“My Republican colleagues and I support providing additional assistance for needs directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We support money for vaccines and personal protective equipment. We support re-opening schools. But we could not support a bloated and wasteful $1.9 trillion partisan bill, only 10 percent of which would go to COVID-related needs. We should not take advantage of a crisis to pass pet projects and unrelated policy wish lists,” said Senator Young.
In the last year, Congress has passed five relief measures with broad bipartisan support, totaling nearly $3.5 trillion. Nearly $1.3 trillion of that money has not been spent. Senator Young outlined his opposition in an interview with Neil Cavuto and a speech on the Senate floor earlier this week.
The $650 billion substitute amendment was proposed by Senator Young along with Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Members of this group met with President Biden last month to attempt to reach a compromise on COVID relief, but instead Democratic congressional leadership charged forward with a partisan plan. The amendment failed by a vote of 48-51.
The Democrats’ bill ultimately passed by a party-line vote of 50-49.
“The emergency we are facing should not be an excuse for funding partisan priorities. It’s unfortunate that the Administration and Democrats rejected this targeted, commonsense package that would have provided focused COVID-19 relief to the people who need it most,” the Senators said in a joint statement.
The substitute amendment, which was built on the Group of 10’s COVID-19 relief plan that was unveiled last month, included the following provisions:
HEALTHY FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES
Direct COVID Pandemic Response. Provides nearly $160 billion to support vaccine distribution, expand testing, PPE, and to rebuild and restock the National Strategic Stockpile. This also includes $35 billion for the Provider Relief Fund to assist health care providers and hospitals, with an $8.5 billion set-aside for rural hospitals.
Defense Production Act. Provides $5 billion for Title III of the Defense Production Act to help expand domestic production capacity of medical supplies and equipment.
Disaster Relief Fund. Provides $30 billion to replenish the Disaster Relief Fund, including $5 billion for PPE for first responders and health care providers, including small physician and dental practices.
Nutrition. Provides $12.4 billion to nutrition assistance programs. This includes additional funding for the WIC Program, Pandemic EBT, and SNAP, including extending increased SNAP benefits through September 30, 2021.
Behavioral Health Services. Provides $3.88 billion to strengthen activities related to mental health and substance abuse. This includes $1.5 billion for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant and $1.5 billion for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant.
IMMEDIATE AID TO INDIVIDUALS AND SMALL BUSINESSES
Unemployment. Extends federal unemployment programs through June and continues the $300 weekly supplement. Provides $2 billion to detect and prevent fraud, provide more equitable access, and ensure the timely payment of benefits, based on Young’s Unemployment Insurance Systems Modernization Act.
Economic Impact Payments. Provides an additional payment of $1,400 to adults in need and provides $500 for each of their dependents. These payments would go to single filers earning $40,000 or less with a complete phase out by $50,000; for joint filers earning $80,000 or less together with a complete phase out by $100,000; and heads of household earning $60,000 or less with a complete phase out by $75,000. Payments would not be made to undocumented immigrants or prisoners.
Small Business. Provides $40 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program and extends the application deadline to June 30, 2021. Of this, $5 million is for audits and investigations. Also provides $10 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
SAFELY REOPENING SCHOOLS AND SUPPORTING CHILD CARE
Schools. Provides $19 billion to reopen K-12 schools and to keep them open. Funding will be available to school districts that provide in-person instructions to at least half of their students at least half of the time. Funding will also be available for activities that support the safe reopening of schools. Also provides $1 billion to support non-public schools with COVID-related costs.
Child Care. Provides $20 billion to the Child Care and Development Block Grant program to provide immediate assistance to child care providers and to support child care for families, including for healthcare workers and first responders.
As part of the reconciliation bill’s rapid-fire vote-a-rama process, Young also sponsored amendments to:
• Prohibit state and local funding in the bill from being used to bailout states’ budget deficits, debts, or pension shortfalls that existed before or are unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Prevent multiemployer pension plans receiving financial assistance under the bill from using those funds to invest in Chinese military companies.
• Provide funding for enhanced fentanyl screening at ports of entry to help address the rapidly growing number of overdose deaths exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Upgrade state unemployment systems to allow for wage-matching and improve claims processing and fraud detection.