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How Biden’s stimulus package delivers for the Bay Area

March 12, 2021
Ro's Op-Eds
Ro Khanna

Mercury News

Nearly one year ago today, Santa Clara County Health Director Sara Cody wisely ordered the nation’s first stay-at-home directive as the novel coronavirus rapidly spread. We later learned this virus took its first American victim right here in San Jose. After more than 525,000 lives lost, we are still battling this menace. But hope is on the horizon thanks to the American Rescue Plan, which provides $1.9 trillion in support as our nation faces dual health and economic crises. This bill invests in pulling us out of a pandemic-induced recession, expediting mass vaccinations and a return to normalcy, and putting money in American families’ pockets.

This legislation will tangibly improve people’s lives. Everyone in a household making under $150,000 per year will immediately receive a $1,400 check. Additionally, the bill expands the Child Tax Credit, which will send checks for up to $3,600 per child to families earning under $150,000.  A Columbia University study found that this policy alone will cut child poverty by 45%. To put it in perspective, a Bay Area family with two parents collectively earning under $150,000, a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old will receive $12,800 because of this bill. For 17 million childless, low-wage workers, the work-incentivizing Earned Income Tax Credit is increased, too.

We are also providing an essential lifeline to laid-off workers struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. The weekly $300 boost to unemployment benefits is extended through the summer, $37 billion is dedicated to rent, mortgage and utility assistance, and the 15% increase in monthly food stamp benefits passed last year is extended through September. We aren’t leaving anyone behind.

Without this package, it would take another four years of hardship before America’s real GDP returned to pre-pandemic levels. We don’t have that kind of time. It provides $1.3 billion to support the recession-ravaged budgets of Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa counties and the cities of Cupertino, Fremont, Milpitas, Newark, San Jose, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale. This investment will prevent layoffs and keep essential services running. The bill also invests in safely reopening schools.

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We need all hands on deck to beat this virus and save lives. This package takes a science-based approach to doing that. It invests in public health infrastructure, including $20 billion for a national vaccination program. It boosts ACA subsidies and incentivizes Medicaid expansion to cover the 14 million people who lost their job-based health insurance. The bill allocates $51 billion to increase testing, contact tracing and medical supply production. Thanks to this, the Levi’s Stadium and Oakland Coliseum sites will soon vaccinate over 20,000 people per day. We still have hundreds of millions of vaccine doses to administer until we can return to normal; the American Rescue Plan gets us there as quickly as possible.

Make no mistake, this bill is not perfect. I am disappointed the Senate stripped the House-passed $15 minimum wage provision we fought so hard to include. I will continue my push to ensure it’s in the reconciliation package later this year. I also oppose provisions that further entrench for-profit health insurance and will continue to advocate for Medicare for All. But, ultimately, this is life-changing legislation. Last year, it would’ve been unfathomable to imagine a relief package focused on working- and middle-class Americans. I was proud to vote for it.

The American Rescue Plan shows us precisely why elections matter, and the Biden administration learned from the mistakes of the 2008 financial crisis recovery. We went too small, and Americans suffered because of it. That isn’t happening again.