Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, voted in favor of the American Rescue Plan, the Democratic COVID-19 aid legislation.
“Over the past year, our country has faced a harrowing, unprecedented crisis,” Sewell said. “The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic fallout have reverberated throughout our communities, jeopardizing the health and financial stability of millions of American families. I proudly voted to pass the American Rescue Plan today because Alabama families and workers can no longer wait for relief needed to weather this public health and economic crisis.”
Sewell said the bill will provide up to $475 million in direct funding for cities and counties in Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, “which are in desperate need of funding and resources to fight the pandemic and distribute vaccines. The American Rescue plan also supports working families by providing a direct stimulus payment of $1,400 to individuals.”
“These provisions, along with the creation of a national vaccination plan, the expansion of the Child Tax Credit, the New Markets Tax Credit and Unemployment Benefits, and expanded subsidies for the ACA Marketplace are essential to defeat the virus and Build Back Better,” Sewell said.
Biden’s bill would also: provide direct housing assistance, nutrition assistance for 40 million Americans, expand access to safe and reliable child care and affordable health care, extend and expand unemployment insurance, support 27 million children with an expanded Child Tax Credit and 15 million low-wage childless workers through an improved Earned Income Tax Credit. It will also give 27 million workers a raise by raising the federal minimum wage.
The Democratic bill provides direct financial assistance to cities and counties.
Sewell said that cities and counties are on the front lines in the fight against the COVID pandemic, and they need more direct assistance to develop local vaccination plans, pay frontline employees overtime and hazard pay, and continue to offer essential services to families and neighbors.
Sewell said that the bill will mount a national vaccination plan that includes setting up community vaccination sites nationwide. It will also take complementary measures to combat the virus, including scaling up testing and tracing, addressing shortages of personal protective equipment and other critical supplies, investing in high-quality treatments and addressing health inequities. The plan will also make investments necessary to safely reopen schools.
The legislation would support communities struggling with the economic fallout by providing crucial support for the hardest-hit small businesses, especially those owned by entrepreneurs from racial and ethnic backgrounds that have experienced systemic discrimination, with EIDL grants, expanded PPP eligibility and more. The bill also provides crucial resources to protect the jobs of first responders, frontline public health workers, teachers, transit workers and other essential workers that all Americans depend on.
The bill would also provide new incentives for the twelve states, including Alabama, who have rejected Medicaid expansion. The bill accomplishes this by temporarily increasing the base Federal Medical Assistance Percentage by 5 percentage points for two years for any state that expands the government program. If all 12 remaining states expanded Medicaid, more than 2 million uninsured people would be added to the Medicaid rolls.
The bill expands the subsidies in the ACA Marketplaces to cover more middle-class families and to be more generous for those already receiving them for 2021 and 2022. Specifically, it removes the current cap that makes any family with an income above 400 percent of the poverty level ineligible for any subsidies.
Under the bill, no one will have to pay more than 8.5 percent of their income for a silver plan in the ACA marketplaces. It also provides that individuals below 150 percent of the poverty level pay no premiums at all compared to 4 percent of their income currently. The Urban Institute estimates that as many as 4.5 million more Americans could gain coverage under these provisions.
The bill also provides ACA subsidies for those on unemployment assistance. The bill provides that any individual who receives unemployment at any point in 2021 is treated as if their income were 133 percent of the poverty level for the purposes of the ACA marketplace subsidy. As a result, they can purchase an ACA silver plan for zero premium.
HR1319 passed the Democratic-controlled House but faces a more difficult pathway in the Senate. Sewell represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.