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$1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan COVID-19 Relief Bill Wins Final Approval By Congress

Congressman Ed Case votes "Aye" on third major emergency assistance measure

Funding to support vaccination acceleration, school re-openings, further direct stimulus payments, further aid to state and local governments, extended federal unemployment benefits and assistance to industries and small businesses

(Washington,DC) – U.S. Congressman Ed Case (HI-01) joined a majority of his colleagues today in voting for final passage of the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion measure to deliver further federal emergency assistance to confront the ongoing health, economic and social crisis of COVID-19.

“This bill, the eighth bill the House has passed with my support since the onset of COVID-19, is the critically-needed next effort by Congress to deliver assistance to so many still-critical needs throughout our country,” said Case. 

"This measure targets further assistance to our most dire needs: boosting production and distribution of the vaccines approved to fight the spread of the virus; extending unemployment benefits for our workers who are still without a job; making further direct stimulus payments to individuals and families in need; helping our small businesses and especially-impacted industries; and aiding in the safe reopening of our schools.

“This measure as passed by Congress also provides additional direct funding to our state and county governments whose budgets have taken a severe hit from the loss of revenue due to the shutdowns triggered by the pandemic.

"Since the tragic onset of COVID-19, I have worked to pass emergency assistance through our $2.2 trillion CARES Act last March, our $900 billion act last December, and now this $1.9 trillion package. I have also worked to assure that a fair share of this emergency assistance is actually received and applied to so many critical needs back home.

“So far Hawai‘i has received some $11 billion from various federal COVID relief bills and is expected to receive over $3 billion from our December package. This measure will add billions more to assist governments, businesses, workers, communities, and families across Hawai‘i as we continue to weather the crisis.

“I expect President Biden will sign the measure in the next few days to ensure the continuation of our existing emergency benefits that were previously set to expire by mid-March. Upon approval by the President, the full resources of my office will focus on getting all of this assistance to where it is needed as fast and comprehensively as possible.

"I ask anyone with questions on what is available or how to apply to go to my website, case.house.gov, at the COVID-19 tab for comprehensive information on this and our other measures. 

We are also available to answer any questions at ed.case@mail.house.gov or my Honolulu office at (808) 650-6688.”

Highlights of the $1.9 trillion measure of special interest to Hawai‘i include:

·         $350 Billion for State and Local Governments: The funds would be available for governments to respond to COVID-19 emergency needs, including, this time, to replace revenue that was lost, delayed, or reduced relative to revenue projections as of January 27, 2020.  Of that amount, an estimated $2.2 billion will go to the State of Hawai‘i and to each of its counties. The projected breakdown is:

o   Total State and Local Government in Hawai‘i: $2.272 billion

o   State of Hawai‘i: $1.632 billion

o   Counties / Local Government in Hawai‘i: $524 million

o   Hawai‘i Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund: $115 million

·         Further Economic Impact Payments: Often referred to as “stimulus payments,” they would be paid to qualifying individuals and families in need as much as $1,400 for an individual, $2,800 for joint filers, and $1,400 for each qualifying dependent.

·         Extension of Federal Unemployment Benefits: Federal supplement benefits would increase to $400 per week, from $300, for those qualified for federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. The extra payments would apply to weeks of unemployment after March 14, 2021 through August 29, 2021.

The bill would also extend through August 29th other jobless benefits made available under the CARES Act passed in March 2020 that were slated to expire on March 14th, with changes that include:

o   increasing the duration of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits to as long as 74 weeks, from 50 weeks, for individuals who don’t qualify for regular unemployment insurance benefits; and

o   extending to 48 weeks, from 24 weeks, benefits for those who’ve exhausted regular benefits under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.

The measure would also extend through August 29th:

o   federal payments to nonprofits and government agencies for 75 percent, increased from 50 percent, of the costs of providing unemployment benefits;

o   interest-free federal loans for state unemployment trust funds;

o   full federal funding to qualifying states for the extended benefit and work-sharing programs; and

o   full, instead of partial, federal funding for states to provide regular unemployment benefits without a waiting period.

·         Aid to Small Businesses: The measure would increase funding and expand eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and allow forgiveness for additional expenses. There would be an increase in the program’s lending authority by $7.3 billion, to $813.7 billion, and an appropriation of the same amount for the Small Business Administration (SBA) to guarantee additional loans.

The measure would provide $25 billion for a Restaurant Revitalization Fund to be administered by the SBA. Eligible recipients would include restaurants, bars, food trucks, and caterers, including businesses in airport terminals and tribally owned entities.

Additional funding also would be made available for advance payments to eligible entities under the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.

The measure would provide $100 million for the SBA to establish a Community Navigator Pilot Program for small businesses. The agency would issue grants or enter into agreements with nonprofits, small business resource centers, states, territories, tribes, and localities. They would have to ensure the free delivery of assistance from community groups and financial institutions to help small businesses access SBA programs during COVID-19.

The measure would provide an additional $75 million for the SBA to promote community navigator services to small businesses, including through its website, an advertising campaign, and a telephone hotline.

The SBA’s authority to issue grants would expire on December 31, 2025.

The measure also would provide:

o   $1.25 billion in additional funding for SBA grants to live venues and other cultural institutions under a program in the December 2020 relief package.

o   $840 million in additional administrative funds for the SBA to carry out the PPP and other initiatives to aid small businesses during COVID-19.

o   $390 million to administer the SBA’s disaster loan program and $70 million for the cost of additional loans.

·         Health Care Funding: The measure would fund a host of public health-related activities including:

o   $47.8 billion for testing and tracing activities,

o   $8.5 billion for vaccine development and review at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

o   $7.7 billion to expand the public health workforce, including grants to state, local, and territorial health departments,

o   $7.6 billion for community health centers,

o   $6.1 billion for tribal health programs,

o   $6.1 billion to support manufacturing and purchasing vaccines,

o   $3.5 billion for block grant programs under the Substance

Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and

o   $1.8 billion for genomic sequencing and surveillance.

The measure also would provide $250 million for “strike teams” to assist skilled nursing facilities and $200 million for infection control support at those facilities.

·         Funding for Schools: The measure would provide $128.6 billion for grants to states to support local educational agencies in addressing learning loss. Twenty percent of the funding would have to be used for summer learning, after-school programs, or extended-day or extended-year programs, as well as to provide equitable services to students who aren’t in public schools.

The rest could be used for a number of education-related expenses, including inspection and improvement of school facilities to ensure adequate air quality, provide mental health services, and purchase technology.

States that receive the grants couldn’t reduce their spending levels on education as a proportion of their budgets during fiscal 2022 or 2023, compared with the average level from fiscal 2017 through 2019. Similar restrictions would apply to spending reductions in high-poverty school districts.

The measure would also provide $39.6 billion for emergency financial aid grants at higher education institutions. Institutions would have to use at least half of the funding they receive for emergency financial aid grants. Funds could also be used to monitor and suppress the coronavirus and for outreach to financial aid applicants regarding potential adjustments related to the pandemic.

·         Tourism Assistance: The bill includes $3 billion Economic Adjustment Assistance provided by the Commerce Department. 15% of that assistance is dedicated to communities with job losses in the tourism industry.

·         Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund: this is a new $10 billion provision in the Plan that would give $100 million to each state, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico to fund “critical capital projects directly enabling work, education, and health monitoring, including remote options, in response to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease.”

An additional $100 million will be split between Hawai‘i and tribal governments, with each receiving a minimum of $50,000.

·         Housing Aid: The measure would provide $20.3 billion for rental assistance payments through the Treasury Department, building off the $25 billion in the December 2020 COVID-19 package.

Funds would be allocated to states and to localities with at least 200,000 people. Each state plus the District of Columbia would receive at least $152 million. The measure also would set aside $305 million for several U.S. territories and $1.2 billion for “high-need grantees” based on their population of low-income renter households, rental market costs, and employment trends.

The Treasury Department would have to ensure each grantee receives at least 40% of its allocation within 60 days of the measure’s enactment.

Grantees would have to use the funds to provide financial assistance to eligible households, including for rental and utility payments. Total assistance provided to a household under the measure and the year-end package couldn’t cover more than 18 months.

Households will qualify for rental assistance if they have:

o   At least one member who qualified for unemployment benefits, had their income reduced, or experienced other financial hardship due to COVID-19.

o   At least one member who can provide an eviction notice, evidence of unsafe living conditions, or other information to show they’re at risk of homelessness or housing instability.

o   Household income that doesn’t exceed 80% of the area median income.

Funds provided to grantees under the measure would remain available through September 30, 2025. The measure also would extend the use of rental assistance funds under the year-end package through September 30, 2022.

The measure would provide $9.96 billion to establish a Homeowner Assistance Fund at the Treasury Department.

The Department would allocate funds requested by states, territories, and tribes to prevent homeowner mortgage defaults, foreclosures, and displacements. Funds could be used to:

o   Reduce mortgage principal amounts.

o   Assist homeowners with mortgage, utilities, tax, and insurance payments.

o   Reimburse state and local governments for money spent since January 21, 2020, to prevent housing losses due to COVID-19.

Covered mortgages would include those with an unpaid principal balance at the time of origination that was less than a loan limit set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency ($822,375 for one-unit properties in Hawai‘i).

Each state, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, would receive at least $40 million. Additional amounts would be set aside for other U.S. territories and tribes.

Funding recipients would have to set aside at least 60% of their allocation to assist homeowners who make less than 100% of the local or national median income, whichever is greater.

The measure would also provide $5 billion for emergency Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.

The Housing and Urban Development Department would have to provide the vouchers through public housing agencies to individuals and families who are currently or recently homeless, and to those who are fleeing domestic violence, sexual assault, or human trafficking.

Public housing agencies couldn’t reissue the vouchers after September 30, 2023.

An additional $5 billion would be allocated to state and local governments to provide supportive services for homeless and other at-risk individuals. The funds could be used to:

o    Provide tenant-based rental assistance.

o    Develop affordable housing.

o    Offer services such as housing counseling and homelessness prevention.

Acquire non-congregate shelter units, such as hotel rooms, that could be converted to permanent housing

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