hard-to-reach areas for low-income families.
The president’s plan also provides $130 billion to help school systems safely reopen and operate or facilitate remote learning for students. These funds can be used to reduce class sizes and modify spaces so students and teachers can socially distance and cover other costs that are needed to safely reopen. In addition to this funding, schools will be able to access the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund resources to get reimbursed for certain COVID-19 related expenses and receive support to implement regular testing protocols.
Furthermore, President Biden is calling on Congress to send a lifeline to small businesses; protect educators, public transit workers, and first responders from lay-offs; and keep critical services running at full strength. His plan would provide approximately $440 billion in critical support to struggling communities. This is in addition to funds that President Biden is requesting for safely reopening schools throughout the country.
The budget resolution focuses on recovering from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 and the ongoing recession, while staying under the $1.9 trillion target, including the following:
- A maximum recovery rebate of $1,400 per eligible individual
- A $300 per week jobless benefit through September (Labor Day)
- Emergency paid leave for over 100 million Americans
- Extends a 15% increase in food stamp benefits
- Expands the child tax credit, $3,000 per child up to age 17 and $3,600 per child under age 6 for 2021
- $55 billion for small businesses
- $350 billion in state, local, and tribal government relief
- $130 billion for K-12 schools and higher education institutions
- A $25 billion rent and utility assistance fund
The bill contains the following COVID-19 funding, including for COVID-19 vaccines, testing, and contract tracing, and other healthcare-related funding:
|Federal Emergency Management Agency||$50,000,000,000||Support vaccine distribution and assistance|
|Department of Veterans Affairs||$13,480,000,000||Support healthcare programs through Sep. 30, 2023|
|Defense Production Act||$10,000,000,000||Provide personal protective equipment and other medical gear, and for response to pathogens that could become future public health emergencies|
|Community health centers and Federally qualified health centers||$7,600,000,000||Combat COVID-19, including promotion, distribution, and administration of the COVID-19 vaccine; COVID-19 tracing and mitigation; COVID-19-related-equipmentl and COVID-19 outreach and education|
|Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)||$7,500,000,000||Assist COVID-19 vaccine distribution, administration, and tracking, including preparation of community vaccination centers and mobile vaccine units and acceleration of vaccine deployment|
|Indian Health Services||$5,400,000,000||Provide direct medical and public health services to member of federally-recognized Native American Tribes and Alaska Native people|
|Community Mental Health Services Block Grant program||$1,750,000,000||Provide support to a public health program|
|Substance Abuse Prevention Treatment Block Grant program||$1,750,000,000||Provide support to a public health program|
|U.S. Department of Health and Human Services||$1,000,000,000||Support vaccine confidence programs to increase vaccination rates|
|Food and Drug Administration||$500,000,000||Evaluate vaccine performance and facilitate vaccine oversight and manufacturing|
|United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)||$500,000,000||Provide support to Emergency Rural Development Grants for Rural Healthcare|
|Various health centers||$330,000,000||Support graduate medical education programs|
|Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)||$500,000,000||Support public health surveillance and analytics, including a modernization of the U.S. disease warning system to predict COVID-19 “hot spots” and emerging public health threats|
|Nursing loan repayment programs||$200,000,000||Offer registered nurses substantial assistance to repay educational loans in exchange for service|
|Medical Reserve Corps||$100,000,000||Provide the public health needs of their communities|
|Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program||$100,000,000||Promotes the supply of behavioral health professionals|
American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 will also provide emergency funding to upgrade federal information technology infrastructure and address the recent breaches of federal government data systems. To execute the plan for modernizing and securing federal IT and networks, it follows some key points to process:
- $9 billion investment to The Cyber Security and Information Security Agency (CISA) to expand and improve the Technology Modernization Fund
- $200 million fund from the Information Technology Oversight and Reform to surge cybersecurity technology and engineering expert hiring
- $300 million investment to build shared, secure services to drive transformational projects
- Additional $690 million for CISA to improve security monitoring and incident response activities
For the full text of H.R. 1319 bill, here is the link
Video from Biden Administration promoting the American Rescue Plan