President Joe Biden is proposing a $1.9 trillion coronavirus and economic stimulus bill.
It covers everything from vaccine distribution to rent relief.
Details are still being worked out and Congresswoman Dina Titus, D-NV., is in the middle of those discussions. She told KNPR's State of Nevada that she is proud of the relief bill.
There are some big differences between the newest bill and the CARES Act, which was passed at the beginning of the pandemic. The CARES Act distributed money to states based on population. This new bill changes that slightly.
“We have added now to that formula unemployment and with Nevada and Las Vegas still being among the highest unemployment areas in the country this will increase the amount we get,” she said.
With that change, Nevada is looking at getting about $1 billion more than it did with the first relief package.
In addition, Titus said the new payment to the state will have fewer restrictions on how it can be used. Before, the money had to be used for COVID-related expenses. Now, it can be used in a variety of ways, including to cover state budget shortfalls caused by the pandemic.
Besides payments to states, the relief bill would provide direct payments to Americans. Right now, the plan is to give $1,400 to single people making less than $75,000 a year and married couples making less than $150,000 a year.
However, some Republicans have said those payments need to be more targeted. They suggest the direct payments line should be $120,000 a year for married couples.
Titus said her office fields dozens of calls a day from people struggling to put food on the table, and it's not just lower-income people. She said she gets calls from middle-class people who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
“I don’t think $1,400 is something that is too much to ask to put a little bit of money in people’s pockets,” she said.
She also takes issues with Republicans who pushed through a tax break in 2017 but don't support payments to people struggling now.
“They didn’t mind giving the big corporations and the top 1 percent of 1 percent those great tax breaks. They didn’t talk about the deficit then. Now, all of the sudden, the deficit is a concern," she said, “People aren’t worried about the deficit. They’re worried about putting food on the table.”
Titus believes now is the time for a large relief package to pass to give the economy the boost it needs.
Also included in the new relief bill will be money for small businesses, the congresswoman said.
“There’s a number of provisions in there that help," she said, "There is $50 billion more to go directly to small businesses but what is really helpful for Nevada that we didn’t have the first time that I worked very hard to get was a set-aside - $25 billion for a program specifically for restaurants and bars and you know how hard they’ve been hit here.”
There is also $1.5 billion for live entertainment venues and an extension of unemployment benefits for gig workers. The Economic Development Administration has grants specifically available for communities that rely on travel and tourism, which Titus said Southern Nevada would definitely qualify for.
The economic fallout from the pandemic has made it impossible for some people to pay their mortgage or their rent. Titus said the new bill will provide help there as well.
Congress is looking at providing $25 billion in rental and mortgage assistance.
“It’s aimed at renters and owners to try to keep us from people suddenly being foreclosed on or evicted from their homes,” she said.
That kind of assistance helps keep people from becoming homeless but also helps landlords, who are losing money.
While the new relief bill covers a lot of areas, one of the biggest things that it aims to do is improve the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine.
Titus said distributing the vaccine is now a national priority. She said before it was up to individual states to get the vaccine, but that has changed.
She said, going forward, the distribution of the vaccine will increase by 20 percent. Unfortunately, the winter storms that covered a majority of the country last week delayed that distribution plan, but she expects that to change soon.
Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV)
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