Peters Pushes for Passage of American Rescue Plan to Deliver Robust COVID Relief for Michiganders

Peters Highlights How Relief Package Would Support Struggling Americans, Provide Funding to Help Schools Safely Reopen and Resources to Speed up Vaccine Distribution

WASHINGTON, DC – During a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today pushed for quick Senate passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, which would deliver robust and comprehensive Coronavirus relief to Michiganders. The Senate is considering the package that will provide critical aid to Michiganders and Americans across the nation, includes funding to distribute stimulus checks, accelerate vaccine distribution and help schools reopen safely.

“We must act quickly to meet the urgency of this moment by swiftly passing the American Rescue Plan,” said Senator Peters. “This is about relief for Michiganders and Americans who are reeling and desperately trying to make ends meet, funding to help schools safely reopen, resources to speed up vaccine distribution and support for small businesses fighting to staying afloat.”

“We are beginning to emerge from a very dark winter — but our work is not done,” Senator Peters continued. “We cannot be complacent — we cannot let up. This virus does not take a day off, and so neither can we. There’s widespread support across the country for this package — from mayors, to governors to economists across the political spectrum and the majority of Americans. We must deliver comprehensive and urgently needed relief, and we can do just that by passing the American Rescue Plan.”

Click here to watch Senator Peters’ remarks on the Senate Floor. 

Below are Senator Peters’ remarks, as prepared for delivery:

“As we near the one-year anniversary of the Coronavirus pandemic gripping our country, there is no question that Michiganders and people all across our country are still hurting.

“While we are making important progress in the fight to combat this virus, this public health and economic crisis continues to take a significant toll — on families — workers who are out of a job— educators — students — small businesses — hospitals — and communities all across our country. 

“We passed targeted, temporary relief in December. But we knew at that time it was not enough.

“We need more robust, meaningful relief.

“We must act quickly to meet the urgency of this moment by swiftly passing the American Rescue Plan.

“This is about relief for Michiganders and Americans who are reeling and trying to make ends meet – funding to help schools safely reopen – resources to speed up vaccine distribution – and support for small businesses fighting to staying afloat.

“I continue to hear from Michiganders from all across the state who are struggling to put food on the table, pay their rent and keep the lights on.

“These folks aren’t asking for a handout—they simply want a lifeline to get to the other side of the pandemic.

“When we passed $600 relief checks in December, I pledged that we must do more—and that we could do that by providing people with an additional $1,400—to fulfill the promise of $2,000 relief funds.

“With the American Rescue Plan, the majority of Michiganders and Americans who received these relief checks in December are going to be eligible once again.

“This bill would mean a family of four could receive an additional $5,600.

“That support is vital to make sure that people survive and more families do not fall into poverty as a result of this pandemic and can get back on their feet as quickly as possible. 

“We know that millions of workers across our country, including workers in Michigan — are on the verge of seeing unemployment benefits expire on March 14th.                                                                                             

“We cannot abandon folks who are out of work through no fault of their own because of COVID-19. They have seen this pandemic disrupt their jobs and their incomes.

“The need for unemployment assistance is widespread — and it is necessary – in Michigan.

“For example – there were over 840,000 active claims from Michiganders for unemployment assistance in Michigan in just February. That’s up from 529,000 in January.

“And these claims for assistance come from every county all across our state.

“We need to act now so these individuals remain eligible for unemployment benefits, including if they were self-employed workers like small business owners, freelance workers, independent contractors or gig workers.

“We must ensure families receiving unemployment have enough assistance to get by, which is why I support an additional $400 in weekly benefits.

“We also need to provide certainty that this assistance will continue to be there for them in the months ahead, not just for the next few days.

“The American Rescue Plan will do just that by bolstering our state unemployment programs with additional federal support through August 29.

“To help families get back to work, we all know that we must also safely reopen our schools.

“Many parents and educators are struggling to assist children through lessons while juggling other work and caregiving demands during the pandemic.

“The American Rescue Plan reflects a point of consensus that we want our students to return to in-person learning as quickly and safely as possible – and that the more resources we can provide the better.

“In response to the negative impact that COVID-19 has had on education, a stronger and urgent investment in our schools is absolutely critical for achieving safe operations and recovering from gaps in learning.

“That is why the American Rescue Plan is absolutely essential. This legislation will provide $170 billion in emergency funding to our schools and to our students, with $130 billion for K-12 schools.  

“The funding will help schools take steps based on science and recommended by the CDC to ensure students and educators can safely return to the classroom.

“This includes repairing ventilation systems —reducing class sizes and implementing social distancing guidelines — purchasing personal protective equipment — and hiring support staff to care for students’ health and for their well-being.

“Every family and community has been facing a very unique set of challenges. And we need to provide robust funding relief so schools and parents have what they need to keep children connected with learning opportunities that are both safe and effective. 

“And while these are important steps — we also know that if we’re going to come back stronger from this pandemic, we also need to support the backbone of our economy, which is our small businesses.

“While we have passed several rounds of relief for small businesses, too many of our hard-hit small businesses are still reeling — from restaurants — to boutiques — to family-owned and minority-owned businesses.

“The American Rescue Plan has significant small business relief — including: $25 billion in grants for restaurants and bars that have lost revenue because of the pandemic; $15 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance grants; $7 billion in funding for Paycheck Protection Program loans and expanded eligibility for non-profits.

“Additionally, this package reauthorizes and provides $10 billion in federal funding — including $1.5 billion specifically for minority-owned small businesses — to the State Small Business Credit Initiative.

“I was proud to help establish this program in 2010 while serving in the House of Representatives.

“This program is a proven success. In Michigan, it has helped small businesses create or retain over 12,000 jobs and it strengthens state programs that support financing of small businesses, allowing them to both grow and create more jobs.

“I am pleased to again champion this program — and with additional investment — it will again provide crucial support to small businesses in Michigan and all across our country. 

“And finally — to completely get this pandemic under control — we must ramp up the distribution of vaccines. That’s one of my top priorities as Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

“Thanks to the extraordinary work of our scientists, researchers and vaccine makers — especially those in my home state of Michigan — we now have three safe and effective vaccines.

“But I know that many people have been frustrated and downright angered by the difficulties they have experienced trying to secure vaccines for their loved ones or for themselves.

“But I’m encouraged that President Biden and his Administration have been working tirelessly to expand vaccine production and speed up vaccine distribution.

“But to get these additional vaccines in arms, it will take additional resources. Through my work on the Senate Homeland Security Committee — I have been leading the charge to ensure that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has the essential staff — supplies —transportation — and other resources necessary to ensure every vaccine dose is actually reaching the arms of Americans.

“I have spoken with President Biden both in the Oval Office and at the Pfizer facility in Portage, Michigan about the critical need to expedite the deployment of vaccines — and do everything in our power to ensure vaccines are free and widely available to every community as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“The American Rescue Plan includes $50 billion to help FEMA support a national vaccination program to efficiently administer vaccines — including in underserved communities.

“It also provides frontline medical professionals the personal protective equipment, testing supplies and workforce needed to slow and to eliminate the spread of COVID-19.

“All of these resources are mission critical as FEMA plays a leading role in assisting the federal government’s response to COVID-19 — by coordinating medical supply acquisition and distribution — and assisting state and local governments with funds for response activities —such as vaccine distribution and overtime pay for public health officials.

“As we consider the American Rescue Plan there are signs of hope — particularly with ramped-up vaccine production.

“We are beginning to emerge from a very dark winter —but our work is not done.

“We cannot be complacent — we cannot let up. This virus does not take a day off — and so neither can we.

“We must pass the American Rescue Plan. This package is not only what the American people need but it is what they want.

“There’s widespread support across the country for this package — from mayors, to governors to economists across the political spectrum and the majority of Americans.

“We must deliver comprehensive and urgently needed relief — and we can do just that by passing the American Rescue Plan.

“This package will not mark the end of our efforts to crush this virus, but it will provide a massive shot in the arm — to help families, to safely open our schools and to accelerate the deployment of vaccines.

“I urge all of my colleagues to support the motion to proceed and final passage.”