WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released the following statement after the House passed the American Rescue Plan Act, comprehensive legislation to address the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis.
“Last week, the United States reached the solemn milestone of 500,000 lives lost to COVID-19. The dire health impact of the pandemic has been followed by enormous ongoing economic consequences for individuals, families, and businesses. Amidst this suffering, I believe there is finally reason for optimism with vaccine distribution expanding and disease prevalence falling. The American Rescue Plan passed in the House is enormously important to continue this progress and is crucial to help combat the virus, get our children back in the classroom safely, ramp up equitable vaccine distribution, extend and expand unemployment insurance, and provide immediate economic relief for families.
“Combatting the pandemic must be the number one priority of relief efforts. Building on the work of the Biden Administration, the American Rescue Plan Act will bolster the national vaccination plan, scale up testing and contact tracing, address shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), and resolve inequities in our health care response. The bill makes critical investments to increase the capacity of local and tribal public health agencies who are on the frontlines of pandemic response. After repeated refusals from Republicans last year, Democrats are finally providing additional resources to state and local governments that will help protect the jobs of first responders, frontline public health workers, teachers, public transit workers, social service providers, and other essential workers that we all depend on.
“Students, educators, and parents have worked tirelessly to make virtual learning work during the pandemic. The $130 billion investment in K-12 schools included in the American Rescue Plan will help make safe re-opening possible by helping local school districts secure additional PPE, hire additional support staff, and repair ventilation systems. To help close the digital divide, the bill vastly increases support for expanding broadband services in underserved communities.
“The economic support in the bill provides an immediate lifeline for those in need and paves the way for long-term recovery. It expands and extends unemployment benefits, increases direct housing and nutrition assistance, and expands access to childcare. The American Rescue Plan will also make health insurance more affordable for millions of people by significantly expanding subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, incentivizing Medicaid expansion in states, and increasing the health insurance subsidies for individuals who lose their job. The bill includes a long-sought temporary expansion of Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, lifting millions of children and individuals out of poverty. While the question of inclusion of the minimum wage increase remains unclear in the Senate, the $15 minimum wage increase for 27 million workers—many of whom have worked through this pandemic as essential workers—is a necessary step to lift them out of poverty and strengthen our economy.
“The American Rescue Plan should not be a partisan bill; it does what is necessary to meet the scope of the crisis we face. I urge the Senate to act quickly so we can get relief to people as soon as possible.”