In March 2020, we were at the beginning of the pandemic hitting Virginia. Sure, we’d been hearing about it for a couple of months, but the reality of it hadn’t quite sunk in. We couldn’t possibly have imagined what was coming and how it would affect our families, our economy, and our communities.
Now, a year later, the idea of a two-week shutdown is a distant memory. We’ve had three federal stimulus packages, a revised state budget, and an ongoing vaccine rollout that seeks to have all adults vaccinated by May. It truly feels like we are on an upswing. This is thanks in no small part to a President who believes in science, who takes the economic health of our country seriously, and who knows that state and local government assistance is a critical component of ensuring that we recover from this pandemic.
The need for action is clear and the recently passed American Rescue Plan is a historic plan that delivers immediate relief to Virginians. It’s critical that we support struggling communities as we continue to work through the pandemic.
To help our hard-hit small businesses, the Plan includes funding for emergency grants and lending opportunities, so they rehire and retain workers as well as purchase the health and sanitation equipment they need to keep workers safe. This includes a Small Business Opportunity Fund to provide growth capital to main street small businesses in economically disadvantaged areas, including minority-owned businesses.
The Commonwealth will receive $4.43 billion in state funds to ensure that we can keep our frontline workers on the job, expand our vaccination efforts, safely reopen our schools, and maintain vital government services. Coinciding with our education priorities in the recently passed state budget, more than $2.18 billion will be distributed in K-12 relief funds.
The Plan includes a $1,400 economic impact payment for more than 5,118,900 adults and 1,884,700 children in Virginia. This is 82% of all adults and 81% of all the children in the Commonwealth.
Through the Child Tax Credit, there is additional relief available of up to $1,600 per child. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) will also provide relief of up to $1,000 for 419,000 childless Virginia workers, including many in frontline jobs.
Because of this plan, we’ll be able to lower or eliminate health insurance premiums for lower- and middle-income families enrolled in the health insurance marketplace. This means that a 60-year old couple, earning $75,000 per year or less with a marketplace health insurance plan, could see their premiums lowered by over $1,500. Or A family of four making $90,000 could see their monthly premium come down by $200 per month. It also subsidizes premiums for continuation health coverage (COBRA).
The Plan extends the current unemployment insurance benefits and eligibility to September 6th, plus offers an additional $300 per week supplement.
Virginians will continue to have assistance to stay in their homes with emergency aid to cover back rent and mortgage payments plus utility costs through the Homeowners Assistance Fund. This will help an estimated 267,000 Virginians who are behind on their rent.
SNAP benefits will increase by 15% through September 2021. The bill also funds partnerships with restaurants to feed families and keep workers in the restaurant industry on the job. This will go a long way to help the 503,000 Virginians who report not having enough food to eat.
We’ll also have the single biggest investment in childcare since World War II by helping providers cover their costs and increase tax credits to help families cover the cost of care.
While the pandemic is far from over, it is clear that the sacrifices we’ve made in the last year aren’t for nothing. We’re seeing downward trends in new COVID cases, over 24% of Virginians have been vaccinated with at least one dose, and nearly 50,000 vaccines are administered on average every day.
If you or someone you know needs assistance with their employment benefits, filing their state taxes, getting an issue resolved at the DMV, or with another state agency, please reach out to my office. These are the types of constituent services we can help with and, in times like this, working through the system can seem quite daunting. Like the American Rescue Plan, we’re here to help those that need it.