Senators Secure Critical Aid for New Mexico to Help End the Pandemic, Provide Relief for Struggling Americans, and Create a Better Economy
WASHINGTON (March 6, 2021) – Today, U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M) voted for the American Rescue Plan Act, a comprehensive $1.9 trillion package that will provide economic relief and critical resources to New Mexicans, Tribal communities, public health and education systems, and state and local governments. The bill now goes back to the House, which must approve it before sending the legislation to the president’s desk.
The American Rescue Plan Act passed by the Senate will:
- Provide direct payments of $1,400 to eligible New Mexicans.
- Mount a national vaccination program.
- Scale up testing to stop the spread of COVID, safely reopen schools, and protect at-risk populations.
- Deliver immediate relief to working families bearing the brunt of this crisis.
- Support state and local governments and Tribal communities that are struggling in the wake of COVID-19.
- Provide emergency paid leave and extend unemployment benefits.
“Too many New Mexicans are facing uncertainty right now because of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rural hospitals and health care workers need more resources. Restaurants and small businesses are struggling to keep their doors open. Teachers and families are eager to get back into learning spaces and child care centers that are safe and healthy. New Mexicans are facing daunting economic hardships and need assistance to help weather this crisis,” said Heinrich. “That’s why I supported the passage of the American Rescue Plan to expand affordable health care, stand up an effective and equitable national vaccine distribution plan, support our rural and Tribal communities, give a boost to broadband, fund critical health care services for our nation’s veterans, secure the resources that schools and small businesses need to safely reopen, and provide immediate relief to families bearing the brunt of this crisis.”
“Since New Mexico’s first COVID-19 cases were confirmed nearly one year ago, this virus has ravaged our communities and created economic uncertainty. One year later, New Mexicans are still struggling,” said Luján. “The American Rescue Plan saves lives and livelihoods, supports workers and small businesses, invests in rural and Tribal communities, provides a lifeline to our farmers and ranchers, helps reopen our schools safely, and ensures that vaccine shots get into the arms of New Mexicans. It also provides essential relief for families through $1,400 direct payments, enhanced unemployment benefits, and tax credits. With the passage of the American Rescue Plan in the Senate, New Mexico communities will get the support they need to recover or rebuild.”
Vaccines and Health Care
Vaccines and Testing
Vaccines and testing are essential to slow the spread of COVID-19. The American Rescue Plan Act contains billions in funding to get vaccines to Americans more quickly and provide crucial supplies, testing, and staffing to stop the spread of COVID-19. The bill includes:
- $50 billion for testing, genomic sequencing of variants, and contact tracing efforts, as well as manufacturing and procurement of PPE.
- $20 billion for improving vaccine administration and distribution.
- $10 billion for the Defense Production Act to procure essential PPE and other medical equipment $8 billion for public health workforce development.
Health Coverage During the Pandemic and Beyond
Between March and September 2020, as many as 3 million Americans lost their employer-sponsored health insurance. Americans must have affordable health insurance during and after this unprecedented public health crisis. The American Rescue Plan Act will ensure access to health coverage by:
- Lowering or eliminating health insurance premiums for millions of Americans who buy insurance through the marketplaces through increased tax credits, reducing premiums by potentially thousands of dollars each year
- Providing incentives for states to expand Medicaid by increasing federal supports, which could provide health insurance coverage to nearly 4 million Americans, including 640,000 frontline or essential workers, if expanded nationwide
- Subsidizing continuation health coverage (COBRA) for those who have lost their employer-sponsored coverage
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clearer than ever that we must address racial and ethnic disparities and promote health equity. A disproportionate number of people of color have been diagnosed with, hospitalized by, or died from COVID-19, and communities of color currently have lower vaccination rates.
The American Rescue Plan Act will work to address systemic inequities through a $25.2 billion investment in underserved communities and communities of color, including:
- $7.6 billion for community health centers, Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alikes, and Native Hawaiian Health Centers • $3.3 billion for the Indian Health Service
- $1 billion for emergency assistance for children, families, and workers through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program
- $500 million for nursing home strike teams to manage COVID-19 outbreaks and another $200 million for infection control in nursing homes
- $188 million to protect the elderly and fight elder abuse
- $150 million for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program
- $50 million for the Title X Family Planning Program
- Allowing states to provide Medicaid coverage for one year postpartum to address the maternal health crisis disproportionately affecting communities of color
- Increased federal support through Medicaid for home- and community-based services
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of many Americans, further straining mental and behavioral health and substance use disorder services that have been historically underfunded. The American Rescue Plan Act aims to increase access to mental health and substance use disorder services, treatment, and prevention with $4 billion in funding, including:
- $3.5 billion for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment and Community Mental Health Block Grants
- $420 million to the Indian Health Service for behavioral health services
- $140 million to develop a program to support providers’ mental health and decrease burnout of providers and public safety officers
- $100 million to the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program to train behavioral health paraprofessionals, such as peer support specialists
- $80 million in new grants for community-based and behavioral health organizations
- $50 million to support youth mental health and suicide prevention
- $10 million for the National Childhood Traumatic Stress Network
Financial Help for Families
Recovery Checks: The American Rescue Plan Act delivers immediate, direct relief to struggling families and individuals in the form of:
- $1,400 per-person payments – plus an additional $1,400 payment per dependent – to help low- and moderate-income households cover daily living expenses.
- Importantly, adult dependents are included.
- This means that a family of four could receive up to $5,600 in direct economic assistance.
- It also ensures that U.S.-citizen children will be eligible for a $1,400 dependent payment, regardless of their parents’ status.
Unemployment Insurance: Approximately 19 million Americans are relying on the unemployment insurance program. Last year, Congress extended the emergency federal unemployment programs established in the CARES Act and the number of weeks that unemployed workers can receive these benefits. These extensions are currently set to expire or be phased out after March 14. The American Rescue Plan Act ensures that emergency unemployment benefits continue to be a lifeline for Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own due to the pandemic. Specifically, this legislation:
- Extends emergency unemployment insurance programs through Septemer 6, 2021, including the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for self-employed workers, gig workers, and others in non-traditional employment and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for workers who have exhausted their state benefits. It also extends the length of time individuals can receive PUA and PEUC benefits by an additional 24 weeks.
- Extends the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payment of $300.
Housing Assistance: The American Rescue Plan Act contains billions in funding to help ensure that families and individuals have a roof over their heads, including:
- $20 billion in emergency rental assistance to help renters and small landlords make ends meet.
- $9.9 billion to aid homeowners struggling to afford their mortgage payments, utility bills, and other housing costs.
- $5 billion to secure shelter for the homeless.
Food and Nutrition Assistance:
- Extends the 15% benefit increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through the end of September.
- Increases the value of Supplemental Assistance for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) vouchers for fruits and vegetables to $35 per month for 4 months and includes funding for modernization.
- Broadens eligibility for meals for young adults at homeless shelters by increasing the age limit from 18 to 25 for the rest of the pandemic.
- Extends the Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program benefits through the duration of the health emergency, including the summer months, to allow families with children receiving school meals to more easily purchase healthy food during the pandemic.
- This program fills a critical gap for children who would normally receive free or reduced-price school lunches and breakfast but are no longer able to due to remote learning.
- Provides $37 million for senior nutrition through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.
- Provides $25 million to invest in technological improvements to expand access for families to use their SNAP benefits online.
- Provides $1 billion for nutrition assistance to the Territories.
- Provides administrative funding for states to enroll increased SNAP caseloads due to the pandemic.
Expanding Tax Relief for Working Families
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): This plan will expand the EITC for taxpayers with no qualifying children by:
- Almost tripling the maximum credit amount in 2021, from $543 to $1,502.
- Reducing the minimum age to claim the credit for these workers from 25 to 19, except for full-time students, and eliminating the upper age limit on the credit, allowing qualifying childless workers who are age 65 and above to benefit.
- Increasing the amount of the childless EITC by doubling the phase-in and phase-out percentages from 7.65 to 15.3%, increasing the earned income amount to $9,820, and increasing the phase-out amount to $11,610.
- Providing a match of up to three times the current cost of Puerto Rico’s EITC, should Puerto Rico choose to expand its credit, and covering 100% of the cost of other U.S. territories’ EITCs.
- It also includes a provision to ensure that workers whose earnings decline this year due to the pandemic do not see a reduced EITC amount as a result.
Child Tax Credit (CTC):
- Increasing the CTC from the current $2,000 amount to $3,000 for children between the ages of 6 and 16. Children who are 17 years old, and are typically ineligible for the credit, will be able to benefit for 2021.
- Creating a $3,600 tax credit for eligible children below the age of 6.
- Making the CTC fully refundable. By eliminating both the $2,500 minimum earnings requirement and the cap on the refundable piece of the credit, this package will ensure that the lowest-income households can benefit from this relief.
- Ensuring individuals making up to $75,000 and couples making up to $150,000 will receive the full, increased CTC amount.
- Delivering the credit as a periodic payment, through the IRS, starting in July of this year. Under this proposed schedule, families would receive half their total CTC benefit through periodic payments for the rest of 2021 and claim the remaining half of their total benefit on their 2021 tax returns.
- Extending the CTC to U.S. territories and allowing families in Puerto Rico, including those with fewer than three children, to benefit from the credit by filing directly with the IRS.
Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC):
- Expanding the CDCTC to cover half of care costs up to $4,000 for one child and $8,000 for two or more children.
- Allowing working families making less than $125,000 per year to be eligible for the full 50% credit. The full credit amount begins to phase out at $125,000, and plateaus at 20% for those making up to $400,000. That 20% credit rate then phases out for households making over $400,000, so families with incomes above $440,000 per year are not eligible for the credit.
- This plan also includes making the CDCTC fully refundable to ensure the lowest-income households can benefit.
Supporting Small Businesses and Farmers
Support for Small Businesses:
- Provides an additional $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and expands eligibility for nonprofits and digital news outlets.
- Adds $15 billion for the Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance program to help the hardest-hit small businesses.
- Establishes a $25 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which will provide grants to help local restaurants keep their doors open and keep their workers employed.
- Establishes the Community Navigator pilot program to improve access to COVID-19 relief, especially for underserved communities.
- Provides an additional $1.25 billion for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program to support live entertainment venues.
- Reauthorizes the State Small Business Credit Initiative, providing $10 billion in new funding for the program to help small businesses grow and create jobs.
Support for our Agriculture and Food Sectors:
- $4 billion to address major pandemic-related disruptions throughout the food supply chain; invest in new infrastructure for farmers, food processors, and farmers markets to build resiliency; monitor COVID-19 in animals; support small meat and poultry processors; protect food and farm workers on the job; and increase food donations.
- More than $5 billion in debt relief and assistance for farmers of color who have faced widespread and longstanding discrimination and have seen disproportionate impacts from the pandemic.
Safely Reopening Schools for In-Person Learning
The American Rescue Plan will provide $170 billion to help K-12 schools and institutions of higher education reopen safely for in-person learning and address students’ needs.
Safely Reopen K-12 Schools and Address Students’ Needs
Schools continue to face disruptions due to COVID-19 and need resources to reopen safely and to serve students whether they are learning in-person, remotely, or a hybrid of both. We must also work to make up for learning loss that exacerbates longstanding inequities in our education system.
The American Rescue Plan Act would provide $130 billion – along with additional state and local relief – for K-12 schools to respond to students’ needs and implement necessary public health protocols for the safe reopening of schools. Such activities could include implementing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state, Tribal, and local public officials, repairing ventilation systems, reducing class sizes for social distancing, purchasing PPE, and hiring additional staff to support students.
It also recognizes that students have lost significant ground in the wake of the pandemic and requires states and school districts to dedicate a significant portion of their funds to address learning loss and help students get back on track.
Vaccinate More Americans
Increasing vaccinations and slowing the spread of COVID-19 will help get our schools and economy open faster. Educators are essential workers, and many states have given them priority for vaccinations. The American Rescue Plan Act dedicates $160 billion for a national vaccination campaign and other health efforts, including testing, tracing, genomic sequencing, public health staffing, and supplies to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.
Support Institutions of Higher Education & Their Students
The American Rescue Plan Act would provide $40 billion in funding to help colleges and universities and their students make it through the pandemic. Funding to institutions will stabilize them from massive budget shortfalls and cuts and will help cover the costs of implementing public health protocols necessary to combat COVID-19. Public and non-profit institutions must use at least half of their funding for emergency financial aid grants to students to help them meet basic needs like housing, food, child care, and health care. These emergency financial aid grants are urgently needed for students who have experienced significant financial pressure from the economic crisis.
Higher education collectively employs approximately 3.5 million people across the United States and is a critical part of the economy. However, since the pandemic began, more than 650,000 jobs have been lost at colleges and universities, often disproportionately impacting people of color and low-wage workers.
Supports Native American Communities
The American Rescue Plan Act would provide over $31 billion to Native communities – the single largest infusion of dedicated resources to Native communities in U.S. history. It would deliver immediate relief for hard-hit Native American families and Tribal businesses, and build a bridge toward economic recovery and resilience for Tribal Nations.
Provide Tribal governments with $20 billion in emergency funding to combat the COVID-19 crisis. The American Rescue Plan Act will provide historic emergency funding to Tribal Nations. This funding will support efforts to obtain sufficient personal protective equipment, increase access to clean water and electricity, and expand internet access so that children can learn remotely and more families can obtain basic health care through telemedicine. These resources will help to reduce stark and persistent inequities in COVID-19 transmission, hospitalization, and death, while improving economic conditions and opportunity.
Mount a national program to vaccinate and contain COVID-19 that equitably includes Native communities. The legislation will directly invest $2.34 billion to support Native health systems implement critical measures to contain the virus, including dedicated funding for Tribes, urban Indian health programs, and the Indian Health Service to participate in the national vaccination program and other health efforts.
- This will ensure COVID-19 vaccines are efficiently and equitably administered and provide the supplies, testing, and public health workforce to slow the spread of COVID-19.
- These emergency measures will help combat the heavy toll this virus is taking on Native American families and will deliver community-based and culturally competent care.
Deliver immediate relief to working Native families and communities bearing the brunt of this crisis by devoting nearly $1 trillion to help working families. This will:
- Give working families $1,400-per-person checks, bringing their total relief payment from this bill and the December down payment to $2,000. These checks will help Native American families who have been hardest hit financially by this crisis.
- Extend enhanced unemployment benefits and provide a $400 supplement, supporting Native Americans who are out of work.
- Provide an additional $35 billion in rental, mortgage, and homelessness assistance, helping Native American families who are more likely to be rent-burdened and living in overcrowded housing.
- Increase the value of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
- Invest $4 billion to expand access to mental health services to address the disproportionate burden of trauma and mental health barriers for Native communities.
- Allocate $800 million for federal programs that protect survivors of gender-based violence.
- Provide emergency grants, lending, and investment to hard-hit small businesses, including Native American-owned businesses.
- Invest $30 billion to help hard-hit public transit agencies avoid layoffs and service reductions, including $35 million for Tribal public transit programs.
Supporting our Nation’s Veterans
Provide critical funding for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA): Provides $13.5 billion for health care services and additional resources to care for our nation’s veterans. Because of COVID-19, VA needs this additional support to cover the impact of delays in care, more expensive care due to putting off needed care, and more reliance on VA due to economic strain. This funding will also help continue CARES Act-supported VA programs to prevent suicide, provide women’s health care, serve homeless veterans, and expand telehealth.
Secure assistance for unemployed veterans: Provides nearly $400 million to help get veterans back to work by funding up to 12 months of rapid retraining assistance and a housing allowance for veterans who are unemployed as a result of the pandemic and do not receive other veteran education benefits.
Increase claims and appeals processing to reduce the backlog caused by COVID-19: Provides VA $272 million to mitigate the backlog in claims processing caused by the pandemic. This additional funding will help cover overtime costs so staff can work through these delays and help the Board of Veterans’ Appeals conduct more telehearings. Additionally, a significant portion of these funds will help digitize and improve access to veterans’ military records so that veterans can get more timely responses to their requests for VA benefits.
Bolster VA’s supply chain modernization: The pandemic has exposed weaknesses in VA’s medical supply chain. This legislation provides $100 million in funding to accelerate VA’s supply chain modernization, which is crucial for improving the Administration’s public health emergency response.
Support State Veterans Homes: Provides $500 million to help states upgrade State Veterans Homes across the country and $250 million in onetime emergency payments to support these facilities and ensure they can care for our veterans during the pandemic.
Fund stronger oversight through VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG): Provides $10 million to help VA’s OIG continue their stringent oversight of VA’s response to the pandemic.
Prohibit copayments for medical care for veterans during the pandemic: Allows VA to waive copays that would otherwise be charged to veterans for VA health care services during this unprecedented health emergency and reimburses veterans who have already submitted payments.
Emergency Employee Leave Fund: Includes $80 million to provide certain VHA personnel with paid emergency leave – renewing VA’s commitment to those employees who have worked to care for veterans during the pandemic.
Supporting Essential Community Services
The American Rescue Plan will provide emergency funding to ensure that communities have access to critical services:
- States and the District of Columbia with $195.3 billion
- $25.5 billion equally divided – each state receiving at least $500 million
- $169 billion based on the state share of total unemployed workers
- Local governments with $130.2 billion equally divided between cities and counties
- Territories with $4.5 billion
- Tribal governments with $20 billion
Additionally, Senators Heinrich and Luján helped secure the following provisions in the American Rescue Plan that:
- Provides $110 million for the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) to reimburse localities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provide humanitarian care to migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
- Provides multiple sources of critical relief to struggling independent live venues, movie theaters, and cultural institutions by allowing eligible entities under the Save Our Stages program to get a PPP loan and a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant.
- Increases the funding set-aside in the Economic Development Administration to $750 million for states and communities impacted by job and revenue loss in the tourism, travel, and outdoor recreation sectors.
- Provides $7.171 billion for E-rate/remote learning.
- Expands the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) to new start-up companies and the Hardest Hit businesses weathering the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Increases the value of the federal COBRA health insurance program from 85% to 100%, which will help workers who lost their job through no fault of their own retain their health insurance.
- Adds a new $10 billion Critical Infrastructure Projects program to help States, territories, and Tribal governments carry out critical capital projects directly enabling work, education, and health monitoring, including remote options, in response to COVID-19.
- Adds an infusion of $8.5 billion for provider relief to help struggling rural hospitals and health care providers. • Makes all COVID-19 student loan relief tax-free.
- Increases the total amount of Amtrak relief funding by $200 million.
- Adds $200 million for the United States Digital Service (USDS) to meet high demand from agencies for continued help delivering better services, including vaccine distribution (particularly for veterans), unemployment assistance, stimulus checks, and others.
- Establishes a requirement in the state and local assistance that small states receive at least the amount they received under the CARES Act’s Coronavirus Relief Fund. Clarifies the eligible use of state and local relief for local economic recovery efforts, including assistance to small businesses and nonprofits, hard-hit industries like tourism, travel, and hospitality, and infrastructure investment.
- Adds three new set-asides in education funding: $1.25 billion for evidence-based summer enrichment, $1.25 billion for afterschool programs, and $3 billion for education technology.
- Provides $175 million to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for support related to COVID to continue programming.
- Provides $30.4 million for the Federal Trade Commission for consumer protection work related to COVID-19.
- Provides $510 million for the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) to support homeless services providers in communities across the nation for overnight shelter, meals, assistance to food banks and pantries, one month’s rental or mortgage assistance to prevent evictions, and one month’s utility payments to prevent service cut-offs.