President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on Thursday Mar 11th.
“For over a year the American people were told they were on their own,” said President Biden. “This nation has suffered too much for much too long, and everything in this package is designed to relieve the suffering and to meet the most urgent needs of the nation.”
TCU President Artie Maratea sent a letter to President Biden (see below), thanking him for his efforts: “On behalf of 35,000 TCU members, I want to thank you for enacting the American Rescue Plan, which will have an immediate material impact on the lives of our members.”
President Maratea continued, “Thanks to your leadership and Democrats in Congress, thousands of unemployed railroaders will have their Unemployment Insurance benefits extended through Labor Day. And thanks to you, thousands of Amtrak and transit employees will be coming back to work and/or protected from furlough.”
The TCU/IAM Legislative Department played a significant role in securing many of the provisions in the bill.
- Extends $600 Biweekly Supplemental Railroad Unemployment Benefits: Provides an extension of the $600 supplemental unemployment benefits that thousands of railroaders currently rely through September 6, 2021. In addition, the first $10,200 of unemployment compensation ($20,400 for married couples) will not be subject to federal income tax.
- Public Transit: The package provides $30.4 billion of additional relief funding to transit agencies to prevent layoffs of transit workers and prevent severe cuts to transit services that essential workers and the general public rely on. This will help continue to employ TCU members on commuter railroads across the country. [Note: TCU’s Legislative Dept. worked hard to ensure funding flows down to contract transit operators as well, such as Keolis (MBTA Commuter) and TASI (Caltrain)]
- Amtrak: This bill provides $1.7 billion to Amtrak to keep rail service running across the nation, to rehire 1,230 workers who have been involuntarily furloughed after October 1st, 2020 as a result of COVID, and to restore daily long-distance service to rural communities.
- Railroad Retirement Board (RRB): The bill provides a combined $28 million to help the RRB improve services for railroaders. As many know, the pandemic has placed immense stress on the RRB, which was already short-staffed prior to COVID. This funding will help improve staffing levels for handling claims as well as improve their IT infrastructure to modernize the agency processes. [Note: This has been a priority of TCU’s Legislative Department for several years. We’re very pleased it got funded!]
Economic relief provisions:
- $1,400 Direct Payments: Individuals earning up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000 receive the full direct payments of $1,400 per person. Individuals will also receive an additional $1,400 payment for each dependent claimed on their tax returns. No payment will be sent to single filers earning more than $80,000 or joint filers earning more than $160,000.
- 100% COBRA Subsidy: The bill subsidizes 100 percent of COBRA premiums for six months for individuals who lost employment or had reduced hours. This allows laid off workers to retain their employer provided healthcare with NO premium share.
- Expanded Child Tax Credit: This bill also includes a large expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to $3,000 per child age 6 to 17, and $3,600 per child under age 6. This will be a big help to American families dealing with increased childcare costs in the COVID era. Click HERE for a good explainer of the CTC.
- Veterans: The bill provides funding to waive copays for veterans during the pandemic, and to provide health care services and support to veterans, including COVID-19 vaccine distribution, expanded mental health care, and enhanced telehealth capabilities. It also establishes a new program to provide retraining assistance for veterans who have lost their jobs due to COVID, and includes funding for VA to mitigate the pandemic’s impacts on the benefits claims and appeals backlog.
- And much much more!
The American Rescue Plan is the kind of bold relief that TCU members – and all Americans – have needed since the outset of COVID.
TCU needs OUR allies on Capitol Hill to continue to prioritize OUR issues, and that means helping them in the voting booth and with their campaigns! Help us help our friends by participating in the Machinists Non-partisan Political League (MNPL)!