WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) released the following statement after voting to pass the bipartisan COVID-19 deal, providing relief to Michigan families, workers, small businesses and schools as well as resources for vaccine distribution:
“Right now, Michiganders and folks across the country are suffering. Small businesses have been forced to shutter or are barely staying afloat. Workers are out of jobs through no fault of their own and are stressed about feeding their families and keeping a roof over their heads. Health care workers are exhausted – pressed to their breaking points from caring for COVID patients.
“Let’s be clear: this deal does not go nearly far enough. There’s much more to be done, particularly to assist communities facing budget shortfalls and forced to make difficult cuts to essential services. But there is also no question that Michiganders need help — and they need help immediately. This package provides important relief to help us get through these next few difficult months, from vaccine distribution to small business support to direct payments to put money in the pockets of struggling Americans, expanded unemployment assistance and resources for schools. This bill should not be the end, and I’m going to keep fighting to ensure Michigan families have the support and resources they need to overcome this public health and economic crisis.”
The deal includes a number of provisions, including:
- Unemployment Assistance: Peters and his colleagues successfully fought to bring back enhanced federal unemployment benefits. The package provides an additional $300 per week for all workers receiving unemployment benefits, through March 14, 2021. This deal also extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, building on the relief that Peters secured in the CARES Act with the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act — with expanded coverage to self-employed workers, gig workers, and others in non-traditional employment. It also extends the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which provides additional weeks of federally-funded unemployment benefits to individuals who exhaust their regular state benefits. The extension was critical in preventing as many as 14 million Americans from losing this economic lifeline at the end of the year. Additionally, the bill increases the maximum number of weeks an individual may claim benefits through regular state unemployment plus the PEUC program, or through the PUA program, to 50 weeks.
- Funding for Vaccine Distribution, Testing and Tracing, Community Health and Support for Health Care Providers: The package includes $69 billion for vaccine distribution and funding directly for states for testing, tracing and COVID mitigation programs. It will provides billions in urgently need funds to accelerate the free and equitable distribution of safe vaccines to as many Americans as possible as soon as possible, to implement a strong national testing and tracing strategy with billions reserved specifically for combating the disparities facing communities of color, and to support our heroic health care workers and providers. It also includes funding for health care providers and mental health care. The deal also includes provisions based off bipartisan legislation Peters previously introduced to raise awareness around vaccines and increase vaccination rates.
- Support for Small Businesses and Strengthening the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): The deal includes $325 billion in support for small businesses. This includes over $284 billion for first and second forgivable PPP loans, expanded PPP eligibility for nonprofits and local newspapers, TV and radio broadcasters, key modifications to PPP to serve the smallest businesses and struggling non-profits and better assist independent restaurants, and includes $15 billion in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions.
- Support for Minority-Owned Businesses: The agreement includes dedicated PPP set-asides for very small businesses and lending through community-based lenders like Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs); $9 billion in emergency U.S. Treasury capital investments in CDFIs and MDIs to support lending in low-income and underserved communities, including persistent poverty counties, that may be disproportionately impacted by the economic effects of the COVID–19 pandemic; and $3 billion in emergency support for CDFIs through the CDFI Fund to respond to the economic impact of the pandemic on underserved low-income and minority communities.
- Rental Assistance: The agreement includes $25 billion in critically needed rental assistance for families struggling to stay in their homes and an extension of the eviction moratorium.
- Direct Payment Checks: The agreement includes a new round of direct payments worth up to $600 per adult and child, also ensuring that mixed-status families receive payments.
- Funding the Postal Service: Peters secured a provision to convert a $10 billion loan to USPS passed as a part of the CARES Act to direct funding. This will ensure that the Postal Service can put the funds towards their operations and recover from pandemic-related losses. As Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters has fought to protect the Postal Service and its 245-year tradition of mail delivery.
- Support for Schools: The agreement provides $82 billion in funding for colleges and schools, including support for infrastructure repair and replacement to mitigate virus transmission and reopen classrooms, and $10 billion for child care assistance to help get parents back to work and keep child care providers open.
- Expanding Access to Broadband: The agreement invests $7 billion to increase access to broadband, including a new Emergency Broadband Benefit to help millions of students, families and unemployed workers afford the broadband they need during the pandemic.
- Transportation Funding: The deal includes $45 billion to provide relief to transit agencies, airlines and airline contractors, airports and state Department of Transportation. This funding will keep transit agencies running to allow those who must take transit, such as essential workers and seniors, among others, to get to work, go to medical appointments and the grocery store.