The House passed Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package early Feb. 27—without support from Jared Golden. Senate debate begins this week. QUICK ACTION: Learn how the aid package would benefit Mainers and ask Senators Collins and King to support it.
UPDATE: The House passed Biden’s COVID relief plan at 2 am Feb. 27. Rep. Chellie Pingree voted for it, but Rep. Jared Golden voted no. The bill now goes to the Senate. See below for updates.
On his first day in office, President Joe Biden released a COVID aid bill called the American Rescue Plan. The measure would provide $1.9 trillion—$1.6 billion of which would go to Maine—for COVID relief and economic recovery, most of which would provide direct relief to Americans. Included in the package:
- $1,400 stimulus checks for Americans earning less than $75,000/year
- $400 a week in extended unemployment insurance
- Support for a national vaccination program, including funding to hire more public health workers
- Emergency paid sick leave
- Child care assistance
- State and local government aid
- Expanded child tax credit
- Housing assistance
- Grants for small businesses
- A $15 minimum wage
- Funding to help schools re-open
Despite widespread evidence of need, Republicans in the House and Senate have so far rejected the plan. After originally suggesting she didn’t see the need for additional aid just yet, Sen. Susan Collins joined with nine other senators in late January to propose a significantly smaller aid package, with just one-third of the funding proposed in Biden’s bill. Collins’ plan would have provided smaller stimulus checks that would be sent to about 80 million fewer adults and families than Biden’s plan. Her proposal would also offer less additional unemployment insurance and provide no rental assistance or funding for state and local governments. More than 1 million government jobs have been lost due to a lack of federal support to municipal and state governments, according to a bipartisan letter from more than 400 Republican and Democratic mayors that calls on Congress to pass Biden’s bill. Leading economists have rejected Republicans’ arguments in favor of a smaller bill, stating that a much larger package is needed. Republicans’ refusal to provide the aid a majority of Americans support (including more than half of Republicans) forced Biden to turn to the reconciliation process to pass the relief package, enabling aid to reach Americans far more quickly. Both Rep. Chellie Pingree and Sen. Angus King approved measures to allow reconciliation to proceed, while Rep. Jared Golden voted against it. Sen. Susan Collins, who supported reconciliation to pass the unpopular 2017 GOP tax bill that largely favored the wealthy, now opposes Democrats’ use of it for COVID relief that largely benefits working families and those with low incomes.
The House passed the bill 219-212 in the early morning hours on Feb. 27, with every Republican and two Democrats—including Golden—voting against the measure. In his statement, Golden cited a number of GOP talking points, almost all of which have been debunked, for his no vote. The bill now goes to the Senate, where revisions are likely, including the removal of the $15 minimum wage that the Senate parliamentarian says doesn’t conform to reconciliation rules. While Senate Democrats could ignore the parliamentarian’s non-binding ruling, at least two Democrats have already said they would not support that move. The Senate will begin debate this week. Learn more about Biden’s proposal in this explainer from Vox.
- Call Sens. King and Collins and share how the economic crisis is affecting you and your family and ask them to support the American Rescue Plan. You can use the talking points below as well. If you live in CD1, send a note of thanks to Pingree for her support and let Golden know how his vote could hurt you and your family. Find their email addresses and phone numbers below or in our Civic Dashboard.
- Write a letter to the editor sharing your family’s story and how you and your community might benefit from the American Rescue Plan bill. Not sure where to begin? You can use our LTE Guide or contact us for help. Find the email address for your local newspaper here.
Calls and emails to your members of Congress and letters to the editor are more effective when they are in your own words and convey a personal story. Use can add the data from the talking points below to build your own call/email script or letter.
- Food pantries in Maine report a 25% increase in the number of people needing food. Food security was an issue pre-pandemic, with Maine reporting the highest level of food insecurity in New England. An estimated 173,080 Mainers, including 47,460 children, don’t know where their next meal will come from. According to Feeding America, 1 in 8 Mainers and 1 in 5 Maine children are food-insecure. Without additional food assistance and economic aid, officials say that number will get worse.
- More than 27% of Maine families say they are having trouble affording basic expenses and more than 23% expect job losses in their household.
- 18.6% of Mainers say they are on the verge of losing their homes.
- Local governments in Maine have spent an estimated $24 million on pandemic-related expenses in 2020, while losing nearly $150 million in revenues, forcing many municipalities to lay off workers and consider tax increases to fund basic services.
- Biden’s plan would continue eligibility for the additional $400 in unemployment insurance to contractors and freelancers who normally aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits. Maine has the nation’s highest percentage of self-employed workers. Current expanded benefits are set to expire in March.
- Biden’s plan provides funding for child care providers, who have seen an estimated 47% increase in operating costs during the pandemic, forcing some to close. Access to quality child care was already a challenge in Maine, but the pandemic has made finding care even more difficult.