Schrader opposed, but U.S. House passes Biden's $1.9 trillion plan
The Senate is the next stop for President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic recovery plan, which includes $25 billion that Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer sought for aid to restaurants.
The House passed it early Saturday, Feb. 27, on a 219-212 vote. Oregon's Kurt Schrader and Maine's Jared Golden were the only Democrats to oppose HR 1913, along with all 210 Republicans voting.
Schrader, a Democrat from Canby, also voted against a much smaller plan that cleared Congress and was signed by then-President Donald Trump at the end of December. The earlier plan contained money for $600-per-person stimulus checks to individuals; the latest plan proposes to add $1,400. Schrader said those checks do not target money to people who need it, unlike small-business aid and unemployment benefits.
"This is an ineffective and poorly targeted approach to aiding Americans in distress," he said back on Dec. 28, a day after Trump signed the bill.
But Oregon Democrats Suzanne Bonamici of Beaverton, Blumenauer of Portland and Peter DeFazio of Springfield voted for the latest plan.
"Our communities need more help, and only the federal government can meet the tremendous need," Bonamici said in a statement. "This relief package is scaled to the problems we face. It will give security to struggling families, hope to business owners, and fuel to our vaccination efforts. And I will keep working to secure more resources for Oregonians as we build back better."
Blumenauer had been working for months to secure aid for restaurants. The $25 billion included in the House plan was less than the $120 billion he proposed initially. But he said aid is needed now.
"With today's vote, we have finally set the table for a first course of urgently needed aid," he said in a statement. "As we hopefully return to normal later this year, this legislative lifeline could spell the difference between survival of some of our most cherished local restaurants and losing them forever."
DeFazio said Republicans in the House and Senate have come up short with aid during the coronavirus pandemic, which is at the one-year mark.
"While more than half a million Americans have been killed by this terrible pandemic, congressional Republicans have continued their partisan obstruction, blocking critically needed relief that would help to end the pandemic sooner," he said in a statement. "I'm proud to have voted in support of President Biden's American rescue plan."
Oregon's lone Republican in the House, Cliff Bentz of Ontario, voted against it. He posted no statement in his website.
A proposal to raise the federal minimum wage in stages from $7.25 to $15 per hour is likely to come out of the bill when it reaches the Senate. The Senate parliamentarian said that provision conflicts with her interpretation of rules governing "budget reconciliation," a procedure that allows passage of budget-related measures by a minimum of 51 votes, instead of a filibuster-proof 60.
Democrats and Republicans are split 50-50. Democrats are the majority party because Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaker.
But its removal could ease the plan's passage in the Senate. Two Democrats said they opposed raising the minimum wage as proposed by Biden and others. Oregon is among the 29 states with a minimum wage higher than $7.25 per hour.
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, who leads the tax-writing Finance Committee, had supported that effort that the parliamentarian's interpretation derailed.
"While I am disappointed by today's decision, it marks the beginning — not the end — of our efforts to raise the minimum wage for millions of hard-working Americans," Wyden said in a statement Thursday, Feb. 25. "We will continue to explore all legislative options for raising workers' wages as we push forward on the relief package, which must be signed into law ahead of the March 14 cliff for jobless benefits."
The American Rescue Plan, as described by Bonamici in her statement, includes:
• $160 billion for vaccination efforts.
• $350 billion for state, local, and tribal governments, which are on the front lines of the pandemic.
• $1,400 per person direct payments for families making $75,000 or less a year.
• $130 billion for K-12 education, with a portion dedicated to address learning loss.
• $40 billion for higher education, with half dedicated to direct student support.
• $39 billion for child care.
• $35 billion for rent, mortgage, and housing assistance.
• $50 billion for small businesses, including $7 billion for forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), $15 billion for economic injury disaster loan advance grants targeted at the hardest-hit small businesses, and $25 billion to create a restaurant revitalization fund grant program.
• Establishes a Community Navigator Pilot Program to help small business owners understand and access relief programs.
Excerpt from U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer press release on how aid to restaurants would work (Section 6003 of HR 1913):
Blumenauer's proposal will provide $25 billion in grants for food service and drinking establishments – including caterers, brewpubs, taprooms, and tasting rooms – that are not part of an affiliated group with more than 20 locations or publicly traded. These grants could be spent on payroll and benefits, mortgage, rent, utilities, maintenance, supplies, food and beverages, covered supplier costs, operational expenses, paid sick leave, and other essential expenses. Restaurants would be able to receive grants up to $5 million for an individual location or $10 million for a restaurant group.
In order to ensure the smallest restaurants are prioritized, $5 billion of the $25 billion fund is reserved for restaurants with less than $500,000 in gross receipts in 2019. Additionally, during the first three weeks of the grant period, priority will go toward restaurants owned or controlled by women, veterans, communities of color, and other economically disadvantaged communities.
Full statement by U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici upon passage of President Biden's pandemic recovery plan (HR 1913):
"The COVID-19 pandemic has tragically claimed more than 500,000 lives and caused hardship in our lives and the economy. Community members have made heroic efforts to help their families and others survive, but the pandemic isn't over and they need additional support. The American Rescue Plan builds on prior relief efforts and sends important aid to Oregonians and people across the country.
"This bill includes many of the priorities Oregonians have discussed with me throughout the pandemic, including a meaningful investment in education and child care. Too many women have been forced out of the workforce, and this funding will help struggling families pay for child care and stabilize providers who have been pushed to the brink of permanent closure. It will also help our students, teachers, and staff safely return to their classrooms.
"Millions of people have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, including four million people who have been out of work for more than six months. The American Rescue Plan will provide immediate assistance to those facing the greatest need by extending expanded unemployment benefits, rental assistance, and the eviction moratorium. It also expands and strengthens nutrition programs, and will increase direct payments for working families to a total of $2,000. Millions will be lifted out of poverty by overhauling the child tax credit and gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.
"Our communities need more help, and only the federal government can meet the tremendous need. This relief package is scaled to the problems we face. It will give security to struggling families, hope to business owners, and fuel to our vaccination efforts. And I will keep working to secure more resources for Oregonians as we build back better."
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