Key Axne Priorities Included in Bipartisan Agreement to Fund Critical Programs and Priorities, Secure New COVID-19 Relief
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives advanced a comprehensive package of legislation that includes a wide variety of priorities and provisions fought for by Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) over the past year.
The bipartisan agreement, H.R. 133, includes a new round of coronavirus (COVID-19) relief for Iowa’s families and communities, provisions to help crack down on surprise medical billing, and full funding for government programs through the end of Fiscal Year 2021.
“This is a long-overdue measure that will help Iowans in need. From direct support for Iowa families to long-term protections provided by new federal law, this legislation does a great deal to not only provide the assistance needed in the midst of a dark winter of health and economic crises, but also invest in the success of our communities and businesses for years to come,” said Rep. Axne. “While this legislation is not perfect, I’m pleased to see key priorities that I have worked to secure this Congress included in the final agreement, such as an extension of unemployment benefits and another round of direct payments, rental assistance and an extension of the eviction moratorium, authorization to roll over unused child care savings into 2021, and provisions to support expansion of broadband connectivity, assistance for our biofuels industry, and much more.”
The COVID-19 relief sections of the legislation contain key priorities championed by Rep. Axne, including:
- $25 billion for the first-ever emergency federal rental assistance program to help families impacted by COVID-19 that are struggling to make rent or have past-due rent and utility payments, as well as an extension of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021.
- An additional $300 per week for all workers receiving unemployment benefits through March 14, 2021.
- An additional round of Economic Impact Payments of $600 for individuals making up to $75,000 per year, $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000 per year, and $600 for each child dependent.
- $284 billion for first and second forgivable PPP loans, with dedicated set-asides for very small businesses and lending through community-based lenders like Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).
- $10 billion in emergency funds for the child care sector through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program to help stabilize the child care market and allow states to expand child care assistance to essential workers and working families who are in great need of child care services.
- Emergency provisions championed by Rep. Axne to allow unused savings in dependent care assistance plans (DCAPs) and health flexible spending accounts (FSAs) from 2020 to roll over and be used through the end of 2021, which will save families from losing up to $5,000 at the end of the year.
- Statutory language to allow the Department of Agriculture to provide relief funding for biofuels producers and the ethanol industry.
An extension of refundable payroll tax credits for paid sick and family leave, first approved by Congress earlier this year, through the end of March 2021.
The final agreement also includes other important items pushed by Rep. Axne, such as:
- Funding to improve broadband mapping – which has left many Iowa communities unable to get funding to build new broadband – and the ACCESS Broadband Act, legislation Rep. Axne cosponsored that will improve federal grant accessibility for smaller local providers.
- An extension of FY19 BUILD grant deadlines to provide recipients, including the Central Iowa Water Trails Project, more time to meet deadlines due to delays caused by COVID-19.
- A bipartisan measure to protect patients from surprise medical bills and establish a fair framework to resolve payment disputes between health care providers and health insurance companies.
- More than $4 billion to hard-hit families by allowing them to use their 2019 income to determine how much they receive in the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.
- The Energy Act of 2020, which invests in clean energy research and development, and includes four bills Rep. Axne cosponsored:
- The Wind Energy Research and Development Act, to research and develop wind technologies and their grid integration.
- The Solar Energy Research and Development Act, to fund research and development of solar energy technologies.
- The ARPA-E Reauthorization Act, which reauthorizes ARPA-E and expands its authority to work on projects relating to nuclear waste clean-up and management issues and projects to improve energy infrastructure, as well as to pursue scale-up and demonstration of transformational clean energy technologies.
- The Clean Industrial Technology Act, which creates a research, development, and demonstration program on technologies to reduce emissions from the manufacturing sector, including cement, steel, and chemicals manufacturing processes, high-temperature heat generation, alternative materials, and carbon capture for industrial processes.
Although this agreement is expected to be the last comprehensive package passed by the 116th Congress, Rep. Axne is already emphasizing the additional work left to be done in the new year.
“While this is an important agreement that helps keep our government open and fund long-term investments that will help recovery and growth of our nation, the emergency COVID-19 provisions of this bill are still only short-term relief,” said Rep. Axne. “This cannot and should not be Congress’ last act to help those suffering through dual health and economic crises – and when the 117th Congress begins in just a few short weeks, I look forward to working with my colleagues in both parties to continue the important work of supporting our constituents. Just as we know that this virus will not disappear on January 1st, we should not think that our efforts to support families, businesses, and communities will end when the book closes on this session.”
H.R. 133 also includes important provisions to support Iowa’s communities and critical programs that help Iowans:
- Essential funding for vaccine procurement and distribution – $19 billion for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for manufacturing and procurement of vaccines and therapeutics and $8.75 billion to the CDC to aid distribution and tracking of vaccines across state and local public health agencies.
- An additional $54.3 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund and $22.7 billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.
- Streamlines the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and expands outreach and awareness to make it easier for Iowans to apply and qualify for federal student aid.
- Over $11 billion to the Department of Agriculture to continue to support producers, growers, and processors affected by COVID-19 market disruptions.
- An extension of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which expanded coverage to the self-employed, gig workers, and others in nontraditional employment, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which provides additional weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits to individuals who exhaust their regular state benefits.
- An extension of Iowa’s ability to use remaining funds in its $1.25 billion allocation from the Coronavirus Relief Fund until December 31, 2021.
- Reauthorization of the second generation biofuel tax credit, which was due to expire at the end of 2020. Rep. Axne successfully fought to renew the tax credit in the past.
- $13 billion for nutrition assistance, including a 15% increase in monthly SNAP benefits.
In order to finalize the compromise agreement on necessary improvements to flood control measures, the agreement also includes the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act of 2020.