Courtney Votes to Pass Omnibus Spending Bill that Provides COVID-19 Aid, Protects Plum Island and More
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) voted to pass the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 133), a bipartisan omnibus agreement that includes long-awaited COVID-19 relief provisions, and that would avoid a looming government shutdown. The agreement includes relief provisions that the House has fought for months to secure through bills like the HEROES Act, including a new round of forgivable PPP loans, strong support for restaurants and other small businesses, enhanced unemployment insurance, new rental assistance, and much more. H.R. 133 passed the House with strong bipartisan support, and is expected to receive a vote in the Senate later this evening.
The omnibus agreement also funds the federal government through September 30, 2021. In addition to the restoration of a fully funded second Virginia-class submarine that Courtney has championed this year, the bill contains several key priorities for eastern Connecticut, including language that reflects legislation introduced by Courtney, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and others to save Plum Island by officially repealing the law mandating its sale. The House has voted for five years in a row to repeal the law that mandates the sale of the island. Today’s omnibus agreement forced the issue in the Senate, and will protect Plum Island once and for all.
“My office works with families, small businesses, and others throughout eastern Connecticut every day who need more help during COVID-19—they don’t need special treatment, they just need Congress to work together and do their job,” said Rep. Courtney. “Today, the House led the way once again to authorize new, bipartisan COVID-19 relief. The new omnibus package will be a shot in the arm to the Unemployment Insurance program, will resupply and expand opportunities for restaurants and other businesses who rely on PPP, EIDL and other loans, and includes numerous other crucial assistance like paid sick leave, rental assistance, helpful new tax credits for families and small businesses, and much more.
“H.R. 133 will also avoid a costly government shutdown at what is perhaps the worst possible time for it,” Courtney continued. “The bill includes numerous provisions we championed in the House on behalf of eastern Connecticut—like our bill to save Plum Island, support for pyrrhotite research and for programs like CDBG that can provide crumbling foundations remediation, and full funding to construct the second Virginia-class sub in 2021—and it’s thanks to the way we worked across the aisle in the House all year long to secure our priorities in the final package.
“The Senate hasn’t passed a comprehensive COVID-19 relief package since March. It’s taken nine months for them to come back to the table, and they haven’t come nearly as far as the House did when we passed the HEROES Act, but this bill makes important investments in eastern Connecticut and it will provide immediate relief to millions of Americans who need it now. Now that the House has passed the bill, the Senate and President need to move quickly to enact it.”
H.R. 133 includes resources that are urgently needed to address the national response to COVID-19 and to the economic fallout it has caused, such as:
- Acceleration of vaccine distribution and crushing the coronavirus — The bipartisan relief package provides billions in urgently needed funds to accelerate the free and equitable distribution of safe vaccines to as many Americans as possible as soon as possible, to implement a strong national testing and tracing strategy, and to support our heroic health care workers and providers.
- Strong support for restaurants and other small business — The relief package secures critical funding and policy changes to help small businesses and nonprofits recover from the pandemic. H.R. 133 includes over $284 billion for first and second forgivable PPP loans, expanded PPP eligibility for nonprofits and local newspapers, TV and radio broadcasters, key modifications to PPP to serve the smallest businesses and struggling non-profits and better assist independent restaurants, and includes $15 billion in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions. The agreement also includes $20 billion for targeted EIDL Grants which are critical to many smaller businesses on Main Street.
- Rental assistance — The new relief package secures $25 billion in critically needed rental assistance for families struggling to stay in their homes and an extension of the eviction moratorium.
- Direct payment checks — The bill includes a new round of direct payments worth up to $600 per adult and child, also ensuring that mixed-status families receive payments.
- Strengthened Earned Income Tax Credit & Child Tax Credit — The agreement helps ensure that families who faced unemployment or reduced wages during the pandemic are able to receive a strong tax credit based on their 2019 income, preserving these vital income supports for vulnerable families.
- Supports paid sick leave — The agreement provides a tax credit to support employers offering paid sick leave, based on the Families First Act framework.
- Employee Retention Tax Credit — The agreement extends and improves the Employee Retention Tax Credit to help keep workers in jobs during coronavirus closures or reduced revenue.
- Enhanced Unemployment Insurance benefits — H.R. 133 averts the sudden expiration of Unemployment Insurance benefits for millions of Americans, and adds a $300 per week UI enhancement for Americans out of work.
- Nutrition assistance for hungry families — The agreement provides $13 billion in increased SNAP and child nutrition benefits to help relieve the historic hunger crisis that has left up to 17 million children food insecure.
- Education and child care — The bill provides $82 billion in funding to state, school districts and colleges, including support for HVAC repair and replacement to mitigate virus transmission and reopen classrooms, and $10 billion for child care assistance to help get parents back to work and keep child care providers open.
H.R. 133 will also fund federal agencies and programs through Fiscal Year 2021. In addition to the House’s bill to save Plum Island, the agreement also includes Courtney’s amendment to support continued research into the Crumbling Foundations crisis, strong support for the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, the full dollar amount to back Courtney’s effort to restore construction of the second Virginia-class submarine in 2021, and more. Key priorities for eastern Connecticut included in the omnibus spending package include:
- Supporting our region’s submarine industrial base — The final agreement includes several priorities that Courtney fought to include, including $2.6 billion to fully funding the restoration of a second Virginia-class submarine and matching the both the final NDAA and House-passe defense funding bill, initiating the construction of the first Columbia-class submarine, providing $130 million to support critical submarine suppliers, $20 million to augment submarine workforce development programs, and $14 million to support critical academic research in undersea technologies conducted by institutions like the University of Connecticut.
- Preservation of Plum Island — The omnibus spending agreement includes language that reflects bipartisan legislation co-introduced by Rep. Courtney to preserve Plum Island and officially repeal the law mandating its sale. The House has voted for five consecutive years to repeal the law that mandates the sale of Plum Island, as outlined in Courtney’s legislation.
- Funding for Crumbling Foundations Research — The final spending agreement includes Rep. Courtney’s amendment to provide $2 million to support continued research by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) into the effects of pyrrhotite on concrete aggregate, the same dollar amount the House voted to approve in July.
- National Coast Guard Museum — Adopts Courtney’s request for $5 million in federal funds to continue supporting development of exhibits and preservation of artifacts at the future museum in New London.
- Defense Impact Aid — Provides $50 million for the DOD supplemental impact aid program, which provides support to communities like Groton with high proportions of military children in their schools. The DOD Impact Aid program is in addition to the primary Impact Aid program funded through the Department of Education.
- New Support for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program — The bill includes $3.5 billion for Community Development Block Grants, $50 million above the 2020 enacted level. The President’s budget request proposed eliminating this program.
- Putting an End to Surprise Billing — The package includes bipartisan, bicameral legislation that will end surprise billing for emergency and scheduled care.
- Water Resources Development — The agreement includes the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act of 2020, creating good-paying jobs strengthening and improving the vital water infrastructure that Americans rely on while unlocking the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
- Historic Expansion of Pell Grants — The package includes the largest expansion of Pell Grant recipients in over a decade, reaching 500,000 new recipients and ensuring more than 1.5 million students will now receive the maximum benefit.