‘Trojan Horse for the radical Left’s progressive wish list’: Sens. Tillis, Scott take shots at $1.9T relief package
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - After a more than 25-hour marathon, the Senate narrowly voted to approve a $1.9T coronavirus relief package, which includes $1,400 stimulus payments to Americans making less than $75,000.
While the vote passed 50-49, with all Democrats voting to pass the bill, all Republicans voted to reject the motion.
The bill goes back to the House for a final vote before getting delivered to President Biden to sign off on it.
According to The Associated Press, the bill’s total spending is nearly one-tenth the size of the entire U.S. economy.
Senate Republicans – including those in the Carolinas – say the funding is way too much, and some of it doesn’t directly help the COVID-19 cause.
Not one Republican has backed the bill, but with the Senate even at 50-50 and Vice President as the deciding vote, it could pass partisan without the Republicans’ vote.
North Carolina and South Carolina have two Republican Senators apiece, and all were against the enhanced COVID-19 relief bill.
N.C. Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, and S.C.’s Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham all voted against the $1.9 trillion relief package.
Tillis said on social media he co-introduced a $650 billion COVID-19 relief plan, but it was blocked by Senate Democrats.
Tillis said he voted against the $1.9 trillion bill because it was one-sided, led by Democrats.
“I voted against the $1.9 trillion spending bill passed by Senate Democrats,” Tillis said. “My Democratic colleagues pushed their partisan spending bill through the Senate and put an end to the bipartisan spirit of COVID relief that produced results over the past year.”
This is the $650 billion plan Tillis co-sponsored plan included this breakdown:
HEALTHY FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES Direct COVID Pandemic Response. Provides nearly $160 billion to support vaccine distribution, expand testing, PPE, and rebuild and restock the National Strategic Stockpile. This also includes $35 billion for the Provider Relief Fund to assist health care providers and hospitals, with an $8.5 billion set-aside for rural hospitals.
- Defense Production Act. Provides $5 billion for Title III of the Defense Production Act to help expand domestic production capacity of medical supplies and equipment.
- Disaster Relief Fund. Provides $30 billion to replenish the Disaster Relief Fund, including $5 billion for PPE for first responders and health care providers, including small physician and dental practices.
- Nutrition. Provides $12.4 billion to nutrition assistance programs. This includes additional funding for the WIC Program, Pandemic EBT, and SNAP, including extending increased SNAP benefits through September 30, 2021.
- Behavioral Health Services. Provides $3.88 billion to strengthen activities related to mental health and substance abuse. This includes $1.5 billion for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant and $1.5 billion for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant.
IMMEDIATE AID TO INDIVIDUALS AND SMALL BUSINESSES
- Unemployment. Extends federal unemployment programs through June and continues the $300 weekly supplement. Provides $2 billion to detect and prevent fraud, provide more equitable access, and ensure the timely payment of benefits.
- Economic Impact Payments. Provides an additional payment of $1,400 to adults in need and provides $500 for each of their dependents. These payments would go to single filers earning $40,000 or less with a complete phase-out by $50,000; for joint filers earning $80,000 or less together with a complete phase-out by $100,000; and heads of household earning $60,000 or less with a complete phase-out by $75,000. Payments would not be made to undocumented immigrants or prisoners.
- Small Business. Provides $40 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program and extends the application deadline to June 30, 2021. Of this, $5 million is for audits and investigations. Also provides $10 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
SAFELY REOPENING SCHOOLS AND SUPPORTING CHILDCARE
- Schools. Provides $19 billion to reopen K-12 schools and to keep them open. Funding will be available to school districts that provide in-person instructions to at least half of their students at least half of the time. Funding will also be available for activities that support the safe reopening of schools. Also provides $1 billion to support non-public schools with COVID-related costs.
- Child Care. Provides $20 billion to the Child Care and Development Block Grant program to provide immediate assistance to child care providers and to support child care for families, including for health care workers and first responders.
“The reality is we still have more than $1 trillion of unspent funds from the previous COVID relief bills which is why I co-introduced a $650 billion COVID-19 relief plan as a substitute amendment that was blocked by Senate Democrats,” Tillis said.
Here is a look at some highlights of the $1.9 trillion legislation:
AID TO THE UNEMPLOYED
Expanded unemployment benefits from the federal government would be extended through Sept. 6 at $300 a week. That’s on top of what beneficiaries are getting through their state unemployment insurance program. The first $10,200 of jobless benefits would be non-taxable for households with incomes under $150,000.
Additionally, the measures provides a 100% subsidy of COBRA health insurance premiums to ensure that the laid-off workers can remain on their employer health plans at no cost through the end of September.
The legislation provides a direct payment of $1,400 for a single taxpayer, or $2,800 for a married couple that files jointly, plus $1,400 per dependent. Individuals earning up to $75,000 would get the full amount, as would married couples with incomes up to $150,000.
The size of the check would shrink for those making slightly more, with a hard cut-off at $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for married couples.
Most Americans will be getting the full amount. The median household income was $68,703 in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
MONEY FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
The legislation would send $350 billion to state and local governments and tribal governments for costs incurred up until the end of 2024. The bill also requires that small states get at least the amount they received under virus legislation that Congress passed last March.
Many communities have taken hits to their tax base during the pandemic, but the impact varies from state to state and from town to town. Critics say the funding is not appropriately targeted and is far more than necessary with billions of dollars allocated last spring to states and communities still unspent.
AID TO SCHOOLS
The bill calls for about $130 billion in additional help to schools for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The money would be used to reduce class sizes and modify classrooms to enhance social distancing, install ventilation systems and purchase personal protective equipment. The money could also be used to increase the hiring of nurses and counselors and to provide summer school.
Spending for colleges and universities would be boosted by about $40 billion, with the money used to defray an institution’s pandemic-related expenses and to provide emergency aid to students to cover expenses such as food and housing and computer equipment.
AID TO BUSINESSES
A new program for restaurants and bars hurt by the pandemic would receive $25 billion. The grants provide up to $10 million per company with a limit of $5 million per physical location. The grants can be used to cover payroll, rent, utilities and other operational expenses.
The bill also provides $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, a tiny fraction of what was allocated in previous legislation. The bill also allows more non-profits to apply for loans that are designed to help borrowers meet their payroll and operating costs and can potentially be forgiven.
TESTING AND VACCINES
The bill provides $46 billion to expand federal, state and local testing for COVID-19 and to enhance contract tracing capabilities with new investments to expand laboratory capacity and set up mobile testing units. It also contains about $14 billion to speed up the distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines across the country.
Parts of the legislation advance longstanding Democratic priorities like increasing coverage under the Obama-era Affordable Care Act. Financial assistance for ACA premiums would become considerably more generous and a greater number of solid middle-class households would qualify. Though the sweetened subsidies last only through the end of 2022, they will lower the cost of coverage and are expected to boost the number of people enrolled.
The measure also dangles more money in front of a dozen states, mainly in the South, that have not yet taken up the Medicaid expansion that is available under the ACA to cover more low-income adults. Whether such a sweetener would be enough to start wearing down longstanding Republican opposition to Medicaid expansion is uncertain.
BIGGER TAX BREAKS FOR HOUSEHOLDS WITH AND WITHOUT KIDS
Under current law, most taxpayers can reduce their federal income tax bill by up to $2,000 per child. In a significant change, the bill would increase the tax break to $3,000 for every child age 6 to 17 and $3,600 for every child under the age of 6.
The legislation also calls for the payments to be delivered monthly instead of in a lump sum. If the secretary of the Treasury determines that isn’t feasible, then the payments are to be made as frequently as possible.
Families would get the full credit regardless of how little they make in a year, leading to criticism that the changes would serve as a disincentive to work. Add in the $1,400 checks and other items in the proposal, and the legislation would reduce the number of children living in poverty by more than half, according to the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University.
The bill also significantly expands the Earned Income Tax Credit for 2021 by making it available to people without children. The credit for low and moderate-income adults would be worth $543 to $1,502, depending on income and filing status.
RENTAL AND HOMEOWNER ASSISTANCE
The bill provides about $30 billion to help low-income households and the unemployed afford rent and utilities, and to assist the homeless with vouchers and other support. States and tribes would receive an additional $10 billion for homeowners who are struggling with mortgage payments because of the pandemic.
South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott says Republicans remain puzzled by the “deeply partisan package.
“In a made-for-television, twenty-four hour spectacle that left Capitol Hill paralyzed, Democrats rammed through a deeply partisan package that left more questions than answers,” Scott said. To make matters worse, it creates slush funds to bail out states that mismanage their finances, has no requirements to get children back in the classroom, slows down our already recovering economy, discourages people from re-entering the workforce and even provides stimulus checks to people in prison today. Simply put, this is not a ‘COVID relief package,’ it is a Trojan Horse for the radical Left’s progressive wish list.”
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