RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia is expected to receive nearly $3.8 billion in direct aid and over seven million state residents will get more than $9.3 billion in stimulus payments under the newly signed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.
Key details in the economic relief bill, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, have naturally grabbed the headlines, including the new round of stimulus checks and the extension of increased unemployment benefits.
But several provisions in the package will provide funding for initiatives lawmakers have spent awhile clamoring for. U.S. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said investing in broadband infrastructure to expand and improve internet access for all Virginians was a crucial proposal, and issue brought to light during the pandemic, that made the final bill.
“The challenge of getting broadband deployed has really been the fact that in many jurisdictions, the local incumbent provider, particularly as you get into more rural areas has no incentive to provide that expanded coverage,” Warner told 8News on Thursday. “But at the same time, doesn’t want a competitor to come in and provide that expanded coverage because at some point down the line, it may be worthwhile to expand that coverage.”
Virginia will receive $222 million for broadband infrastructure and other projects under the stimulus package, according to Warner’s office.
“And if we’d had that approach during the 1930s about rural electrification, it would have probably been 50 years before every American household got electricity,” Warner continued. “We can’t have that same model take place in broadband.”
Warner noted that he’s been in contact with the Northam administration on how the state should approach allocating the funding but stressed the need of flexible investment as not all localities will have the same needs to improve broadband access. He called access to affordable broadband internet service an “economic necessity.”
Not a single Republican in Congress voted for the stimulus package. GOP National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called out Democrats after the bill was passed, arguing it does little to combat the pandemic and was more about Democrats fulfilling “their progressive wish list.”
“Americans deserve targeted legislation that will accelerate vaccine distribution, get Americans back to work, and safely re-open our schools – not hyper-partisan and wasteful pork spending,” McDaniel said in a statement.
Virginia’s other U.S. Senator, Democrat Tim Kaine, brushed off the criticism from Republicans in a Democratic press call after Warner’s own Q&A.
“If you look at the comparison of who we allocated the benefits to, you’ll see that Democrats allocated these benefits very equitably, while Republicans overwhelmingly loaded the benefits on the top quintile of American earners,” Kaine told reporters Thursday.
Here’s a breakdown provided by Warner’s office of what the American Rescue Plan will do for Virginia:
- The bill provides an additional round of stimulus checks, $1,400 for people making less than $80,000 a year and joint filers making less than $160,000. According to Warner’s office, more than 7 million Virginians will receive more than $9.3 billion in direct payments.
- The bill provides billions in additional federal relief for struggling Virginians – who are out of work through no fault of their own – by extending the historic unemployment insurance reforms established in the CARES Act, through September 6, 2021.
- The bill extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for the self-employed, gig workers, freelancers and others in non-traditional employment, the $300 weekly federal enhancement in benefits, and the additional weeks of federal unemployment insurance for workers who exhaust their regular state benefits. 256,320 Virginians faced the possibility of losing benefits in March or April if the programs had not been extended
Child Tax Credit:
- The American Rescue Plan makes the Child Tax Credit fully refundable and increases the credit amount from $2,000 to $3,000 per child age 6 to 17 (and $3,600 per child below the age of 6) for many families
Earned Income Tax Credit:
- 417,000 workers in Virginia will benefit from an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit.
- The American Rescue Plan includes: $306 million for Virginia Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) programs, $490 million for Virginia Child Care Stabilization Grants and $16.557 million for Virginia Head Start programs
- An increase in the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to up to $4,000 for one child or $8,000 for two or more children, and makes the credit fully refundable.
- $2.11 billion for Virginia K-12 schools to support school districts in reopening safely for in-person instruction and addressing the many needs that students are facing due to the pandemic. A portion of the funds are targeted towards addressing learning loss, providing resources through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and implementing summer enrichment and afterschool programs
- $846 million for Virginia colleges & universities: Institutions must distribute half of their allocation to students in the form of financial aid awards to address hardships caused by COVID-19. The remaining portion of the funds can be used on reopening costs, revenue losses, classroom retrofits, PPE, and other expenses
- $160 billion for national vaccination and other health efforts, including testing, tracing, genomic sequencing, public health staffing, and supplies to slow the spread of COVID-19
- Virginia will receive $451 million for emergency rental assistance.
- The American Rescue Plan also includes $9.9 billion to aid homeowners nationwide who are struggling to afford their mortgage payments, utility bills, and other housing costs. Virginia is expected to receive between $154 million and $276 million from this pot of money to help homeowners who have been financially stressed by the pandemic.
- The legislation extends a 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through September 30, 2021
- $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). As of this month, Virginia businesses have received $3.5 billion in forgivable Second Draw PPP loans to keep workers on the payroll during COVID-19
- $15 billion for the Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance Program. As of last month, 74,664 Virginia businesses have received more than $4 billion in low-interest EIDL loans to help them survive the COVID-19 crisis
- $28.6 billion for a new Restaurant Revitalization Fund to provide grants to help small local restaurants, bars, and craft breweries stay in business and keep their workers employed. To provide comprehensive support to local restaurants, grants from the fund can be used alongside first and second Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance, and the Employee Retention Tax Credit
- $1.25 billion for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) Program to support live entertainment venues, and a critical fix to ensure venue operators can access both PPP and SVOGs
- $10 billion in new funding for the State Small Business Credit Initiative to help small businesses grow and create jobs
Aid to state and local governments
- The American Rescue Plan provides funds to state and local governments to assist with costs associated with responding to COVID-19, support workers performing essential work during COVID-19, cover revenue losses caused by the public health emergency, or to make necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure
- The Commonwealth of Virginia will receive $3.766 billion in direct state fiscal relief
- Virginia’s counties will receive $1.655 billion, metropolitan cities will get $628 million, and smaller cities and towns will receive $604 million
- The Commonwealth of Virginia will also receive $222 million for building out broadband and other infrastructure projects