By State Representative Rob Nosse
It finally feels like spring is upon us. This has been a long, tough winter but I feel a real sense of optimism for the year ahead. The sun has been out (occasionally), the weather is warmer and legislation that helps working Americans was passed by the federal government.
As it turns out, elections matter. On March 11 President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan. This massive bill (and it is massive), will finally bring much needed help to working families, small businesses and so many Americans hurting in this pandemic.
This column will highlight some of the help that is on the way as it will most certainly impact the work of the state legislature.
One of the major parts of this legislation is a $28.6 billion grant fund for independent restaurants and bars. Our own local Congressman Earl Blumenauer is a founding member of the Independent Restaurant Coalition which was instrumental in creating this fund.
This program is direct grant support through the Small Business Association for restaurants devastated by the pandemic. It can be used alongside the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans and the Employee Retention Tax Credit to help vulnerable businesses survive the remainder of this crisis.
Grants will be made available to establishments that are not part of an affiliated group with more than 20 locations. I won’t delve too much deeper into the weeds of this part of the bill, but you can find more information at the Small Business Administration website.
Another portion of this bill deals with the Child Tax Credit. Beginning in June, low income families will receive a tax credit of $300 dollars per month for up to three children. This will help so many working families get over the hump and through this tough time. In fact, the bill is predicted to cut child poverty by 50 percent in our state.
For our seniors and retirees, the bill restores to financial health more than 100 failing pension plans, known as multi-employer plans, for union workers. This will mean that the risk of these pension benefits being slashed is gone. Truckers, bakery workers, plumbers, construction trade workers and others will receive the benefits they were promised based on their years of work.
For kids across Oregon, this bill provides funding to reopen schools. Portland Public Schools will get around $74 million dollars to purchase personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and equipment to improve ventilation – among other things – in order to bolster in-person education during this pandemic, and to plan for future ones.
This bill also provides $25 billion in rental assistance to help those struggling to pay rent. It so important that we make sure we keep our fellow Oregonians housed during this pandemic.
Last, but certainly not least, and specific to Oregon, we have $5.8 billion of relief coming in. Much of it will be sent directly to the counties, cities, tribes and state government to make sure it can have as effective an impact as possible. As our own Senator Merkley put it “that light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter.”
This pandemic has been brutal and I don’t think things will every truly go back to the way they were before, but it does feel like there is that light at the end of the tunnel especially with this kind of money to provide relief. It makes needed investments to help with the pandemic, last Labor Day’s wildfires and much needed investments in equity to address the racism that exists in a lot of the ways we provide assistance.
The American Rescue Plan is a strong, important step towards those goals.
Watch for updates in my e-newsletter every Friday to see how all this plays out and learn about what changes and investments we need to make to get Oregon back on its feet.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned.