U.S. House of Representatives Set to Pass New COVID-19 Relief Legislation [Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget]
The House of Representatives is currently in the process of considering the next COVID relief bill. Nine of the 12 House committees have approved legislation. Below, we summarize the major elements of the $1.9 trillion plan.
This legislation is largely similar to President Biden’s “American Rescue Plan.” It contains the third round of stimulus checks, an extension of enhanced unemployment benefits, additional tax credits for families and workers, funding for K-12 education, and support for state and local governments. Smaller, but-significant, expenditures include funds for COVID testing and vaccines, grants to small businesses, support for child care providers, assistance for colleges, and rental and homelessness assistance.
A few differences exist: the House plan shortens the unemployment extension by one month and adds grants to multiemployer pensions. It also earmarks some of the small business aid for restaurants, provides grants to airlines and airports, and contains more targeted expansions to Medicaid, but does not contain cybersecurity funding.
|Policy||Deficit impact, 2021-2031|
|Ways & Means||$923 billion|
|Provide $1,400-per-person stimulus checks||$422 billion|
|Extend unemployment programs through August 29 with a $400/week supplement||$246 billion|
|Expand Child Tax Credit, Child Care Tax Credit, and Earned Income Tax Credit mostly for one year||$143 billion|
|Provide grants to multi-employer pension plans and change single-employer pension funding rules||$58 billion|
|Temporarily expand ACA subsidies for two years and subsidize 2020 and 2021 coverage||$45 billion|
|Extend paid sick leave and employee retention credit||$14 billion|
|Subsidize COBRA coverage for laid-off workers*||$8 billion|
|Repeal rule allowing multinational corporations to calculate their interest expenses including foreign subsidiaries||-$22 billion|
|Other policies||$9 billion|
|Oversight & Reform||$350 billion|
|Provide money to state governments||$195 billion|
|Provide money to local governments, territories, and tribes||$155 billion|
|Create paid COVID leave for federal workers and other policies||$0.4 billion|
|Education & Labor||$290 billion|
|Provide funding for K-12 education||$129 billion|
|Provide funding for colleges and universities||$40 billion|
|Increase the federal minimum wage to $15/hour by 2025||$54 billion|
|Provide support for child care, grants to child care providers, and Head Start||$40 billion|
|Subsidize COBRA coverage for laid-off workers*||$10 billion|
|Extend nutrition assistance in place of school lunch for the duration of the emergency and other food assistance||$7 billion|
|Human services, labor programs, and other policies*||$11 billion|
|Energy & Commerce||$122 billion|
|Increase funding for testing and contract tracing||$50 billion|
|Increase public health workforce and investments||$19 billion|
|Fund vaccine distribution, confidence, and supply chains||$16 billion|
|Increase Medicaid payments to states that newly expand Medicaid under the ACA||$16 billion|
|Allow states to expand Medicaid coverage for prisoners close to release and for pregnant and postpartum women for 5 years||$9 billion|
|Remove the cap limiting how much drug manufacturers must rebate to Medicaid for drugs that have increased quickly in price||-$18 billion|
|Other policies*||$31 billion|
|Transportation & Infrastructure||$90 billion|
|Increase funding for the Disaster Relief Fund and cover funeral expenses related to COVID||$47 billion|
|Provide grants to transit agencies||$28 billion|
|Provide grants to airports and aviation manufacturers||$11 billion|
|Provide grants to communities under economic stress||$3 billion|
|Grants to Amtrak and other transportation-related spending||$2 billion|
|Financial Services||$71 billion|
|Provide emergency rental assistance and assist homeless||$30 billion|
|Provide grants to airlines and contractors to freeze airline layoffs through September||$12 billion|
|Use Defense Production Act to buy and distribute medical supplies||$10 billion|
|Provide mortgage payment assistance||$10 billion|
|Reauthorize and fund the State Small Business Credit Initiative||$9 billion|
|Small Business||$50 billion|
|Provide grants to restaurants and bars that lost revenue due to the pandemic||$25 billion|
|Provide additional EIDL Advance grants of up to $10,000 per business||$15 billion|
|Allow more PPP loans and expand eligibility to certain non-profit and digital media companies||$7 billion|
|Other policies||$3 billion|
|Veterans’ Affairs||$17 billion|
|Provide funding for health care services, facilities, and copays for veterans||$16 billion|
|Fund job training assistance programs for veterans and other VA administrative costs||$1 billion|
|Increase nutrition assistance||$6 billion|
|Pay off loans and other programs for socially disadvantaged farmers||$5 billion|
|Purchase and distribute food to needy individuals||$4 billion|
|Testing and monitoring for COVID in rural communities and among animal populations||$1 billion|
|Foreign Affairs (no legislation reported yet)||$10 billion|
|Natural Resources (no legislation reported yet)||$1 billion|
|Science, Space, & Technology (no legislation reported yet)||$1 billion|
Source: CRFB calculations from Congressional Budget Office and House Budget Committee documents
This table shows the deficit impact of various provisions, which may differ slightly from the total amount of aid offered. For instance, $50 billion is allocated to the Disaster Relief Fund, but CBO estimates that only $47 billion will ultimately be spent, based on past precedent. As another example, there are $15 billion in loans and grants given to airlines, but the previous version of this bill has led CBO to conclude that $3 billion will ultimately be repaid or given to the government as stock as a condition of accepting the support.
*The total removes $14 billion from COBRA subsidies and funding for LIHEAP that are shared between two committees and would be double-counted if summing each committee’s total.
Beltway Buzz – Ogletree & Deakins
Biden Nominates NLRB GC. On February 17, 2021, President Biden nominated Jennifer Abruzzo to be the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Abruzzo spent decades as an attorney at the NLRB and served as the Board’s acting general counsel between the terms of General Counsel Richard Griffin and General Counsel Peter Robb. Currently, Abruzzo serves as special counsel for strategic initiatives for the Communications Workers of America. Abruzzo also served during the recent presidential transition as a volunteer on then-President-elect Biden’s labor policy agency review team, which undoubtedly played a role in President Biden’s unprecedented decision to remove Robb as NLRB general counsel.
NLRB Seeks Input on Uniform Policies. In other Board news, late last week the NLRB announced that it was soliciting feedback on its standard regarding employer uniform policies and whether they interfere with employees’ wearing of union insignia. Briefs are due on or before March 15, 2021.
Biden’s Immigration Plan Hits Congress. On February 18, 2021, congressional Democrats introduced the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 in the House and U.S. Senate. Among other provisions, the bill clears backlogs for employment- and family-based visas, provides an eight-year path to citizenship, eliminates employment-based per-country visa caps, permits work authorization for H-4 visa holders, and creates a pilot program for regional economic development visas. However, the bill also allows the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to prioritize wages when allocating H-1B visa holders (and other nonimmigrant worker categories). Republicans aren’t terribly enthused with the bill, making its chance of passage—as written—pretty low. Certain provisions of the bill might be more successful if moved on their own as separate legislative initiatives.
EEOC Rulemaking News. Several weeks ago, the Buzz discussed the White House’s “regulatory freeze” memorandum that ordered agencies to halt Trump administration regulations that were in the pipeline. Well, pursuant to that memorandum, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced this week that it was withdrawing its proposed regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act relating to employer-sponsored wellness programs. However, the Commission’s regulation on transparency in the conciliation process, which was finalized on January 14, 2021, was not impacted, and it went into effect on February 16, 2021.
Pregnancy Accommodation. This week, a bipartisan group of congressional legislators reintroduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 1065). The bill would clarify protections for pregnant workers under federal antidiscrimination laws and require employers to provide reasonable accommodations—such as help with heavy lifting and more frequent restroom or water breaks—to those employees. The bill passed the House in 2020 by a vote of 329-73 (including 103 Republicans) and is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Fiduciary Rule in Effect. In a bit of surprise move, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) this week allowed the Trump-era rule, “Prohibited Transaction Exemption 2020-02, Improving Investment Advice for Workers and Retirees,” to go into effect on February 16, 2021. The rule allows financial advisors to collect fees when providing retirement savings investment advice. Often referred to as the “fiduciary rule,” the rule reinterprets the 2016 fiduciary regulation that was vacated by a federal court in 2018. EBSA announced that in the coming days it would “publish related guidance for retirement investors, employee benefit plans and investment advice providers.”