Stressing the need to act quickly, congressional Democrats laid the groundwork for passing President Biden’s COVID-19 package with a simple majority vote via the budget reconciliation process. Early Friday morning, after a chaotic process called “vote-a-rama,” the Senate voted 51-50 to advance the budget bill that will serve as the legislative vehicle—Vice President Harris cast the tie-breaking vote. Now, lawmakers will turn to translating Biden’s COVID-19 package into law. Democrats are rushing to complete the process by early to mid-March, when unemployment benefits again expire.
Ten Republican senators have offered a counterproposal that would provide less than one-third the $1.9 trillion Biden seeks to help heal our nation. Republicans reduced the cost by cutting $150 billion from school aid, eliminating support for hard-hit state and local governments, scaling back and shortening the duration of unemployment benefits, and reducing stimulus payments to individual Americans from $1,400 to $1,000.
More than two-thirds of Americans support Biden’s COVID-19 package, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University. Democrats back it 97-3 percent and Independents 68-25 percent while Republicans oppose it 47-37 percent; 16 percent had no opinion. Nearly 80 percent of Americans favor $1,400 stimulus payments.
NEA’s top priorities for COVID-19 relief include dedicated education funding, state and local aid, and closing the homework gap via the E-Rate program. We support President Biden’s proposal for $130 billion to help public K-12 school buildings reopen safely, $35 billion to help public colleges and universities do the same, and $350 billion in state and local aid to avoid further layoffs of educators and other essential public servants.
Another big issue is the lack of paid sick leave—many education support professionals are among the 60 percent of U.S. workers who do not have access to paid sick leave through their employers. NEA is urging Congress to renew and strengthen the requirement that employers provide paid sick leave and expand family and medical leave during the pandemic—make it available to eligible employees whether school buildings are open or closed, and require all employers to provide it.
Email your senators and representative and tell them to pass a robust COVID-19 package.