Courtney Helps Advance Education and Labor Committee’s Budget Reconciliation Bill, Includes New Support for Working Families, Students, Schools and Seniors
WASHINGTON, DC—In a legislative markup session that began yesterday afternoon and concluded early this morning, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) and the House Committee on Education and Labor voted to advance the committee’s portion of the FY 2021 budget reconciliation bill that fulfills the promise of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. The Education and Labor Committee is one of the twelve committees tasked with negotiating portions of the final reconciliation package, and is responsible for programs to help students get back to the classroom safely, to support workers, and to provide aid to struggling people and families. Rep. Courtney is a senior member of the Committee, and has worked since the start of the pandemic to provide more relief to students and student loan borrowers, to protect Impact Aid funding for local eastern Connecticut schools, to secure workplace protections and hazard pay for frontline workers, and much more.
The Education and Labor Committee’s reconciliation bill will secure urgent relief for students, schools, and child care facilities, provide new support to protect the health of families and communities, and new resources to support America’s workers. The Committee’s bill will be combined with those of the other bipartisan budget committees, and prepared for final consideration by the full House and Senate. To read more, click here.
“Working people, small businesses, and health care workers everywhere know that we’ve still got a long way to go to make it through the fallout of COVID-19,” said Congressman Courtney. “That sentiment is shared by economic experts from across the political spectrum—from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, to Mark Zandi at Moody’s Analytics—who all agree that we need bold action to get Americans back on track. We’ve still got millions waiting for vaccines, our schools need more resources to stay open safely, and families and local businesses are fighting hard just to stay solvent. We’ve got to kick it into higher gear, and the American Rescue Plan will finally help get the job done after months of inaction and half-measures under the previous administration. Advancement of our reconciliation bill is a key step towards getting this crucial relief out the door, and into the toolboxes of people in eastern Connecticut.”
In January 2021, America witnessed the most deaths from COVID-19 in one month since the start of the pandemic. There are 9.8 million fewer jobs in the U.S. economy than in February 2020, and in the past year the GDP shrank by 3.5%—the largest fall in economic growth since 1946. More than 700,000 Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, and altogether 18.3 million Americans are currently receiving some type of unemployment assistance. More action is urgently needed in order to overcome the pandemic in the short term, and shorten the long term economic pain associated with this type of job loss and financial devastation.
Key components of the Education and Labor Committee’s FY 2021 budget reconciliation include:
Securing Urgent Relief for Students and Schools
The reconciliation bill invests in helping K-12 schools safely reopen and address lost time in the classroom. It also provides funding to support institutions of higher education and their students, and to support early learning opportunities through the Head Start program. The bill would:
- Provide nearly $130 billion to help schools take the steps recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure students and educators can return to the classroom safely. This includes repairing ventilation systems, reducing class sizes and implementing social distancing guidelines, purchasing personal protective equipment, and hiring support staff. Schools must reserve at least 20% of funding to address learning loss.
- Authorize nearly $40 billion for institutions of higher education that are struggling to make up for lost revenue following campus closures. Institutions must dedicate at least half of the funding for emergency financial aid grants to prevent hunger, homelessness, and other hardships that students are facing as a result of the pandemic.
- Stabilize the childcare system by investing $39 billion in childcare providers through the Child Care and Development Block Grant Program. Childcare providers receiving funds must provide financial relief for families to the extent possible, and prioritize such relief for families struggling to cover tuition.
- Provide $1 billion for the Head Start program to ensure families can continue to access quality early learning opportunities.
Protecting the Health of Families and Communities
The Education and Labor Committee’s reconciliation bill would expand access to affordable health care during the pandemic for workers and families who lost job-based coverage. It would also address the surge in child hunger by expanding critical food assistance for children and families, and includes new support for older Americans. Among other related provisions, the bill would:
- Provide COBRA subsidies to ensure workers who have been laid-off or subject to reduced hours can access affordable health coverage. For workers not eligible for COBRA, other provisions improve subsidies for health coverage through the ACA Marketplaces, helping small businesses, self-employed, and gig economy workers impacted by the pandemic.
- Maintain and expand the Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) program by investing more than $5 billion in P-EBT so that low-income families have access to food assistance during both the school year and summer months.
- Provide more than $800 million for the WIC program, which supports low-income women and infants, and boosts the value of WIC Cash Value Vouchers (CVV) for vulnerable mothers and children.
- Temporarily expand the age of eligibility for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) at emergency homeless shelters, to ensure more young adults can access needed nutrition support.
- Help families cover the costs of home heating and cooling by providing $4.5 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
- Invest more than $1.4 billion to strengthen critical programs for older adults—including nutrition assistance, vaccination support, and caregiver support —under the Older Americans Act (OAA) and the Elder Justice Act.
Supporting America’s Workers
The Education and Labor Committee’s portion of the reconciliation bill would increase wages for at least 27 million American workers, strengthen worker protections amid the pandemic, and ensure that COVID-19 workers’ compensation coverage for frontline maritime and federal workers. The bill would:
- Gradually increase the national minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025—a more gradual rate than Connecticut’s own existing law—and guarantees that tipped workers, youth workers, workers with disabilities are paid the full federal minimum wage.
- Provide the Department of Labor $150 million to implement COVID–19 worker protection programs, including $75 million specifically for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
- Establish a presumption that COVID-19 is work-related and authorizes eligibility for medical benefits, lost wages, and survivor benefits for longshore and shipyard workers, under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), as well as federal and postal workers, under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA).