WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine applauded Senate passage of the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that includes numerous critical wins for Virginia. The bill will now return to the House of Representatives [for a separate vote].
“Because of this bill, millions of Virginians will receive a stimulus check, unemployment benefits will last through the summer, and 85,000 of the Commonwealth’s children will be lifted out of poverty,” said Kaine. “The past year has been dark, but with this much-needed relief and the acceleration of vaccinations, a brighter, healthier, more prosperous America is on the horizon.”
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after voting for the American Rescue Plan, legislation to provide emergency relief to the American people and defeat the COVID-19 pandemic: “This legislation will help our country defeat COVID-19 and get back to normal. It includes desperately needed resources to get vaccines into arms; help schools reopen safely; and provide much-needed lifelines to the communities hardest-hit by this virus.
“I will be the first to acknowledge that this bill is not perfect. I am glad that as the Senate considered this legislation, we made some important changes to target aid where it is most badly needed as millions of Americans remain out of work, state and local governments continue to lay off workers, and small businesses struggle to keep their doors open.
“I’m especially proud that I was able to work with President Biden and my colleagues to add funding to expand access to high-speed internet, which is a necessity, not a luxury, during COVID-19. The $17 billion we secured to help expand broadband infrastructure and affordability represents the largest-ever federal investment of its kind and will be a significant boost to our economy as we work to rebuild and recover from COVID-19.”
Provisions of the American Rescue Plan include:
Aid for unemployed workers: The bill extends federal unemployment benefits until September, allowing Virginians who are out of work due to the pandemic pay bills while the economy continues to recover and jobs are not widely available.
Assistance for struggling households: The bill increases the size of the direct payments passed in December by another $1,400 per person, bringing the total to $2,000 per person.
Health care provider mental health: The bill includes $80 million to train health care professionals and public safety officers in strategies to reduce and address suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health conditions; $20 million for the CDC to carry out an education and awareness campaign to encourage health care professionals and first responders to seek support and treatment for their own behavioral health concerns, identify and respond to risk factors in themselves and others, and address stigma; and $40 million in grants for health care providers to establish or expand programs to promote mental and behavioral health among their health professional workforce.
Supporting public health data modernization: The bill provides $500 million to support and strengthen our public health data surveillance and analytics systems at the CDC.
Aid for vaccine distribution and virus tracking: The bill provides $20 billion to improve vaccine distribution, $10 billion for the Defense Production Act to procure essential medical equipment, and $50 billion for virus testing, genomic sequencing to detect new variants, contract tracing, and additional PPE.
Funding to safely reopen schools: In addition to state and local relief, the bill provides $125.8 billion for K-12 schools to reopen safely, including $3 billion to support students with disabilities and $800 million to support homeless children and youth. Funds could be used to purchase PPE, reduce class sizes, repair ventilation systems, hire support staff, and implement other CDC-recommended public health measures. School districts could also use funds to help students who have fallen behind catch up and get back on track. The bill also provides $40 billion to help institutions of higher education.
Child care: The bill invests $39 billion in child care providers through the Child Care Development Block Grant Program. These funds can be used by child care providers for operating expenses, PPE, personnel cost, and financial relief for struggling families to cover tuition.
Helping restaurants and other small businesses: In addition to providing an additional $7.25 billion to expand access to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for nonprofits and other organizations, the bill establishes a $25 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund to provide grants for restaurants. The bill also adds $15 billion for the Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance program to help the hardest-hit small businesses.
Broadband: In addition to the opportunities provided through aid to support state, local, and tribal governments, $7 billion is provided for the Federal Communications Commission to operate the Emergency Connectivity Fund. This fund will support broadband access for students by providing telecommunications services to schools and libraries.