During a virtual town hall Thursday, U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, and Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California, unpacked the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan.
The elected officials answered questions from California residents about the contents of the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package that was signed into law by President Biden in March.
The multifaceted plan provided Americans with $1,400 stimulus checks in mid-March and allocated funds for fiscal support of state and local governments, school reopenings, community vaccination sites and emergency grants for small businesses.
The plan also extended unemployment benefits through Sept. 6 with a weekly benefit of $300 on top of the regular $400 benefit. It also increased the Child Tax Credit from $2,000 per child to $3,000 per child, with an increased credit of $3,600 per child under the age of six.
Both Rep. Carbajal and Sen. Padilla voiced support for the plan during Thursday’s town hall, expressing optimism that the stimulus package will poise the U.S. for economic comeback.
“Economists keep telling us … invest more not less to really stimulate the economy and accelerate our recovery,” Sen. Padilla said.
Part of this economic recovery, the senator said, is funding for businesses hit hardest by the pandemic.
To aid struggling business sectors, the American Rescue Plan allocated billions of dollars to the U.S. Small Business Association to fund grants such as the Paycheck Protection Program and the Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
Using the additional funding from the stimulus package, the SBA launched the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $28.6 million industry investment meant to aid struggling restaurant owners. Small business owners can learn more about the available benefits by visiting the SBA website at sba.gov.
“The American Rescue Plan invests in the backbone of our economy — small businesses,” Rep. Carbajal said Thursday. “It boosts funding for the successful PPP program and establishes the Restaurant Revitalization Fund … The various programs being administered by the SBA will go a long way to keeping businesses alive and employees on payroll so we can emerge after this pandemic with a strong economy.”
In addition to business support, the stimulus package also includes fiscal help for struggling state, local, municipal, tribal and territorial governments. Both Sen. Padilla and Rep. Carbajal expressed support for this aspect of the plan, noting that local and state governments were heavily impacted by the pandemic and are in need of financial support to continue providing necessary community services.
“When a certain part of the country gets devastated by a hurricane or tornado or floods or earthquakes and wildfires, we have the mechanisms in place to provide support to get through a disaster time period and rebuild,” Sen. Padilla said. “COVID has been a national and global pandemic, so it is in the national interest to invest in state and local governments at a time like this.”
One aspect of the package, the Child Tax Credit, is already garnering support to become permanent legislation, the congressmen said. Sen. Padilla said the increased tax credit could drop rates of child poverty from 14% to 6% and would help 8 million Califronian children living in tough economic situations.
“There’s already a movement afoot to extend the Child Tax Credit beyond just the pandemic, or to in fact make them permanent,” Sen. Padilla said. “I know I am supportive of that not just because I am a father of three, but I know how much of a return on investment it is for families, for communities and frankly, for the economy when we do better by investing in our young people.”
During the town hall, one viewer raised the question of how the country will pay for the nearly $2 trillion package in the future, and expressed concern that the brunt of the bill would fall into the laps of individual taxpayers.
In response, Rep. Carbajal said the key will be closing loopholes in the tax code to ensure everyone is paying their fair share. He pointed to the possibility of raising taxes for corporate companies who received a tax cut under the Trump administration.
“There’s a lot we can do to make sure that everybody is paying their fair share of taxes and do away with the loopholes that have deprived our government, our communities and our country of the tax revenue we need to pay for these important programs,” Rep. Carbajal said.
Throughout Thursday’s event, both elected officials encouraged Californians to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. Rep. Carbajal said vaccine distribution is the only way to fully reopen the economy, and he warned that people who opt to not receive the vaccine should be prepared to get tested more often as the pandemic winds down.
“You can’t have it both ways,” Rep. Carbajal said. “If you don’t want to get vaccinated, then you probably have to get tested more because the general public wants to be protected.”