UPDATE: The COVID relief bill passed, with Maine’s Rep. Jared Golden joining Sen. Susan Collins and every Republican in the House and Senate in voting against the bill. QUICK ACTION: Learn how the aid package will benefit Mainers and let Golden and Collins hear from you.
UPDATE: The bill passed and has been signed into law. Rep. Jared Golden and Sen. Susan Collins joined every Republican in the House and Senate in voting against the bill, which is projected to bring an estimated $6 billion into Maine.
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—an estimated $6 billion of which would go to Maine—for COVID relief and economic recovery, most of which would provide direct relief to Americans. Here are some of the provisions included in the original package, with notes about changes made in the Senate:
- Support for a national vaccination program, including funding to hire more public health workers
- Emergency paid sick leave
- Child care assistance
- Funding to help schools re-open
- Doubles the child tax credit, which could cut child poverty in half by the end of the year.
- Housing assistance
- Grants for small businesses
- Expands health care coverage by increasing premium subsidies for ACA health plans and subsidizing the costs of COBRA for laid-off workers.
- $1,400 stimulus checks for Americans earning less than $75,000/year (NOTE: The Senate measure raises that income cap to $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for couples.)
- $400 a week in extended unemployment insurance until the end of August 29 (NOTE: The Senate version reduces the weekly benefits to $300 a week, but extends them through Sept. 6, and makes the first $10,200 of benefits non-taxable for households with incomes up to $150,000.)
- $350 billion in state and local government aid (NOTE: The Senate version keeps the same amount but adds stipulations. Read about those here.)
- A $15 minimum wage (NOTE: This provision was stripped from the bill when the Senate parliamentarian ruled it did not comply with rules governing the reconciliation process Democrats were forced to use to pass the bill in the Senate.)
Despite widespread evidence of need, Republicans in the House and Senate reject 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, smaller stimulus checks to about 80 million fewer adults and families, less additional unemployment insurance, and 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 400 Republican and Democratic mayors. Leading economists have rejected Republicans’ arguments for a smaller bill, stating that a much larger package is needed. Republicans’ refusal to provide the aid that 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. The House passed the bill 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 Senate passed the bill March 6, with every Republican—including Collins—voting against it. The bill passed the House, with Golden joining all Republicans in voting against it. President Biden signed it into law on March 11.
- Call Rep. Jared Golden and Sen. Susan Collins and tell them how the bill will help your family or business and that you won’t forget they voted against this desperately needed aid package. Find their contact information below or in our Civic Dashboard.
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.
- The increased child tax credit in the American Rescue Plan could lift nearly 15,000 Maine children out of poverty.
- 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.
- The revised bill would continue eligibility for an additional $300 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.