At the end of last week, the U.S. House passed the “American Rescue Plan Act,” a $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal.
The bill passed on a 219-212 with two Democrats joining a united GOP in opposing it. Party lines held in the Florida delegation with all of the Democrats from the Sunshine State backing the proposal and all the Republicans opposing it.
The proposal expands the national vaccination program, sends $1,400 to most Americans, raises the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, sends almost $130 to help schools reopen and send $350 billion to state and local governments hurt by the pandemic.
Democrats from the Sunshine State praised the proposal after it cleared the House.
“On day one, President Biden promised that help would soon be on the way,” said U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla. “Today’s vote of the American Rescue Plan puts us on a clear path towards recovery and brings us one step closer to ending this crisis. President Biden’s bold, strategic relief package delivers the long-overdue resources needed to meet the needs of Central Florida’s families. With a robust national vaccine program, plan to reopen schools and direct checks to Floridians, we’re reminded of the hope for a post-pandemic future. I’m proud to join my colleagues to deliver for families across America, and I look forward to the Senate taking quick action. Our constituents cannot wait any longer!”
“We are truly at a precarious moment in America. Too many families, workers and small businesses are hurting from the pandemic and its economic fallout,” said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla. “In Florida, we lost a half a million jobs last year and suffered the second highest number of unemployment claims in the country. We rely on tourism and it wasn’t safe for many visitors to travel, and that had consequences.
“The bipartisan CARES Act that passed last March was credited with saving the economy, but it hasn’t taken us all the way through the pandemic. The American Rescue plan is that bridge, with a plan to help us get back to normal,” Castor added. “Thanks to President Biden and his team, we have a national vaccination strategy. They have brought order to the chaos with 50 million shots administered in the past 37 days. No other country has done that.
“Six weeks ago, 14 percent of people over age 75 in the US had gotten one COVID vaccine shot. Today, that number stands at nearly 60 percent,” she continued. “Out of the 55 million Americans who are over 65, six weeks ago, only 8 percent had gotten a shot. Today, almost 50 percent have gotten at least one shot. We have a long way to go, but what a vast improvement since the Biden team has been at the helm.
“We must do more to ensure that underserved communities have access to the vaccine. Next week, thanks to the Biden administration, we will open a mass vaccination site in the heart of Tampa, in Sulphur Springs (at the Tampa Greyhound Track), and more pharmacies and community health centers will have more COVID-19 vaccines as well, but to get everyone vaccinated, we need to pass this rescue plan,” Castor continued. “Until most Americans are vaccinated, families and children will need help, so our plan provides new $1400 survival payments, emergency food and rental aid, and extra unemployment insurance to tide us over while ensuring support for struggling small businesses. It’s critical that families have the resources for their children and an expanded Child Tax Credit will provide money every month to help keep kids out of poverty. Our plan provides community support dollars to the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County, who have been good partners in keeping families afloat.
“Democrats and the Biden administration are focused on schools being open and operating safely. We have a lot of ground to make up– so let’s give students, teachers and local school districts the help they need to boost student achievement, summer school, safe graduations, early preK and childcare,” she concluded. “The Rescue Plan also provides several vital provisions to make comprehensive health care coverage more affordable and accessible for millions of people, especially in Florida, with a financial incentive to rapidly expand Medicaid and enact other proposals to improve access to health coverage during the health and economic crisis. Democrats are not going to give up on raising the minimum wage either. It has not been increased from $7.25 for over 11 years. Florida voters overwhelmingly passed a phased-in increase to $15/hour last November and it’s time to give all American minimum wage workers a raise. A $15 minimum wage would not only give 3 million Floridians—37 percent of the state’s workforce—a raise, but it would also provide an extra $10.5 billion in total state wages and even more in economic activity. To all Americans, help is on the way.”
Republicans criticized the bill for a host of reasons.
U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Fla., said the bill did not help his North Florida district.
“Americans throughout the nation have faced loss in many forms during this pandemic. Our kids are losing out on a proper education, families are losing loved ones, seniors are losing time with their families, and hometowns are losing their small businesses,” said Dunn.
“COVID-19 has disrupted and destroyed enough; we cannot let this pandemic destroy our future generations and the future of this nation. We owe it to our constituents to prioritize the things that matter most to them: their children, their families, and their communities. This package fails to adequately address the needs of my constituents in Florida’s Second Congressional District. Therefore, I cannot support this bill,” Dunn added.
U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., said only 9 percent of the funds go to help combat the pandemic and too much money was going to “blue state bailouts” and “union pension bailouts.”
“All Americans are hurting from this pandemic and I cannot support a bill that spends over 90 percent on a progressive wish list that wastes money on liberal projects and bails out horribly mismanaged blue states,” said Waltz. “We need to target the money that Congress has already passed to struggling families, small businesses, essential services, and vaccine distribution.”
The measure is now headed to the U.S. Senate.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.