A letter from Congressman Peter DeFazio regarding the American Rescue Plan

Peter DeFazio

I am proud that both the House and Senate have passed the American Rescue Plan and that President Biden signed this critical legislation into law on March 11. The American Rescue Plan is an ambitious and robust relief bill that will support the wellbeing of America’s families. It will ensure that the overwhelming majority of tax benefits flow to low- and middle-income households, rather than the wealthiest individuals and corporations.

While this legislation is not perfect, this comprehensive plan will increase vaccines and testing, provide direct financial assistance to families, extend and expand unemployment insurance for Oregonians who have lost their jobs, bolster funding to allow schools to safely reopen, support small businesses, and finally crush this virus.

As Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, I helped author several critical provisions of the American Rescue Plan, including numerous provisions that will benefit Oregon directly. Specifically, this bill will deliver:

  • Hundreds of millions of dollars to Oregon communities to support rural transit agencies, transit service for the elderly and individuals with disabilities, transit on Tribal lands, and more;
  • Nearly $95 million for Oregon’s airports; and
  • Tens of millions in funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reimburse Oregon’s state, local, and Tribal governments dealing with ongoing COVID-19 response and recovery activities. This includes funding for vaccination efforts, deployment of the National Guard, providing personal protective equipment, and disinfecting activities in public facilities such as schools and courthouses.

To help Oregonians navigate some of the resources that are available to them, you will find information on the following below:

1. Direct Relief Payments
2. Enhanced Unemployment Insurance
3. Vaccine Access and Healthcare Coverage
4. Expanding the Child Tax Credit
5. Supporting Our Small Businesses
6. Safely Reopening Schools and Expanding Childcare Assistance
7.  Assisting Renters & Homeowners

Some of the programs in the American Rescue Plan are either new or have been dramatically expanded, and the rollouts could experience slight delays or other issues. You can be sure that I will monitor implementation very closely and work diligently to cut through red tape and deliver this relief as soon as possible.

You can be sure I will continue to fight for the relief and support Oregonians need and to provide a robust economic recovery. If you need any assistance with federal benefits or agency, please contact me on my website. To stay up to date on my work in Congress, you can subscribe to my newsletter.

1. Direct Relief Payments

The American Rescue Plan includes another round of direct cash payments – economic impact payments (EIPs) to provide individuals across the country with immediate relief.

Each eligible individual will receive a $1,400 EIP, as well as $1,400 per dependent. Thankfully, this finally includes dependents 17 and older, meaning high school juniors and seniors, college-aged students, and adult dependents are now eligible. Eligible individuals include any individual in a household with a Social Security Number.

The payments start to phase out for individuals earning $75,000 and will cut off completely for anyone who makes more than $80,000. For couples filing jointly, the phaseout starts for those making $150,000 and cuts off at $160,000.

I’ve heard from many Oregonians anxious about when their checks will arrive. While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) hasn’t said precisely, President Biden has said that the majority of these checks will go out before the end of March, and some individuals and families might start seeing checks within a few days of the legislation being signed into law.

For the most up to date information on direct cash payments, visit the IRS Coronavirus Tax Relief page.

2. Enhanced Unemployment Insurance

Thousands of Oregonians and millions of Americans faced a cliff of expiring unemployment benefits and programs on March 14. I am pleased that this bill extends enhanced unemployment programs through September 6, 2021 and maintains the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation at the current $300 per week.

Critically, it also ensures that the first $10,200 in unemployment insurance for those earning under $150,000 is not taxable – something that I fought hard to include.

I’ve heard from hundreds of constituents who are beyond frustrated by the failures of the Oregon Employment Department (OED) to deliver benefits in a timely manner. I have and will continue to push OED, Governor Brown, and state representatives to do everything they can to deliver benefits as efficiently and effectively as possible.

For more information or assistance for unemployment assistance, you can visit the Oregon Employment Department website.

3. Vaccine Access and Healthcare Coverage 

While access to COVID-19 vaccines and testing is increasing in Oregon and across the country, it is clear more help is needed to ensure all Oregonians have access – no matter who they are or where they live – as soon as possible. The American Rescue Plan will make robust investments to accelerate and expand COVID-19 vaccine distribution and testing access in Oregon, putting us on a path to eliminate the virus and save lives.

  • For more information on COVID-19 vaccines, including eligibility and availability in Oregon, please visit the Oregon Health Authority’s COVID-19 vaccine website. You can also use the state of Oregon’s Get Vaccinated Oregon (GVO) tool to see if you are currently eligible for a vaccine under Governor Kate Brown’s guidelines.
  • For COVID-19 vaccination information specific to your county, please visit this page.
    • You can also call 211 or 1-866-698-6155, text ORCOVID to 898211, or email ORCOVID@211info.org to find out if you are eligible to get vaccinated.
    • You may also want to contact your local public health authority. Contact information can be found here.

The public health crisis has also underscored just how important it is to ensure everyone has access to affordable healthcare. The American Rescue Plan will make healthcare more affordable for low- and middle-income families under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by reducing premiums, increasing federal subsidies, and placing a cap to ensure no ACA marketplace enrollee spends more than 8.5 percent of their income on healthcare premiums. It will also provide 100 percent COBRA premium subsidies through September 30 for eligible individuals and families who have lost their jobs but would like to remain on their employer-provided healthcare plan.

Due to the public health crisis, President Biden has opened a special enrollment period allowing individuals to enroll in health insurance coverage. You can sign-up right now for healthcare coverage at healthcare.govThe sign-up deadline is May 15.

4. Expanding the Child Tax Credit (CTC)

I am proud that this legislation dramatically expands tax credits for ordinary families. More specifically, this bill makes the Child Tax Credit (CTC) fully refundable for 2021, increases the current $2,000 per-child tax credit to $3,000 per child or $3,600 for a child under age 6. These payments are expected to start in July. As the IRS works to facilitate and deliver these dramatically increased benefits, I will push to ensure the agency meets this July deadline. This is a very technical process, and it could be subject to slight delays, but it’s critical that the IRS deliver in a timely manner.

5. Supporting Our Small Businesses

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken an enormous toll on small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy. That’s why this bill continues to provide relief to small businesses, ensuring they can keep employees on their payroll and their businesses from permanently closing.  On top of the hundreds of billions that have been provided through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), this bill:

  • Provides more than $28 billion to create a relief fund for our local restaurants, breweries, wineries, and distilleries.
  • Provides billions more for the Paycheck Protection Program.
  • Provides an additional $1.25 billion for shuttered live venues so they don’t close their doors forever.

In the midst of this crisis, Oregon Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) are working in close coordination to share and leverage resources across their network. Throughout this past year, they have assisted thousands of clients, focusing on helping small businesses survive. To access SBDC services, find your local center at bizcenter.org.

For additional information, borrowers can also contact the SBA Disaster Assistance customer service center by calling 1-800-659-2955 or emailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. You can also visit www.SBA.gov/disaster for more information.

6. Safely Reopening Schools and Expanding Childcare Assistance

Our students, teachers, and other staff are facing unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This package invests nearly $130 billion to reopen schools safely, including an estimated $1.12 billion for Oregon schools. These funds will help get kids back in the classrooms by increasing and enhancing safety to prevent the virus from spreading through improved ventilation in schools and more.

The American Rescue Plan also includes the largest investment in childcare assistance since World War II. The bill provides nearly $40 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant program to provide financial assistance to parents and childcare facilities, so that they can keep their doors opened and help parents return to work.

As of March 1, 2020, Oregon has expanded its Employment Related Day Care (ERDC) assistance program. If you are in need of childcare assistance, please visit the ERDC website to learn if you qualify.

7. Assisting Renters & Homeowners

This bill provides more than $27 billion for up to 18 months for eligible individuals struggling to pay their rent. To learn if you qualify, visit the Treasury Department’s FAQ on their Emergency Rental Assistance Program website.

The bill also provides $9.96 billion in direct assistance for homeowners, including mortgage payments, property taxes, property insurance, utilities, and other housing-related costs.

Oregon Housing and Community Services will distribute Emergency Rental Assistance once its available. For information on how to apply for assistance, you can visit their website. The Oregon Homeownership Stabilization Initiative (OHSI) is also accepting application for homeowners with its Mortgage Payment Assistance Benefit, and the deadline to apply is March 14, 2021. For more information on how to apply, you can visit the OHSI website.

Looking Ahead

The pandemic has caused tremendous grief for the loss of loved ones and economic pain for millions of Americans. Families and communities are still hurting, and it is clear more needs to be done to address this public health and economic crisis.

You can be sure I will continue fighting for Oregon’s families and small businesses to get our country back on track through an inclusive and robust economic recovery.

Sincerely,

Peter De Fazio