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New England News

Latest COVID Relief Bill Discussed By Regional Representatives As Vote In Washington Looms

Congressman Peter Welch at St. Albans food shelf
Pat Bradley/WAMC
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File: Congressman Peter Welch at St. Albans food shelf

Our region’s congressional representatives are discussing key provisions of the American Rescue Plan – the latest COVID relief bill that’s expected to be voted on in the U.S. House this week.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, held a conference call with colleagues Thursday to discuss provisions in the relief bill that will expand the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Schumer says there are two powerful anti-poverty tools in the COVID relief bill.  

“Together with our colleagues in the House we’re working to include in the American Rescue Plan an historic expansion of the EITC – the Earned Income Tax Credit – and the Child Tax Credit – CTC – putting money directly, directly, into the pockets of working families," Schumer said. "The EITC and the CTC have combined lifted more American families out of poverty than any other federal program aside from Social Security. We have in the past had support from Republicans for the CTC and the EITC. But it is one of the most important things in the American Rescue Plan if not the most important. It’s very very very vital to taking people out of poverty.”

Thursday afternoon, Vermont at-large House Representative Peter Welch meet virtually with joint committees of the Vermont Legislature on Appropriations, Ways and Means and Finance to provide state legislators an update on the $1.9 trillion federal bill.  The Democrat told the state legislators the House will vote on the measure Friday.  

“It’s very significant the amount of money," Welch said. "And that’s based on the view of economists that our economy is very fragile and the future is uncertain and it’s better to err on the side of doing a little bit more than it is to err on the side of doing too little.”

Welch outlined elements in the American Rescue Plan that would be of most interest to the Vermont legislators. 

“So this $1.9 trillion are for vaccine, make certain that we get the vaccines to you and that the federal government, not the state government, pays the cost of that," Welch said. "Supplemental support for the efforts to do the mitigation, the contact tracing, the surveillance that’s part of the public health response. There’s money with individual checks. There’s money in there to help reopen our schools. In addition to that we’ll continue unemployment benefits for folks who are about to lose it on March 14th.”

Vermont’s sole Congressional representative said a key provision in the latest COVID relief bill that will impact the Vermont legislative session is $960 million in direct aid to states and localities.  

“Under that bill the state of Vermont would get about $600 million and our local communities would get about $300 million," the Democrat said. "This legislation has a lot more flexibility than we had in the original CARES package. So I’m very strongly in favor of this legislation.”

After the House votes on the COVID relief package it would move to the Senate.  Congressman Welch said the goal is to complete passage of the bill by March 15.

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