News & information

House Passes American Recovery Act

This weekend, the House of Representatives passed the “American Recovery Act,” (H.R. 1319) by a vote of 219-212, with two Democrats --Reps. Jared Golden (ME) and Kurt Schraeder (OR) -- and all Republicans opposing. The legislation, which is under Senate consideration is expected to be the fifth recovery package to reach the President’s desk.

The $1.9 trillion package embodies President Biden’s “American Rescue Plan” announced on January 20, which outlined his immediate COVID-19-relief priorities.

Most notably for letter carriers, the bill provides paid sick and family medical leave for federal employees and postal employees under September 30, 2021 and establishes a fund to pay for the leave. The fund provides for 600 hours of paid leave for each full-time employee or a proportional equivalent for part-time employees at a capped rate of $35 per hour and no more than $1,400 a week. As letter carriers will recall, the Families First COVID-19 Relief Act (FFCRA), provided letter carriers paid emergency sick leave but that program expired at the end of December and was limited to emergency Covid-19 leave.

Other provisions in the measure are: direct payments of $1,400 per person to individuals making under $75,000 and couples making under $150,000 plus $1,400 per child; child-tax credits of $3,000 for kids between the ages of six and seventeen and $3,600 for children under age six; additional federal unemployment insurance benefits of $400 per month through September 2021; an increase in the federal minimum wage to a $15 per hour, phased in between now and 2025; emergency funding to preserve state and local government public services; money for additional testing, treatment and personal protective equipment and supplies; renter and homeowner assistance; and financial assistance to support virtual learning and to help schools reopen.

The bill also includes much-needed funding to stabilize multi-employer pension plans through the year 2050 and to protect earned retirement benefits for millions of workers whose pensions have been on the brink of collapse. The bill would also provide an 85 percent COBRA subsidy for Americans who lost health insurance coverage after losing their jobs. When this bill is considered in the Senate, labor will fight for a 100 percent subsidy since 85 percent coverage leaves unemployed workers with an unaffordable burden of 15 percent to shoulder.

The relief package is being considered under “Reconciliation,” rules in Congress, which will prevent a filibuster in the Senate. Unfortunately, due to other arcane Senate rules, the $15 minimum wage that passed in the House measure will not likely be included in the final relief legislation.