COVID Relief Bill Heads to Biden’s Desk

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed President Biden’s sweeping, $1.9 trillion COVID recovery bill dubbed the “American Rescue Plan Act.” The companion bill to that which recently passed the Senate will be one of the largest federal aid packages since the Great Depression and is expected to be signed into law by the president on Friday.

Among providing funding for COVID vaccination and testing, relief for schools, direct payments to families, the bill has a number of provisions for the environment. As the House Select Committee on Climate Change explained, the bill provides:

  • $100 million for environmental justice grants, including $50 million to increase air quality monitoring, and $50 million to identify and address disproportionate environmental or public health harms and risks in vulnerable populations
  • Increased funding for mass transit
  • Farm loan assistance for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and loans and grants to maintain and improve food and agricultural supply chain resiliency
  • Funding for tribal services
  • $50 billion to the Disaster Relief Fund, and $400 million for FEMA emergency food and shelter programs

Why This Matters: Recovering from the pandemic gives us a true opportunity to build back better and reenvision a more equitable and sustainable future. But in order to rebuild, struggling families and institutions need the breathing room that this aid provides.

However, not a single Republican voted for the relief package, which passed the House with 220-211 vote and the Senate with a 50-49 vote last Saturday. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that “If you are a member of the swamp, you do pretty well under this bill,” adding that “I believe the American public wants something different.”

Yet, as the Hill wrote, a Pew Research poll released on Tuesday found 70% overall favored the bill, while a CNN survey out Wednesday found that 61% support the relief measure.

Advancing the Biden Adgena: In addition to enacting the American Rescue Plan, this week Biden cabinet nominees Michael Regan (EPA administrator), Merrick Garland (Attorney General), and Marcia Fudge (HUD secretary) were confirmed by the Senate to get started on policies to support environmental action and climate resiliency. A good week for the Biden administration, but now the real work begins!

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