ATLANTA — As was the case with the entire U.S. House, Georgia’s congressional delegation voted along party lines today, March 10, on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.
The Democrat-controlled House passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 by a vote of 220-211, with all but one Democrat supporting it and all of the Republicans voting “no.” Georgia’s six Democrats voted in favor of the legislation, and the eight Republicans opposed it.
The plan includes $1,400 economic stimulus checks for Americans earning up to $75,000 a year and couples earning up to $150,000 annually, an extension of $300-per-week in unemployment benefits, aid to state and local governments, funds to help schools reopen safely and an expanded federal child tax credit.
It also provides new funding for small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program and additional funding to administer COVID-19 vaccines and expand testing and contact tracing.
Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, said, “The American Rescue Plan Act will crush the virus, return children safely to the classroom, get vaccines in people’s arms, put dollars into families’ pockets and put people back to work.
“The plan will deliver immediate relief to working families bearing the brunt of the crisis and support communities struggling with the economic fallout."
Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Suwanee, said, “This bill is about saving lives and livelihoods."
“After a year of grief and pain in America, a year that caused economic hardship for hardworking families across America … this bill helps us move past this year of pain and struggle,” added Rep. Lucy McBath, R-Roswell.
But Georgia’s congressional Republicans called the legislation a hugely expensive overreach by Democrats that goes far beyond what is needed to address the public health and economic impacts of the pandemic.
Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro, said before the vote, "Democrats call it the 'COVID stimulus' when 91% of their massive $1.9 trillion bill has nothing to do with COVID."
"If we really want to stimulate the economy, force the states still enforcing absurd lockdowns (ex. CA and NY) to open up – don't reward them with federal bailouts!" Hice wrote on Facebook.
“It's nothing but a liberal wish list parading as pandemic relief,” added Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-West Point. “This package is wrong for America, and it's wrong for the state of Georgia.”
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston objected to a provision in the measure that prohibits state and local governments from using any of the relief funds to offset tax cuts. Legislation the state House of Representatives passed last week and sent to the Georgia Senate would reduce taxes by $140 million a year by raising the standard deduction for state income taxpayers.
“I am certain you do not want to be responsible for prohibiting our state from lowering the tax burden on our citizens,” Ralston wrote in a letter Wednesday to members of Georgia’s congressional delegation. “I trust that you will seek to remedy this flawed legislation before it reaches the president’s desk.”
Of the $350 billion the bill earmarks for state and local governments, $8.1 billion is headed to Georgia. Of that, $4.6 billion will go to the state, with the rest earmarked for local governments.
Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., who voted for the legislation when the Senate passed it last weekend, said the relief will go to those who need it most.
“Zero percent of the tax credits and stimulus checks go to the top 1%,” he said. “This is getting help directly to working class and middle class people.”
The Covington News staff contributed to this report.