Later today the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to pass a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.” The package mirrors the first portion of President Biden’s “Rescue” & “Recovery” plan he introduced the week he was inaugurated. The package is being moved quickly through Congress to extend key COVID-19 relief programs that were set to expire by the end of March.
Key provisions include:
- Provide $1,400 in direct payments to individuals and dependents with a reduction and phase-out based on income
- The measure would increase funding to $813.7 billion and expand eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program, and would allow forgiveness for additional expenses (501c6s will continue to be eligible), portions of employee related health care expenses will be eligible for forgiveness
- Extend pandemic unemployment programs until September and increase from $300 to $400 per week
- Expand tax credits for families and for employers who offer paid leave until September and increase the eligible wage limits from $10,000 to $12,000
- Extend employment retention credits to December 2021
- Expand tax credits for dependents and childcare
- Advance funds provided through the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program
- The measure would provide $150 million for the Labor Department to carry out worker protection activities related to the Covid-19 pandemic
- Fund state and local government aid, testing and vaccine activities, schools, mass transit systems, restaurants and other small business, child care, housing, nutrition, and more.
- Increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years.
- Expand subsidies to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act for two years.
The House is expected to pass the measure along partisan lines. In the Senate, Republicans’ have openly rejected the measure as too expensive and also containing Democratic priorities unrelated to COVID-19, namely the $15 minimum wage provision. At this point no Republican will vote for the bill and even Senator Manchin (D-WV) has rejected the minimum wage provision.
Senate Democrats are locked in a 50 – 50 tie with Senate Republicans and they cannot reach the 60 vote threshold to defeat a filibuster and pass the measure under traditional order. Instead Senate Democrats plan to pass the legislation using a seldom used budget process called reconciliation. Under reconciliation rules the COVID-19 package will only need to obtain a simple majority of 51 votes but the reconciliation process also has strict rules on excluding provisions that have specific deficient impacts. The Senate parliamentarian has ruled that the $15 minimum wage provision does not comply with reconciliation rules and will be stripped from the bill in the Senate in order to pass under a simple majority. The Senate will begin negotiations on other provisions of the package next week. NALP will continue to advocate for extending programs that help fund and protect landscape companies and their employees.