The US House has passed the American Rescue Plan, a sweeping COVID-19 relief package that – if enacted – could cut child poverty in half in the United States. The clock is ticking to get it through the Senate before a March 14th deadline. This relief package is designed to help American families and businesses bounce back from the devastation of the pandemic.
The legislation would provide much-needed support to struggling families, including another round of stimulus checks, and a huge incentive for states like North Carolina to expand Medicaid. While the Senate is likely to make some changes to the package, Congress must move quickly to enact a relief package that will reduce financial hardship for families, support health care, child care, and help the economy recover.
For many families, the financial devastation of the pandemic cannot be overstated. One in 5 North Carolina families with children is struggling with getting enough to eat. Among the millions of job losses since the pandemic began, the majority are among the lowest income earners. Even before COVID-19, almost half of North Carolina’s kids lived in poor or low-income households (defined as earning less than 200% of the federal poverty level), according to the latest Child Health Report Card.
What’s in the American Rescue Plan?
This $1.9 trillion relief bill has the potential to counteract the worst effects of the pandemic. Providing health coverage and financial support will help families with children get through the pandemic and bounce back. If passed, the American Rescue Plan package would cut child poverty in half in the United States.
The package includes key provisions addressing the following priorities:
Expansions in health coverage, including dramatic incentives for states like NC to expand Medicaid. It also includes a new state option to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months after childbirth. >>Read more on how the bill will support children’s health.
Hunger & Nutrition:
Continuation of key food assistance provisions now in place and new investments in WIC. The package would extend, through September, a 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits and continue the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program through the summer. These programs have been a lifeline for families who have struggled to put food on the table.
Additional child care funding. North Carolina could receive $1.3 billion to support and stabilize its early childhood education system.
Funding for K-12 schools that help school districts make critical investments in students – including learning loss initiatives and high-quality tutoring.
Financial Support Targeted to Struggling Families:
- Expanded and extended unemployment benefits. The current unemployment benefits are set to expire on March 14th. This provision would extend that deadline at least until the end of August 2021.
- Expansions in the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit. The package would make the full Child Tax Credit available to 27 million children in families with low or no income, increase the size of the Child Tax Credit, and provide an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for far more low-paid adults without minor children at home. This provision would strike a huge blow against child poverty, boosting millions of children above the federal poverty line nationwide.
- Increased housing assistance. Many families are still struggling to pay rent and are at risk for eviction without support.
- Emergency funds to help families facing hardship, allowing families with the lowest incomes afford additional pandemic-related expenses.
The package includes other provisions as well, including a new round of stimulus payments targeted especially to lower earners and families with children; public health investments; paid leave provisions; fiscal aid for states, territories, tribes, and localities; and aid to businesses.
You can take action on this important issue today. Congress must act now to address hardships facing so many Americans, take the public health steps needed to end the pandemic, and put the nation on the best possible path for a strong and equitable recovery.
Please join us in urging our US Senators to support this vital legislation. Our children, families, and North Carolina’s economy depend on it.