Updated: Mar 1, 2021
The House of Representatives finally passed the American Rescue Plan as part of reconciliation. The next three days are crucial in the Senate and we must make our voices heard. Action items are at the bottom of this post above the sharable graphics.
All but 2 Democrats voted to pass the American Rescue Plan. Democrats that voted no were Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon ZERO Republicans voted yes on the bill and now many are spreading misinformation about it to justify their no votes. Fact check their claims here.
Unemployment and stimulus provisions have not changed since the Ways and Means Committee passed them 2 weeks ago. They include:
Additional weeks for ALL federal unemployment programs through August 29.
The FPUC boost increased to $400
$1400 stimulus checks
Extensive tax credits for low income individuals and people with children
Healthcare subsidies/Rent relief/Food assistance are also included in the full bill.
The bill now goes to the Senate where we will likely see amendments proposed. If anything about the bill changes before the Senate passes it, it will have to go back to the House for a vote once again before it can go to the President's desk. (More on the reconciliation process here.)
A reminder here that each committee cannot spend more than they have been allotted. Congress voted on the overall spending cap for this bill (and for each committee) at the beginning of the reconciliation process. At this point, the bill cannot go over $1.9 trillion. The biggest mistake made in this process was setting that number so low at the beginning. Now, anything added will require a trade-off within the committee that added it. For unemployment, stimulus, and healthcare that is the Finance committee.
So what does this all mean for unemployment?
First, it means that retroactive unemployment payments as part of this current bill are unlikely due to the $1.9 trillion spending cap. We continue to push for it because it is what is right and because there are still ways for Congress to make up for the lack of relief for unemployed workers for the last 5 months of 2020 after this bill passes. There are tax rebate/targeted stimulus payment options we continue to push (see our PDF here). Ultimately, the noise from constituents around this issue will have to be much louder for it to be successful. We won't let up and hope you'll join us. Check our new video on retroactivity here.
Tax relief still has a small chance of being in the bill if we push for it. There is also a fix that could be done through the Treasury Department that wouldn't require Congress to act. Or it could be passed as a standalone bill, but it would require GOP support in the Senate. Keep talking about this issue. Push Congress to include it in the relief plan or to pass it as a standalone bill. Push the Treasury to issue guidance cancelling UI and PUA taxes. Push at the state level too. If you currently have a UI tax bill and you're willing to share your story, please do at ExtendPUA.org/sharestories.
Automatic Stabilizers for unemployment provisions (tiering off programs based on economic conditions like the unemployment rate or labor force participation rate) will not be part of this bill, but they are still being discussed for further legislation.
Unfortunately, we still have to fight for the little that IS in the bill. As most of you know, the Ways and Means Committee cut a month of unemployment programs when they passed the bill. All federal unemployment programs are now set to expire at the end of August 2021. There are two problems with this:
All other programs in the bill are extended through September so there won't be a rush to pass other legislation until then.
THE SENATE ISN'T EVEN IN SESSION IN AUGUST.
This means programs will likely expire before another bill is passed. If that happens we will see another lapse in payments for workers that could last months, considering how long state systems take to get people back online. We must tell the Senate to reinstate that extra month. All pandemic unemployment programs must last until AT LEAST October 3rd.
Many Senators we have spoken with in meetings these last few weeks and very passionate about reinstating that month. However, there is some speculation that adding the month back on would require cutting the FPUC from $400 to $300. This is not true. They need to find the money from somewhere else. All pandemic unemployment programs must last until AT LEAST October 3rd AND the FPUC boost MUST be AT LEAST $400.
There may be an amendment proposed by Republicans to lower the FPUC from $400 to $300 or even lower. Last time this amendment was proposed 7 Democrats actually voted yes for it. Call them and make sure they will not vote yes this time. Those Democrats were Manchin (WV), Sinema (AZ), Hassan (NH), Tester (MT), Shaheen (NH), Kelly (AZ), plus Independent King (ME).
The next three days are crucial in the Senate. We will have NATIONAL CALL DAYS on Monday and Tuesday. Please join us. Call your Senators at ExtendPUA.org/strategy.
We are also continuing to hold meetings with Senators to push them for: 1. All programs extended through September.
2. No less than $400 FPUC.
3. Taxes on UI and PUA cancelled and refunded.
4. A direct payment to ALL unemployed and underemployed workers to compensate for the lack of government action for the last 6 months of 2020.
Join us by signing up at ExtendPUA.org/meet.
Stephanie, Grant, and the ExtendPUA.org Team
Graphic Series with this information: