NY lawmakers applaud passage of $1.9T federal stimulus

A pedestrian walks near the U.S. Treasury building in Washington on March 17, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer.

WASHINGTON — The state will receive more than $12 billion in federal aid, and nearly double that amount in relief for New York’s local governments, after Congress voted Wednesday afternoon to pass an amended $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package.

The historic American Rescue Plan passed by a vote of 220-211, and provides $300 billion for state and local governments, $170 billion for K-12 schools and higher education an additional $7 billion for small businesses for the Paycheck Protection Program and $40 billion in federal funding to stabilize child care providers as they work to safely reopen.

“This is one of the most significant pieces of legislation passed in decades,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said at a press 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 provides an extension of enhanced unemployment benefits set to expire Sunday, was a campaign promise of President Joe Biden’s and several congressional Democrats last fall.

“Promises made, promises kept,” Schumer said.

The bill includes $1,400 direct stimulus checks, an increase in the Child Tax Credit to $3,000 per child and $3,600 for a child under age 6 and $20 billion to establish a national COVID-19 vaccination program.

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 reason through September 2021.

“I applaud Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and the New York Democratic Congressional delegation for their tireless efforts to pass the American Rescue Plan — a historic package that meets the needs of working class New Yorkers and is a crucial step towards revitalizing our nation’s economy and helping us recover from the national COVID crisis,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday. “This legislation confronts the dual health and economic crises created by the war on COVID by providing much needed relief to lift New York families out of dire economic straits, critical funds to expand and accelerate New York’s growing vaccination efforts, and targeted relief for state and local governments. It has been an incredibly difficult and challenging year for New York, but New Yorkers have responded with the same determination, perseverance and love exhibited in our darkest days, and this legislation brings us closer to the light at the end of the tunnel.”

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

In January, 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 bill was sent to President Biden’s desk for his signature, which is expected by week’s end.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said she expects money to start flowing to states and localities within the next two weeks.

The state could receive up to $24 billion in state and local aid, Gillibrand said.

“This is literally going to be a lifeline for millions of people in this country and millions of people in New York,” Gillibrand said in a 30-minute briefing about the stimulus bill Tuesday afternoon. “I think a lot of these ideas are fundamentally bipartisan. I think there were too many politics around the first COVID bill and many of the subpieces were written on a bipartisan basis. I’m optimistic as we begin to see how these programs work that this is the biggest anti-poverty legislation. ... People will see that it works and will be able to support the continuation of these programs.”

The American Rescue Plan features $7.66 billion for a new public health workforce based on Gillibrand’s “Health Force” legislation to expand the nation’s public health jobs and infrastructure to aid in the country’s vaccine distribution.

The bill also includes U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado’s Direct Support for Communities Act, which establishes a formula for local aid that delivers $130.2 billion to U.S. counties and municipalities.

The formula will bring over $400 million directly to local governments in New York’s 19th Congressional District, including $11,530,000 to Columbia County and $9,015,000 for Greene County.

“The American Rescue Plan will get shots in residents’ arms, money in pockets, kids in school, open signs on Main Street, and dollars directly to local governments,” Delgado said. “Last week, I met with over 100 local officials who desperately need federal support. Today, I am honored and humbled that my bill to deliver this long overdue funding to counties, cities, towns and villages is headed to the president’s desk along with meaningful relief for families, farmers, small business owners, students, school districts and veterans. I am proud to have advocated for our local leaders in Washington and played an instrumental role in the crafting of the American Rescue Plan.”

The bill also creates a $28 billion Restaurant Revitalization fund, $50 billion 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 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.

“Now we can focus on the services and supports that our students depend on as we look forward to working closely with state legislators in the coming days to secure additional state funding, which allows us to invest and expand services for students and broaden access to education for all New Yorkers.”

State legislative leaders also expressed gratitude after the measure was passed Wednesday.

“I am so thankful to the members of our congressional delegation who have continued to fight for our state since COVID-19 first hit New York,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, said in a statement. “I have said throughout the pandemic that the Assembly Majority would do everything we could to help New Yorkers to get through this global health crisis, but we could not do it on our own. During that time, members of our federal delegation fought for New York in Washington, even when the previous administration stood by. Together with President Biden, they have secured critical funding for our schools, for childcare, for small businesses, for state and local aid and more. This will allow us to get our kids back to school and for parents to find quality, affordable childcare so they can head back to work, and we can truly begin the process of economic recovery.”

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said in a statement that the new Democratic Congress delivered on Biden’s promise to provide critical funding to help the nation’s and New York’s economy, families, schools and small businesses.

“Thank you, President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and those from the New York Congressional Delegation who showed moral leadership in supporting this needed recovery,” she said.

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