Yesterday, the American Rescue Plan was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and President Biden is expected to sign it into law shortly. The scale of relief included in the bill — totaling $1.9 trillion — is just what is needed to meet this unprecedented public health and economic crisis and will support millions of North Carolinians to ensure that they can keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.
Key elements of the COVID-19 relief package that will help families stay afloat in North Carolina include:
- Increased housing assistance and an extension of increased SNAP food benefits to help people families keep their homes and afford food,
- Extended pandemic unemployment assistance through September 6,
- Financial assistance to help people meet urgent expenses, such as rent, groceries, utility bills, and car payments, delivered through expanded tax credits and stimulus payments,
- Improved access to affordable health coverage through enhanced premium tax credits for people with low incomes and middle-class families, and
- New incentive for holdout states like North Carolina to expand Medicaid.
The package also includes much-needed state and local government fiscal relief to keep our communities going. These funds will help North Carolina and localities restore and maintain critical public employees, prevent further layoffs and cuts to core services like education and health care, and provide assistance to people who have been hit hardest by the pandemic and recession. In addition, there are dedicated funds to support schools that can be used to pay for the cost of distance learning, safe in-person instruction, caring for the physical and mental health of returning students, and most importantly, aid with learning loss that students have suffered.
Overall, the American Rescue Plan provides much-needed but temporary relief. As we are at the one-year mark of the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis, it has become increasingly clear that economic recovery isn’t going to happen overnight, particularly for people of color, who have waited longest in past recessions to see the gains from a rebounding job market.
We have more work to do to build a more equitable economy that works for everyone, including the enactment of permanent policies that will reduce the longstanding inequities that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis.
Suzy Khachaturyan is a Policy Analyst at the NC Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.