House passes $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package; $60m headed to GLOW region | Local News

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives passed the final version of the American Rescue Plan on Wednesday afternoon, sending it off to be signed by President Joseph R. Biden. All but one House Democrat voted to pass the bill, and all Republicans voted against it, including Rep. Chris Jacobs, R-Orchard Park.

The $1.9 trillion federal aid package, which is the largest seen since the Great Depression, includes billions of dollars in direct payments to individuals, local and state governments, as well as billions more in grant programs to support businesses.

The GLOW region counties and towns could see $60.83 million in total aid, including more than $38 million to county governments, according to data released by the office of Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and the National Association of Counties.

“This is one of the most significant pieces of legislation passed in decades,” Schumer said during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol after the bill was passed Wednesday. “It will do more for the middle class than any bill in a very long time. It can put money in working families’ bank accounts, it’s going to get vaccines in people’s arms … it’s going to cut child poverty in half and so much more.”

The bill, which initially passed the house in late February, passed in the Senate on Sunday after a 25-hour “vote-a-rama.” Senators debated hundreds of amendments to the House-passed version, and ultimately passed the measure along party lines, 50-49.

The Senate-amended version came back before the House on Wednesday, and after just two hours of debate, passed along similarly partisan lines, 220-211. Jacobs had not commented on the vote as of press time Wednesday night. He had previously voted against the bill on Feb. 27, calling it at that time “a partisan package designed to advance an agenda, not the needs of the American people.” He had said he would have supported a bill that “bolstered vaccine distribution, aided struggling local governments, and reopened schools.”

Jacobs also took issue with unspent federal aid money from previous COVID-19 aid packages.

According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a non-partisan public policy organization that maintains a “COVID Money Tracker,” about $3.1 trillion of the $4.1 trillion already authorized by Congress has been spent. Much of that money is from the December coronavirus aid package and has already been allocated and scheduled for spending.

Under the American Rescue Plan, the federal government will provide $300 per week to those on state unemployment rolls through to Sept. 6. Previously, the federal government was providing $400 per week through mid-August.

Individual Americans with incomes below $75,000, or $150,000 if filing jointly with another person, will receive another $1,400 stimulus check as well. That will phase out as an individual’s net yearly income increases, and individuals earning more than $80,000 or couples earning $165,000 will not be eligible for a stimulus check.

Dependents, now including those over the age of 16 for the first time, will also qualify for stimulus money, an additional $1,400 per dependent.

During a news conference Saturday, President Biden said the U.S. Treasury will start sending those checks out before the end of the month.

Families with children will also see improved benefits from the Child Tax Credit. For children under the age of 5, a family will receive a $3,600 tax credit, and for a child ages 6 to 17, a family will receive $3,000 tax credit. For low-income families, those credits will be given out as an advance payment as soon as possible. For middle- and high-income families, the federal government will send an advance payment in monthly installments starting in June.

Emergency SNAP and P-EBT benefits will be increased under the measure, with $1 billion in nutrition assistance to Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories and emergency increase in Women, Infants and Children cash value vouchers up to $35 per month, $30 billion in federal transit funding, $45 billion for Homelessness Prevention and Housing Assistance, $3.5 billion for substance abuse prevention and treatment and Community Mental Health Block grants and $570 million to support an additional 15 weeks of paid leave at $1,400 per week to all federal workers for COVID-19 related reasons through September.

The bill also makes $50 billion available for the Federal Emergency Management Agency Disaster Relief Fund, $1.4 billion for Older Americans Act funding to support community-based and in-house services for older adults, $500 million in rural initiatives to help hospitals and $39 billion to support colleges and universities.

“The stimulus nearly erases a $500 million operating deficit incurred over the last 12 months and provides direct emergency financial relief to the students who’ve been hardest hit by the pandemic,” State University of New York Chancellor Jim J. Malatras said in a statement Wednesday. “It means help is on the way for students struggling to pay for food, rent, course materials, and other basic needs as they pursue their education.

The American Rescue Plan features $7.66 billion for a new public health workforce based on the “Health Force” legislation drafted by Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to expand the nation’s public health jobs and infrastructure to aid in the country’s vaccine distribution.

According to Schumer, New York state will also receive about $4 billion to support vaccine distribution, COVID-19 testing and other health care-related costs.

Businesses will see a number of grant and loan programs from the American Rescue Plan as well. Roughly $28.6 billion has been allocated for New York restaurants, $1.25 billion has been set aside for independently owned performance venues, movie theaters and performing arts centers, as well as $15 billion in grant money will be made available for underserved, minority-owned businesses.

The Paycheck Protection Program’s eligibility requirements have also been amended to allow individual offices of larger national nonprofits to qualify for a loan under the program. Currently, local offices with fewer than 500 employees can qualify for a first-round PPP loan and offices with fewer than 300 employees can qualify for a second-round loan.

Roughly $632 million has also been made available for New York students and teachers to improve internet connections and make it easier for students to participate in remote instruction.

State and local governments will also see a significant amount of federal aid from this coronavirus aid package. Overall, the New York state government and all local governments within the state are expected to receive about $23.8 billion dollars in fiscal relief to be used for costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

New York state government is set to receive roughly $12.5 billion from the legislation, state Budget Division spokesman Freeman Klopott said in a statement Wednesday.

In January, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo threatened taking legal action against the federal government if New York did not receive at least $15 billion in aid from the next COVID-19 relief measure to assist with the state’s $14 billion-plus revenue deficit.

“We are evaluating the bill and seeking further guidance from the federal government to better understand how this funding can be used,” Klopott said. “The federal funding is a one-shot resource and is not recurring, and we will work with the Legislature to identify the best solutions to close the current and out-year budget gaps as we negotiate the budget ahead of the April 1 deadline.”

The state will receive $12 million to support rural transportation systems in upstate New York and $488 million will be distributed to county bus services and other upstate transportation agencies.

Local governments can use allocations for direct assistance to local residents, businesses, nonprofits or industries specifically impacted by the pandemic; premium pay for essential workers they employ or grants for local businesses to pay essential workers a premium for their work; or to cover revenue losses related to the pandemic or to make infrastructure investments.

Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming County governments will receive $38.87 million altogether, not including any money going to town, city or village governments within county borders. Livingston County will take in $12.2 million. Genesee County will receive $11.11 million. Orleans County is slated to get $7.83 million, and Wyoming County is expected to receive $7.73 million.

Livingston County’s 17 towns will receive a combined total of $6.91 million in direct aid, ranging from a high of $1.17 million to the Town of Geneseo to a low of $80,000 to the Town of Ossian. Other funds include: Town of Avon, $750,000; Town of Caledonia, $450,000; Town of Conesus, $260,000; Town of Groveland, $350,000; Town of Leicester, $230,000; Town of Lima, $440,000; Town of Livonia, $830,000; Town of Mount Morris, $460,000; Town of North Dansville, $570,000; Town of Nunda, $320,000; Town of Portage, $90,000; Town of Sparta, $170,000; Town of Springwater, $250,000; Town of West Sparta, $140,000; and Town of York, $350,000.

Genesee County’s 14 towns and the City of Batavia will receive $6.24 million, ranging from $1.58 million for the City of Batavia to $190,000 each for the Town of Alabama and the Town of Bethany. Other funds include: Town of Alexander, $270,000; Town of Batavia, $750,000; Town of Bergen, $320,000; Town of Byron, $250,000; Town of Darien, $330,000; Town of Elba, $250,000; Town of Le Roy, $810,000; Town of Oakfield, $330,000; Town of Pavilion, $260,000; Town of Pembroke, $450,000; and Town of Stafford, $260,000.

The 10 towns in Orleans County will receive $7.74 million, ranging from $880,000 for the Town of Albion, to $210,000 for the Town of Barre. Other funds include: Town of Carlton, $310,000; Town of Clarendon, $380,000; Town of Gaines, $350,000; Town of Kendall, $290,000; Town of Murray, $510,000; Town of Ridgeway, $690,000; Town of Shelby, $550,000; and Town of Yates, $260,000.

Wyoming County’s 16 towns will take in a combined $7.73 million, ranging from $760,000 for the Town of Attica, to $50,000 for the Town of Genesee Falls. Other funds include Town of Arcade, $450,000; Town of Bennington, $350,000; Town of Castile, $300,000; Town of Covington, $130,000; Town of Eagle, $130,000; Town of Gainesville, $230,000; Town of Java, $220,000; Town of Middlebury, $150,000; Town of Orangeville, $140,000; Town of Perry, $480,000; Town of Pike, $120,000; Town of Sheldon, $250,000; Town of Warsaw, $530,000; and Town of Wethersfield, $90,000.

Gillibrand said she expects money will start flowing to states and localities within the next two weeks.

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