WASHINGTON (KTVZ) -- Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., praised the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that Senate Democrats passed in a narrow, party-line vote Saturday.
Wyden's initial statement:
“Democrats have succeeded in passing the boldest economic relief package in recent memory. Our bill continues the historic actions Democrats have taken on behalf of jobless Americans, sends relief payments to working- and middle-class families in Oregon and nationwide, cuts child poverty in half, and boosts the take home pay of millions of essential workers like grocery store clerks and home health aides. This package also provides critical aid to states, cities, and local communities to prevent massive budget shortfalls and permanent layoffs of teachers and firefighters. Democrats learned the lessons of the Great Recession, and committed to advancing economic relief that meets the unprecedented needs of the American people during this crisis. Our work is not over, and we will soon turn to rebuilding an economy that works for all Americans over the long-term.
“Bottom line, the American Rescue Plan took one huge step today to provide the ongoing help that Oregonians and our entire country need to weather this public health crisis and its devastating economic fallout.”
Wyden also issued this statement on the unemployment benefits extension:
“My goal throughout this process has been to secure the strongest possible package for jobless workers that could pass the Senate. This agreement continues the $300 weekly boost, extends benefits longer than the House proposal, and provides much-needed relief to jobless workers being hit with surprise tax bills without any way to pay them. Republicans are standing in lockstep against tax relief for Americans with a few hundred bucks in the bank after demanding billions in write-offs for wealthy investors.
“Adding hundreds of dollars to weekly benefits and covering gig workers and the self-employed has been the boldest action Congress has ever taken to support jobless Americans during an economic crisis. At every stage, Democrats have pushed the strongest possible jobless package and Republicans have opposed. Going back to the CARES Act, Republicans’ only amendment on the floor was to cut jobless benefits.
“As the author of the original $600 per week boost in the CARES Act, I would have preferred a higher weekly boost tied to economic conditions. This whole process underscores the need to put a stop to jumping from cliff to cliff. There would be no need to predict the level of economic support needed in six months because benefits would taper down gradually as conditions improve. I’m going to continue talking to my colleagues and pushing for triggers as we move forward.”
And there was this news release on one program in the legislation:
WYDEN SECURES NEW COUNTY AND TRIBAL PAYMENT PROGRAM IN COVID RELIEF PACKAGE
Program will provide $1 billion per year to help counties and tribes hard hit by the economic downturn
Washington, D.C. – As part of the Senate-passed COVID-19 relief package, Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., established a new program to help rural counties with large tracts of federal lands and Tribes hard hit by the economic downturn.
The new $1 billion-per-year payments program will give these counties and Tribes a boost to continue providing essential services to their communities, which is especially critical with the current expiration of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program. Wyden will work with Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, as well as the counties and Tribes to set up the new Wyden program to make payments based on economic conditions in each county and Tribe.
“These particular rural counties and Tribes were delivered a devastating blow when COVID-19 hit their communities. They are barely hanging on when it comes to resources for their schools, roads, and health services,” Wyden said. “Funding for these communities is urgently needed, and this new program will ease some of the burden and set us on a path to find long-term permanent funding solutions.”
More details on the provision can be found in Wyden's statement for the congressional record on the new program. A PDF of the statement is available here.
Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley issued this news release on the bill's passage:
Merkley Votes to Pass the American Rescue Plan to Send Stimulus Checks to Struggling Americans, Support Frontline Workers and Main Street Businesses, Open Schools Safely, and Establish National Vaccine Distribution Strategy
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley issued the following statement after a marathon of votes that culminated in the Senate passage of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan:
“Good news, America: Relief is finally on the way. The American Rescue Plan is going to put money in people’s pockets, vaccines in their arms, kids in classrooms, and open signs on Main Street businesses. And it’s not a moment too soon.
“This past year will go down in our nation’s history books as one of our most difficult and frightening chapters. More than half a million Americans—including over two thousand Oregonians—have lost their lives to the coronavirus. Millions have lost their jobs, and are struggling to keep the lights on and stay in their homes. Frontline workers—especially those in vulnerable and medically underserved communities—are still facing shortages of personal protective equipment. Educators are working tirelessly to keep educating our children, some of whom have not stepped foot in a classroom for nearly a full year. State and local governments have lost critical revenue they need to pay firefighters and first responders.
“For too long, the American people have been waiting for the kind of bold, decisive action it’s going to take to beat back this virus, get Americans back on their feet, and safely re-open our schools. Today’s vote means that kind of relief is finally within sight—including stimulus checks; extended unemployment insurance for the 20 million Americans who are relying on the program and would otherwise lose it at the end of next week; resources local governments need to provide vital services; support for our frontline workers and Main Streets; resources to safely help get students back in the classroom; and a national strategy to make testing easier and vaccines distributed as quickly as possible.
“While much work remains to be done in the coming months to help our communities survive and recover during this crisis, this relief package is an enormous step forward. I look forward to continuing to work with Oregonians, my colleagues, and with President Biden to build on this progress.”
The legislation must now be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives before heading to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.