PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Several Virginia officials voiced their praise after Congress gave the final approval Wednesday to a landmark $1.9-trillion COVID-19 relief bill that will send $1,400 direct payments to most Americans.
Congressman Bobby Scott and Congresswoman Elaine Luria, both Democrats from Virginia, tell 10 On Your Side the American Rescue Plan will help fight the coronavirus, keep schools open and help mend some of the economic fallout.
“It’s just a good day for America,” Scott said.
He said about 80% of Americans will be getting stimulus checks after President Joe Biden signs the plan on Friday.
“The $1,400 checks should be in the mail within about three weeks,” Scott said.
The stimulus package includes money for families, housing, education and small businesses. Luria said its funding will help the travel and tourism industry in Hampton Roads.
“This has more funds for [the Paycheck Protection Program] but it also has another piece of legislation wrapped into it called the Restaurant Act which really helps provide some additional funding to restaurants and entertainment venues, so we really hope this will be a boost just at the right time,” Luria said.
Scott also praised the relief bill’s investment into K-12 education.
About $130 billion will go to schools for things like personal protective equipment, mitigation supplies, ventilation measures and more.
“The funding is there not only to open schools and keep them open but also to make up for learning loss,” he said.
In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) highlighted several measures from the relief bill that will help Virginia specifically including $6.9 billion to cover lost revenues as well as:
- 84% of Virginians (more than 7 million people) are set to benefit from stimulus checks.
- More than 1.5 million Virginian children will benefit from the Child Tax Credit expansion, including lifting 85,000 Virginian children out of poverty.
- The expanded Earned Income Tax Credit will impact 420,000 adults, enabling them to work with less financial stress.
- 250,000 Virginians whose UI benefits were in danger are now protected through early September.
- Virginia K-12 schools will receive more than $2 billion to deal with the costs of COVID, and Virginia’s colleges and universities will receive $845 million.
- Virginia will receive nearly $800 million in additional child care support to help child care centers open and enable parents to more easily return to work.
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe also said that the relief bill will also help lift 85,000 children out of poverty in the commonwealth, send $6.4 billion to our state and localities, and invest in expanding rural broadband.
Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Congressman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) praised the bill for securing protection for student veterans.
“As Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and a former teacher, I am delighted that among the many victories for students and veterans in the American Rescue Plan is a provision that will close the 90-10 loophole,” said Takano.
About $60 billion will fund more COVID-19 testing and will boost vaccine distribution efforts such as mass vaccination clinics.
“The only limiting factor is the availability of the vaccine,” Scott said.
“This is another step for light at the end of the tunnel for the COVID pandemic,” Luria added.
However, not all lawmakers agree that’s it’s a step in the right direction.
In a statement, Congressman Rob Wittman (R-Va.) said the bill “only directs 1% to vaccinations, ignores the science on reopening schools, and is stuffed with non-COVID-related spending.
Wittman said the bill is a “missed opportunity.”
Here are other statements from officials on the passage of the relief plan and signing by President Biden Thursday:
Sen. Kaine (D-Va.)
“When President Biden assumed office, each day was met with over 3,000 COVID deaths and fewer than one million vaccinations. Fifty days later, daily COVID deaths are nearly cut in half, and daily vaccinations have more than doubled. By signing the American Rescue Plan today, the President is leading us even further in the right direction with stimulus checks, unemployment assistance through the summer, aid to safely reopen schools, and innumerable other measures to help us conquer this virus, rescue our economy, and return our lives to normal. It has been a painfully long, dark year, but light is on the horizon.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)
“By signing the American Rescue Plan into law, President Biden has taken an enormous step in defeating the COVID-19 pandemic and setting our nation on a clear path forward to rebuild from this crisis. Soon, this bold legislation will start delivering urgent relief for Virginians and funding for the Commonwealth’s top priorities.
“The American Rescue Plan will help our nation heal by getting vaccines into arms, expanding COVID-19 testing and tracing, and providing schools with the resources they need to reopen safely. It will also tackle the vast economic challenges related to COVID-19 by putting checks in Americans’ hands, helping small businesses keep their doors open, increasing nutrition benefits for families, assisting struggling renters and homeowners, cutting the child poverty rate in half, and providing funding for state, local, and tribal governments facing drastic budget shortfalls. This bill also includes a record $17 billion in funding to increase affordability and access to broadband – a priority I was proud to secure for the 700,000 Virginians who are still unable to access high-speed internet a year into a pandemic that has further pushed our world online.
“Like any ambitious piece of legislation, the American Rescue Plan is not perfect. I will be the first to acknowledge that the price tag is a significant one. However, this moment is too pivotal to risk doing too little and the future of our country is well worth the investment. I look forward to working to ensure that funding is distributed appropriately, programs are implemented quickly, and Virginians get the help they deserve.”
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D)
“The American Rescue Plan provides the fuel we need to put this pandemic behind us, bolster our recovery, and move this Commonwealth and country forward. The legislation meets the urgency of this moment and will make a difference in the lives of Virginia families, students, and business owners.
“The bill delivers direct payments to millions of Virginia households, targeted relief for hard-hit businesses, and unemployment assistance for people who have lost their jobs and need help paying the bills. It means support for child care providers and help for families struggling to pay for child care. It includes funding to boost our vaccine distribution efforts, safely reopen our schools, support state and local governments, address housing affordability, and expand broadband access. And it will make sure our health care providers have access to mental health services, including provisions named after Charlottesville native Dr. Lorna Breen who took her own life working on the front lines of the pandemic.
“I am grateful to every member of the Virginia delegation who worked to pass this landmark bill and I look forward to working with our partners across the Commonwealth to ensure Virginians see the benefits of this federal funding as soon as possible. The past year has been long and difficult for everyone, but brighter days are ahead. The American Rescue Plan will accelerate our efforts to defeat this virus, put our economy on a solid footing to rebound, and make the investments we need to emerge as a stronger and more equitable Virginia.”