Today, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16) voted for H.R. 133, the fiscal year 2021 appropriations omnibus agreement which includes a $900 billion bipartisan emergency coronavirus relief package.
“The effects of the coronavirus pandemic in El Paso have been catastrophic and deeply painful: over 1,300 El Pasoans have died, more than 8,000 filed for unemployment in November, and 1 in 5 children are suffering from food insecurity. From the early days of this deadly pandemic, I have sounded the alarm about the crushing impact this would have on minority communities like ours and have advocated and voted for critical relief legislation to protect the lives and livelihoods of El Paso families, workers, and small businesses. This time is no different,” said Congresswoman Escobar.
“There’s no doubt that this emergency coronavirus relief legislation falls far short of meaningfully addressing our numerous priorities; however, the bill provides important and immediate relief that we urgently need in order to avoid further devastation. This $900 billion package will prevent an eviction crisis, secure rent, food, enhanced unemployment funds and direct payments for families – including mixed-status families – and accelerate the free and equitable distribution of the vaccine.
“I know El Pasoans desperately need and deserve more. I will continue to work for bigger and bolder relief legislation and work in the upcoming months with the Biden-Harris administration to combat the coronavirus and alleviate the pain our families, community, and economy are facing.”
Below are some of the COVID-19 relief priorities Congresswoman Escobar and Democrats in Congress fought to include in the year-end funding package:
- Accelerating vaccine distribution and crushing the coronavirus: The bipartisan COVID-19 relief package finally recognizes that we cannot get our economy working unless we can get the coronavirus under control. The package provides billions in urgently need funds to accelerate the free and equitable distribution of safe vaccines to as many Americans as possible as soon as possible, to implement a strong national testing and tracing strategy with billions reserved specifically for combating the disparities facing communities of color, and to support our heroic health care workers and providers.
- Strong support for small business: Congresswoman Escobar and Democrats in Congress secured critical funding and policy changes to help small businesses, including minority-owned businesses, and nonprofits recover from the pandemic. The agreement includes over $284 billion for first and second forgivable PPP loans, expanded PPP eligibility for nonprofits and local newspapers, TV and radio broadcasters, key modifications to PPP to serve the smallest businesses and struggling non-profits and better assist independent restaurants, and includes $15 billion in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions. The agreement also includes $20 billion for targeted EIDL Grants which are critical to many smaller businesses on Main Street.
- Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions: The agreement includes dedicated PPP set-asides for very small businesses and lending through community-based lenders like Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs); $9 billion in emergency U.S. Treasury capital investments in CDFIs and MDIs to support lending in low-income and underserved communities, including persistent poverty counties, that may be disproportionately impacted by the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic; and $3 billion in emergency support for CDFIs through the CDFI Fund to respond to the economic impact of the pandemic on underserved low-income and minority communities.
- Rental assistance: Congresswoman Escobar and Democrats in Congress secured $25 billion in critically needed rental assistance for families struggling to stay in their homes and an extension of the eviction moratorium.
- Strengthens the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit: The package enhances the LIHTC to help increase affordable housing construction and provide greater certainty to new and ongoing affordable housing projects.
- Direct payment checks: Despite opposition from Republicans in Congress, Democrats secured a new round of direct payments worth up to $600 per adult and child, also ensuring that mixed-status families receive payments.
- Strengthened Earned Income Tax Credit & Child Tax Credit: The agreement helps ensure that families who faced unemployment or reduced wages during the pandemic are able to receive a strong tax credit based on their 2019 income, preserving these vital income supports for vulnerable families.
- Supports paid sick leave: The agreement provides a tax credit to support employers offering paid sick leave, based on the Families First framework.
- Employee Retention Tax Credit: The agreement extends and improves the Employee Retention Tax Credit to help keep workers in the jobs during coronavirus closures or reduced revenue.
- Enhanced Unemployment Insurance benefits: Democrats averted the sudden expiration of Unemployment Insurance benefits for millions and added a $300 per week UI enhancement for Americans out of work.
- Nutrition assistance for hungry families: Congresswoman Escobar and Democrats in Congress secured $13 billion in increased SNAP and child nutrition benefits to help relieve the historic hunger crisis that has left up to 17 million children food insecure. Additionally, the package includes $400 million for food banks and $130 million for FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter program.
- Relieving grieving families: Congresswoman Escobar and Democrats in Congress secured up to $2 billion in FEMA assistance through states for families with funeral expenses due to COVID-19 through December 31, 2020.
- Education and child care: The agreement provides $82 billion in funding for colleges and schools, including support for HVAC repair and replacement to mitigate virus transmission and reopen classrooms, and $10 billion for child care assistance to help get parents back to work and keep child care providers open.
- Global Health: Democrats secured an additional $3.36 billion for a total of $4 billion for GAVI, the international vaccine alliance, recognizing that we are not truly safe until the whole world is safe from the coronavirus.
A summary of the Bipartisan Agreement on COVID-19 Relief available here, and the bill texts is available here.