Today, the House of Representatives passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which provides targeted COVID-19 relief of approximately $900 billion, which is composed of newly appropriated funds of approximately $325 billion after rescinding $429 billion in Federal Reserve 13(3) authority and repurposing unused PPP funds. Further, the Consolidated Appropriations Act provides $1.4 trillion to fully fund the government through the next fiscal year.
This long-awaited targeted package is the result of a bipartisan effort by my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to provide the workers, small businesses, families, and people of Arkansas with much-needed relief.
While House Democrats could have accepted a very similar bill from Senate Republicans earlier in the year, the passage of this relief package shows a bipartisan desire to support American families and small businesses and to get back on track before the new year.
Together, we face an unprecedented and invisible enemy. Every steppingstone to defeat this virus is crucial, and this bill is a key component of our victory.
I thank my colleagues for coming to an agreement before the end of the new year, and for finally producing relief that will carry Americans and Arkansans beyond the pandemic.
In response to the challenges created by COVID-19, this legislation will:
Bolster the Economy:
- $325 billion for small businesses, including $284 billion for first and second forgivable PPP loans, dedicated set-asides for very small businesses and lending through community-based lenders like Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions, and expanded PPP eligibility for 501(c)(6) nonprofits, including destination marketing organizations, and local newspapers, TV and radio broadcasters.
- $20 billion for new EIDL Grants for businesses in low-income communities.
- $15 billion in funding for entertainment venues, movie theaters, and museums that are experiencing significant revenue loss.
- Expands list of eligible expenses to include covered operations; property damage costs that are not covered by insurance; covered supplier costs; and covered worker protection expenditures (PPE). PPP borrowers will be allowed to take tax deductions for covered business expenses.
- $13 billion to support farmers and the agriculture sector, including assistance under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and funding directed to programs that support local producers and new and beginning farmers.
Support Working Families:
- Economic Impact Payments of $600 for individuals making up to $75,000 per year and $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000 per year, as well as a $600 payment for each child dependent.
- $286 billion for an additional $300 per week in unemployment insurance, through March 14.
- $25 billion for rental assistance (to be distributed through state and local agencies) and an extension of the CDC eviction moratorium through January 31.
- $69 billion for vaccine procurement and distribution and monies sent to states for testing, tracing, and COVID mitigation programs.
- Incentivizes employers to give employees $5,250 per year toward their student loans. Employees will no longer have to pay a tax on the amount given towards their student loans for the next five years.
Provide Flexibility for our Governors:
- State and local governments will now have until December 31, 2021, to spend aid provided by the CARES Act.
- $7 billion total in broadband funding
- $2 billion to replace foreign-manufactured equipment
- $300 million for rural
- $250 million for telehealth
- $82 billion for aid to schools and universities, including K-12 and higher education.
- $20 billion for the purchase of vaccines that will make the vaccine available at no charge for anyone who needs it, $8 billion for vaccine distribution, and $20 billion to assist states with testing.
|VACCINE DISTRIBUTION PLAN FOR ARKANSAS
This week, the Arkansas Department of Health has laid out a detailed plan on vaccine distribution and process.
The Phase 1 process is set to take place in three phases of distribution:
Target: Health care workers in high-risk settings and people at significantly high risk for severe disease due to underlying health conditions. Hospitals will be ranked by their number of employees and number of COVID-19 cases.
- Hospital on-campus employees and staff in high-risk settings or performing high-risk procedures on confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients
- Hospital off-campus employees and staff in high-risk settings or performing high-risk procedures on confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients
- First responders (EMS, fire, and law enforcement) at highest risk to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients via high-risk public exposure and procedures
Target: Essential workers.
- K-12 school employees including teachers, aides, janitorial, bus drivers, and other staff (who cannot teach or work remotely)
- College/university faculty & staff (who cannot teach or work remotely)
- Daycare employees
- Grocery store workers
- Meatpacking plant workers (particularly poultry)
- Essential DHS & DWS offices (those who cannot work remotely)
- State correctional workers (who cannot work remotely)
- Jail/detainment facility workers
- Truck drivers
- Utility workers (who cannot work remotely)
- Public-facing postal workers
- Essential government workers
Target: People at high risk for severe disease.
- Adults of all ages with high-risk medical conditions (chronic disease)
- Adults 65 years of age or older
- Adults with intellectual or cognitive disabilities
- Adults who are incarcerated or detained
- Adults living in group homes, congregate settings, or in crowded settings
For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, visit the Arkansas Department of Health’s website.
|BILLS ON THE FLOOR LAST WEEK
The Julius Rosenwald and the Rosenwald Schools Act and the Crisis Stabilization and Community Reentry Act both passed the House last week. Both of these bills, which I supported, are significant for central Arkansas.
The Julius Rosenwald and the Rosenwald Schools Act, which I cosponsored, is of unique importance to me because of Julius Rosenwald’s impact and contribution to our education system in central Arkansas.
The 5,357 schools across the country and 389 schools in Arkansas that Julius Rosenwald financed, including Bigelow Rosenwald in central Arkansas, have graduated thousands of students.
In addition to the Julius Rosenwald and the Rosenwald Schools Act, I also supported the passage of the Crisis Stabilization and Community Reentry Act.
This bipartisan bill would authorize $10 million in grants from the Department of Justice for state and local communities to fund training and clinical services to provide access to medication for incarcerated individuals and continuity of care upon reentry into their communities. These grants would support:
- The purchase and use of long-acting antipsychotic medications to support adherence.
- The establishment of a national technical assistance center to support justice and mental health agencies
- Strengthening local agency and provider capacity to reduce suicides during incarceration.
The Crisis Stabilization and Community Reentry Act would bring critical resources and aid to prevent mental illness among incarcerated individuals and provide extended care when incarcerated individuals return to their communities in Arkansas and across the country.
|RECOGNIZING THE ABRAHAM ACCORDS ON THE HOUSE FLOOR
Last Thursday, I spoke on the House Floor to recognize the significant progress we have made in the Middle East as a result of the Abraham Accords.
This agreement is a remarkable landmark achievement for American foreign policy in the Middle East.
We will see continued cultural diplomatic and economic visits and exchanges between Israel and Bahrain, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Sudan, and now Israel and Morocco because of these remarkable diplomatic achievements.
The Abraham Accords have encouraged positive negotiations and exchanges, bringing great momentum to ultimately bringing peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
I look forward to the United States working together with Israel and these new partners to solve the crisis in Syria and counter the Mullahs in Iran.
|HONORING THE WORK OF CONGRESSMAN PHIL ROE
Last week, I had the privilege of honoring my good friend and colleague, Representative Phil Roe, on the House Floor.
During my time in Congress, I have had the opportunity to build friendships and relationships with my colleagues from all across the nation.
Dr. Roe represents Tennessee’s First Congressional District and has made the decision to retire from the House of Representatives this year. Phil and I bonded over critical national defense policy – accountability and excellence for our veterans. Both of us being Boy Scouts, we also share a love of the outdoors, camping, backpacking, and hiking in the mountains.
He is a man of high character, immense intellect, and great loyalty. His loyalty to the people of East Tennessee is shown in his daily spirit through his hard work and civil service.
His care and passion for his fellow veterans have overflowed in his role as Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and currently as Ranking Member.
He will be missed in the halls of the House of Representatives.
AMAZON OPENS FULFILLMENT CENTER IN NORTH LITTLE ROCK
I am excited to announce Amazon will be opening a 1-million-square-foot fulfillment center next year in North Little Rock!
This center, which will be located in Galloway, is the fifth Amazon distribution facility and second fulfillment center in central Arkansas. This project is expected to finish in two years.
The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) is contributing $2 million in funds through a portion of surplus ARDOT receives in general revenue.
I am thrilled that Amazon has once again decided to bring its business to our state and be the driver of economic growth and jobs in central Arkansas. In total, Amazon will operate over almost 2 million square feet and offer jobs to over 1,800 Arkansans.
It is my honor to represent you in Congress.
Representative French Hill