On Thursday, March 11, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law, sending $1,400 to most Americans and aid to state and local governments, schools, and businesses. This $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill also included expanding the Affordable Care Act and tax benefits that are estimated to cut child poverty rates in the US in half according to the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University. Upon passing the bill, President Biden said, “It focuses on rebuilding the backbone of this country — working families, the middle class, the people who built this country.”
What does this mean for Coloradans and our state’s family physicians?
COVID Response & Vaccines
The Rescue Plan will distribute $50 billion nationally toward COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, $15 billion for vaccine distribution efforts, $1 billion to build vaccine confidence in hesitant populations, and $10 billion for personal protective equipment utilizing the Defense Production Act.
Expanded Health Insurance Access
Recognizing the immediate need to provide health care options for the uninsured and provide additional supports to those on the health exchange, the American Rescue Plan:
- Requires that costs to buy health insurance on the exchange will not exceed 8.5% of family income for that plan;
- Extends Affordable Care Act subsidies to higher-income people (including those whose income is above 400% federal poverty level) through the end of 2022;
- Increases subsidies for lower income families. For example, individuals who make less than 150% of the federal poverty level would pay no premium on the exchange; and
- Covers the cost of COBRA premiums through September 30, traditionally paid by the former employee
Small Business Supports
The Paycheck Protection Program will receive $284 billion from the American Rescue Plan to provide small business relief.
Addressing the Social Determinants of Health
- Low-income households will become eligible for over $30 billion to help pay their rent and to fund housing solutions for the unhoused.
- Homeowners will also see relief from $10 billion that states and tribes will receive toward those struggling with mortgage payments and other housing costs because of the pandemic.
- Stimulus checks of $1,400 for those making less than $75,000 per year or $150,000 for married couples. People with dependents will also receive $1,400 per dependent. Senator Hickenlooper has estimated that 82% of Coloradans are expected to receive checks, or 4.7 million people, for a total of more than $6 billion.
- Unemployment federal benefit of $300 per week through Sept 6, benefiting an estimated 200,000 Coloradans. The first $10,200 in unemployment received will be tax-free for those earning less than $150,000 a year.
- Expanded Child Tax Credit where families making up to $75,000 for a single filer and $150,000 for married couples will receive $3,600 for children ages 5 and under and up to $3,000 for all other children up to age 17. The credit is scaled back depending on income. According to a report by the New York Times, “more than 93% of children — 69 million — would receive benefits under the plan, at a one-year cost of more than $100 billion.”
- Behavioral health
- $3 billion will be allocated to states for addressing mental health and substance use disorders, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic
- Colorado will receive $2 billion for child care centers, K-12 schools and higher education institutions to offset the losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Food access:
- Extends the 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits through Sept. 30, which were set to expire in June.
- An additional $5 billion is being put toward the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, which provides money for low-income families and millions of children missing meals due to school and child care closures due to the pandemic.
- A bump of $800 million in funding for the Women, Infants and Children supplemental program