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Politics

Sarbanes on the Passage of Bipartisan COVID Relief Package

December 23, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) on December 21 updated his constituents about the passage of the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package. His statement follows:

Today, I voted to pass a bipartisan COVID-19 relief package that delivers urgently needed aid to American families and small businesses. The funding agreement also includes critical resources to purchase and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to every community and to boost contact tracing and testing capabilities.

Although it comes late and falls short of the stronger and more comprehensive proposals that House Democrats passed in May and October of this year, today's bipartisan agreement will help American families and small businesses weather the coming winter and get to the other side of this public health emergency.

While this COVID-19 relief package delivers meaningful funding for small businesses, local school systems and public transit networks, I am disappointed that Congressional Republicans absolutely refused to provide dedicated aid to state and local governments.

As Congress considers additional COVID-19 relief efforts in the year ahead, I will continue to fight for robust state and local funding to support our first responders and frontline workers, who have kept our communities safe and delivered vital services during this incredibly difficult time.

Key provisions of the COVID-19 relief agreement include:

Equitable COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution, Testing and Contact Tracing to Eliminate the Virus: $20 billion to purchase vaccines, $9 billion to distribute vaccines and nearly $22 billion to help states expand testing, contact tracing and other virus mitigation efforts.

Support for Small Business: $284 billion for forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Expanded PPP eligibility for nonprofits, local newspapers, television stations and radio broadcasters. Critical modifications to PPP to better serve minority-owned businesses, the smallest businesses, struggling nonprofits and independent restaurants. Also includes $20 billion in targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan Grants for small businesses, $15 billion in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions and $9 billion in emergency investments in Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions to support lending in low-income and underserved communities.

Education and Child Care: $82 billion for schools, colleges and universities. Includes dedicated funding to repair and replace HVAC systems to reduce virus transmission and safely reopen classrooms. Forgives nearly $1.3 billion in federal loans to historically Black colleges and universities. Also includes $10 billion for child care assistance to help parents get back to work.

Enhanced Unemployment Insurance: Extends pandemic unemployment benefits for millions of Americans, including the self-employed, gig workers and individuals who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits. Adds $300 per week in unemployment insurance for Americans out of work.

Rental Assistance: $25 billion in urgently needed rental assistance for families across the country and an extension of the federal eviction moratorium. Also enhances the Low Income Housing Tax Credit to help increase affordable housing construction and provide greater certainty to new and ongoing affordable housing projects.

Food and Nutrition Assistance: $13 billion in SNAP and child nutrition benefits to help relieve the historic hunger crisis affecting nearly 17 million children across the country.

Direct Payments to American Families: $600 per adult and per child for eligible individuals and families. Individuals earning up to $75,000 a year will receive a payment of $600. Couples earning up to $150,000 will receive $1,200. Families will also receive $600 per child.

Strengthened Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit: Ensures that families who faced unemployment or reduced wages during the pandemic are able to receive a strong tax credit based on their 2019 income.

Employee Retention Tax Credit: Extends and improves the Employee Retention Tax Credit to help keep workers employed during coronavirus closures or reduced revenue.

Paid Sick Leave: Provides a tax credit to employers that offer paid sick leave, based on the framework set forth in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Emergency Transportation Funding: $27 billion to shore up America's transportation networks, including $14 billion for state and local public transit systems, $10 billion for highways, $2 billion for airports and $1 billion for Amtrak.

More information about the relief package is available online: https://bit.ly/38l6DGc

For a full list of coronavirus-related resources, please visit my website. I also encourage you to visit coronavirus.maryland.gov for state-specific information about testing locations, vaccine distribution plans and many other Maryland resources.

As always, my office is available to help you and your families navigate federal agencies and access important federal benefits, like Social Security and Medicare. If you need assistance, please send me an email or call 410-832-8890 during normal business hours.

During this incredibly challenging time for our country, I hope that the upcoming holiday season provides you and your families with an opportunity to celebrate safely, rest comfortably and look forward to a better and brighter year in 2021.

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Ambassador Dimitrios Tsikouris (JD, MA) has a 36-year-long career in the Greek Diplomatic Service with assignments in Germany, the United Nations, New Orleans, Washington, DC, NATO Defense College in Rome, Italy, Iran, Belgium, Indonesia, Malaysia, and ASEAN.

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