All Oregon Democrats join to back Biden pandemic plan
President Joe Biden signed his $1.9 trillion pandemic recovery plan, which won final approval on Wednesday, March 10, with the support of Oregon's four Democrats and opposition from its lone Republican in the U.S. House.
In descending order, the largest shares go toward economic stimulus payments to individuals, aid to state and local governments, extensions of unemployment benefits, childcare and other aid to families, reopening schools and COVID-19 vaccinations and other health care.
Biden signed the bill on Thursday, March 11, ahead of a nationally televised speech on the anniversary of the pandemic.
Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader of Canby, one of only two Democrats to oppose the initial version on Feb. 27, joined all but one Democrat to support it on the final 220-211 vote.
Reps. Suzanne Bonamici of Beaverton, Earl Blumenauer of Portland and Peter DeFazio of Springfield voted yes on both versions of HR 1913. Republican Rep. Cliff Bentz of Ontario voted no.
Bonamici was outspoken in her support of the $39 billion that the bills sets aside for childcare subsidies to families and support to providers.
"The American Rescue Plan will help the people of northwest Oregon, including many who have reached out to me during this past year. It will help the senior citizen in Seaside who needs a vaccine but doesn't have access to the Internet. It will help the new mom and her husband, both paramedics, who don't have access to paid family leave and can't afford childcare. It will help restaurants like a beloved Portland eatery that has been shut down for months but could finally reopen thanks to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
"It will help school leaders in districts big and small who want to bring students back to classrooms but don't have the funding to do so safely. It will help the arts industry worker in Portland who has relied on unemployment benefits since last June and can't afford to lose them now. I've fought hard for this aid based on these and so many other compelling stories, and am grateful the American Rescue Plan will now become law."
The bill, which runs to more than 600 pages, includes $25 billion Blumenauer has sought for nearly a year to help independent restaurants.
"This is historic legislation dealing with priorities long neglected. The impact of this legislation says it all. Republicans, with their more than trillion-dollar tax cut, primarily for people who didn't need it, versus our priorities, which will make a major impact on child poverty, deal with public health and help our local governments survive. This is a reflection of Democratic values and the difference it makes is stark.
"I am proud to vote in favor of the rescue plan. I am proud of what it is going to do for people who need it most. And the contrast between Democratic priorities and what the Republicans did when they used budget reconciliation could not be starker. I encourage President Biden to sign this legislation into law as soon as possible, so we can get help to Oregonians right away."
Schrader had opposed the first version, but the revised plan further narrows who qualifies for $1,400-per-person stimulus checks on top of the $600-per-person payments included in year-end legislation. The final plan sets income limits of $75,000 per person and $150,000 per couple for the full $1,400 payments. The payments phase out at $80,000 and $160,000.
Neither DeFazio nor Bentz issued statements on their websites.
House Republicans criticized the plan as wasteful and their campaign arm — seeking to target DeFazio and Schrader in 2022 — labeled it "a socialist giveaway."
Bonamici's staff also offered an Oregon-specific breakdown of the plan's $350 billion in aid to state and local governments. Based on the calculations of a House committee — and 2020 data — state government will get $2.6 billion; metro area cities, $438 million; other cities, $243 million; and counties, $818 million. Federally recognized tribes will draw shares of a $20 billion national fund.
There will be two payments, one about 60 days after Biden signs the bill, the other one a year from now.
Metro area cities are defined as those with populations of at least 50,000. They will get their money directly from the U.S. Treasury upon filing a certificate of need. In descending order, they are Portland, Salem, Eugene, Gresham, Hillsboro, Beaverton, Bend, Medford, Springfield, Corvallis, Albany and Tigard.
Counties also will get their shares directly from the Treasury, based on population.
Other smaller cities will get their money through state government. Unlike the CARES Act last year, when cities and counties protested lawmakers' decision simply to reimburse them for pandemic-related expenses, the money will be distributed according to population, and state officials will have no discretion over how it is allocated.
NOTE: Updates with Biden signing the bill (HR 1913) on Thursday, March 11; corrects House vote.
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