Saturday morning Senators Jon Ossoff and the Reverend Raphael G. Warnock were congratulated by White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain for being elected and casting the votes that advanced President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan on a 50-49 party-line vote.
“Today’s passage of bold relief legislation is exactly what Georgians had in mind when they sent me to the Senate to help our state recover from the devastation of this once-in-a-century pandemic and corresponding economic downturn. For months, families and communities across the nation have been waiting for the substantive federal assistance they need to pay their rent, buy food and medicine, safely reopen all of our schools and keep essential workers on the job—and because of Georgia, that help is finally just around the corner,” said Warnock in a statement.
Georgia’s small cities and towns will receive $8.1 billion for direct funding to help support first responders, vital public services, hospitals, and small businesses. Also, Georgia will receive $4.5 billion in relief for K-12 schools, $27 million in funding for Head Start, and $249 million for E-Rate, which improves technology standards and improves internet access in schools. More than $300 million in urban transit has been earmarked for investment across Georgia.
“This bill will provide thousands of dollars in direct economic relief for Georgia families, ensure every Georgian can get the COVID-19 vaccine for free, and send $4 billion to safely re-open Georgia’s schools. This is the most significant economic relief package for working- and middle-class families in American history. We will crush COVID-19, recover economically, safely re-open our schools, and get our daily lives back — and we’ll do it thanks to Georgia voters,” said Senator Jon Ossoff.
The bill, one-tenth of the size of the U.S. economy, will go back to the House for a final vote. Biden’s COVID-19 relief package provides direct payments of up to $1,400 for most Americans, extended emergency unemployment benefits, and increased spending for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, states and cities, schools, and struggling industries, along with tax breaks to help lower-earning people, families with children and consumers buying health insurance.
Republicans opposed the measure, calling it a liberal wish list and a wasteful shopping spree. Democratic West Virginia Senator, Joe Manchin III, virulently opposed the proposed $400 federal unemployment benefit. Manchin believed $400 would serve as a negative inspiration for Americans to look for work. Ultimately, the Democrats would agree to a $300 unemployment benefit.
A proposal that would have raised the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour was rejected Friday. Eight Democrats would vote against the bill. Senators Jon Tester of Montana, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire voted against proceeding. So did two close Biden allies, Chris Coons and Tom Carper of Delaware. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with the Senate Democrats, also opposed it.
Sinema believes the discussion around increasing the minimum wage should be in a stand-alone bill.
After the agreement was reached on the unemployment benefit, the Senate plunged into a vote-a-rama which jangled nerves, tested sleeping patterns, and the collective stamina of the lawmakers.
“At long last, the dawn is approaching, and I’m so glad that today the Senate has finally delivered on the promise we made to get this done. Historic relief is on its way to Georgia, and I look forward to this legislation getting a swift vote in the House so we can finally get the relief to families, small businesses and communities that will help us move beyond this virus and turn our economy around,” said Warnock.