MISSION, Texas – City and county leaders in South Texas say they are thrilled the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act has been passed by Congress.
The landmark legislation will be signed into law by President Biden on Friday. It provides resources to defeat the coronavirus, puts money into families’ pockets, funds the refitting of classrooms so students can return to school, and helps cities and counties recover from the economic downturn.
“I congratulate Congress, especially the Rio Grande Valley delegation, for passing this major piece of legislation,” said Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez. “I have watched our community valiantly fight the effects of this virus and I can say unequivocally that this relief package is necessary and welcome.”
McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said he is “extremely appreciative” of the South Texas congressional delegation – U.S. Reps. Vicente Gonzalez, Henry Cuellar and Filemon Vela – for voting for the COVID-19 relief bill.
Darling said the bill “will not only help struggling, Americans across the country and especially here in the Rio Grande Valley, but also, positively impact the municipalities hit hard economically by the effects of this global pandemic.”
Darling said Reps. Gonzalez, Cuellar and Vela understand that municipal governments were struggling to provide services due to lost revenues.
“Being able to recoup that money will be a great shot in the arm for our community, which will help us all rebound. The immediate and direct deposit of funds will mean we can get back to providing the level of service and infrastructure that our residents expect from their municipal government,” Darling added.
Speaking for the City of Pharr and the Pharr City Commission, Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez said he “applauds the efforts of our congressional delegation” for passing the American Rescue Plan.
Hernandez described the American Rescue Plan as “monumental legislation.” He said it would “benefit Pharr families and provide assistance where it’s most needed – at the local level.”
Hernandez added: “With this investment of millions of dollars in direct funding, cities can finally focus on pandemic-specific needs and priorities. Our congressmen recognized that each city is unique especially along the Texas-Mexico border where the movement of trade and commerce remains a vital economic lifeline for our nation.”
Brooks County Judge Eric Ramos said: the citizens of Brooks County are “grateful for the commitment and dedication” of Congressman Gonzalez.
“Thanks to his hard work on our behalf, we will be able to continue essential programs for our citizens and local businesses as well as ensure the safety and security of our community through the resources in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.”
Jim Hogg County Judge Juan Carlos Guerra said: “We appreciate the Congressman Gonzalez’s commitment to procuring as much funding as possible for our communities especially in response to this pandemic. The American Rescue Plan gives communities like ours improved opportunities to spring back up after the losses and hardship we faced this past year. We look forward to our continued team work and collaboration to help the people and businesses of Jim Hogg County recover from this virus.”
Deborah G. Garcia, Benavides City Secretary, said: “The City of Benavides, like many rural American cities, has been shaken by the pandemic which threatened the stability of our economic foundation. The funding from the American Rescue Plan secured by leaders like President Biden, Congressman Gonzalez and other legislators means that our post COVID-19 reality does not look so bleak. It helps the city’s budgetary gaps created by COVID-19 to be filled by ARP funds for a few years to come.”
Freer Mayor Arnold Cantu said the residents of his city would like to express their gratitude to Congressman Gonzalez and other legislators “for the securement of funds to help our communities recover from the losses they have endured during this pandemic.”
Cantu said Freer’s top priority is to improve infrastructure. “With that said, we are in need of major street improvements and we could offer better accommodations at our city park. Our city has gone without the things it needs due to the pandemic’s negative economic impact on our city and we look forward to seeing improvements come to our city.”
San Diego Mayor Sally Lichtenberger said: “On behalf of the City of San Diego, Texas, I thank Congressman Gonzalez for supporting the American Rescue Package and securing much-needed federal funds that are going to provide significant relief for our community.”
Not everyone likes the American Rescue Plan. U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz voted against it.
Congressman Vela said the legislation will save lives and livelihoods. He issued these bullet points about the bill:
H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021:
- Puts Shots in Arms
- Provides Over $20 billion to establish a national COVID-19 vaccination program and improve the administration and distribution of vaccinations
- Provides $5.2 billion to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to support advanced research, development, manufacturing, production, and purchase of vaccines, therapeutics, and ancillary medical products for COVID-19.
- $1 billion for the CDC to undertake a vaccine awareness and engagement campaign
- Delivers Money Directly to Americans’ Pockets
- Provides working families an additional direct payment of $1,400 per person, following the $600 direct payment approved in December of last year
- The bill uses the same income threshold as the December legislation to determine which individuals receive the full $1,400 payment, before the phase-out begins. Under the bill, single filers with incomes up to $75,000, head of household filers with incomes up to $112,500, and joint filers with incomes up to $150,000 will receive the full payment of $1,400
- Payments are phased out at $80,000 for single filers, $120,000 for head of household filers, and $160,000 for joint filers.
- Provides Financial Assistance for Families
- Extends unemployment benefits
- Provides $27.5 billion for emergency rental assistance
- $10 billion for the Homeowner Assistance Fund
- $4.75 billion for HOME Investment Partnership program to help Americans experiencing homelessness
- Provides $5 billion to help Americans pay their utility bills
- Safely Reopens Schools
- Provides Nearly $130 billion to states and school districts for immediate and long- term relief so they can work with public health experts to safely re-open schools and make up for lost time in the classroom.
- Includes $40 billion for institutions of higher education to help make up for lost revenue due to the pandemic.
- Reduces Child Poverty
- The bill makes the child tax credit fully refundable for 2021 and increases the annual amount from the current $2,000 per child to $3,000 per child ($3,600 for a child under age 6).
- Directs the Secretary of the Treasury to issue advance payments of the child tax credit, based on the parents’ 2019 or 2020 tax returns.
- Provides Assistance to Small Businesses
- The bill includes provisions to support communities struggling with the economic fallout by providing crucial support for the hardest-hit small businesses, especially those owned by minorities
- $7.25 billion in additional funding for PPP and expands eligibility
- Nearly $29 billion for a Restaurant Revitalization Fund to help restaurants and bars hit hardest by the pandemic
- $15 billion for COVID-19 Emergency Grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program
- Expands COVID-19 Testing
- Provides $51 Billion to Expand Testing, Contact Tracing, and Mitigation and Related Activities
- $10 billion to boost the Defense Production Act to close the gap in domestic manufacturing to fulfill U.S. public health needs.
- $1.75 billion for genomic surveillance so that the U.S. can begin to adequately detect and respond to emerging and potentially more dangerous strains of SARS-COV-2 throughout the world. This infrastructure will also be critical to responding to future viral outbreaks.
- $500 million to allow CDC to establish, expand, and maintain data surveillance and analytics, including to modernize the United States’ disease warning system to forecast and track hotspots for COVID-19.
Congressman Vela described the American Rescue Plan as a “bold piece of legislation” that “follows through on the promise that Democrats would deliver assistance to hurting families quickly.”
Vela predicted the bill will help get more Americans vaccinated, provide stimulus checks to American households, help safely reopen schools and spur economic recovery by assisting small businesses, families and state and local governments.
“The American people deserve comprehensive relief to help tackle this once-in-a-generation pandemic,” Vela said. “I am very pleased with the provisions included in this bill that will directly help communities in South Texas.”
Vela said his district will receive over $500 million in aid to help local governments recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic.
“More than a year later, Americans are still feeling the harmful impacts of this virus and assistance is still needed for our nation to fully recover,” Vela said. “With tens of millions of Americans infected, more than half a million lives lost, over 18 million Americans unemployed and millions more food and housing insecure, the American Rescue plan will help deliver a boost to our economy and to American families.”
Vela added: “I look forward to continue to support my community as we work to get everyone vaccinated, safely reopen our schools, and provide the necessary support for our small businesses and families so we can look forward to a day where we have fully conquered this virus.”
Congressmen Vela, Gonzalez and Cuellar point out that the American Rescue Plan is strongly supported by a large majority of the American people – including 60 percent of Republicans – bipartisan state and local leaders, national education groups, trade unions and advocacy organizations and hundreds of businesses and chambers of commerce.
They note that economists believe the legislation’s targeted, evidence-based action is needed – both for struggling families and for the American economy. “The legislation’s provisions will generate $1.25 for every $1 of spending, will cut child poverty in half and will lift nearly 12 million people out of poverty,” the congressmen said.
“This week is one of great progress and promise for Texas families, communities and small businesses, as I voted to pass the American Rescue Plan and send it to President Biden’s desk for final signature,” Congressman Cuellar said.
“Thanks to our decisive action, the American Rescue Plan will make a real difference to protect the lives and livelihoods of Texas families, small businesses and all Americans. As this life-saving, jobs-creating bill is signed into law, I will keep working with my colleagues on behalf of the people of Texas and all Americans to meet this moment as we continue to advance progress to Build Back Better For The People.”
Congressman Gonzalez said he had helped secure more than $380 million in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Gonzalez said the package provides approximately $380,708,022.26 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding to cities and counties throughout South Texas. He said these funds will be used to help these communities recover from the devastating effects that the pandemic has had on local economies and livelihoods.
“These funds will help communities in South Texas create new jobs, re-open schools safely, deliver immediate relief to families, and contribute to the vaccination effort. This package is not just about recovery but the ability to build back better,” Gonzalez said.
“I am proud to support the American Rescue Plan and bring much-needed aid to 15th District of Texas to help us recover from this public health and economic crisis.”
The American Rescue Plan is estimated to provide over $27 billion in total funding for the State of Texas. Here is where some of the funding will go:
Brooks County: $1,375,644.00
Duval County: $2,163,831.00
Cameron County: $82,069,858.02
Hidalgo County: $212,702,648.00
Jim Hogg County: $1,008,508.00
Jim Wells County: $7,851,234.61
Kenedy County: $78,353.31
Willacy County: $4,142,252.58
Cities and Towns
La Feria: $1,576,421.38
Laguna Vista: $693,363.76
La Villa: $625,771.69
Los Fresnos: $1,708,771.00
Los Indios: $231,121.25
Palm Valley: $270,368.26
Port Isabel: $1,364,051.47
Progreso Lakes: $63,449.33
Rancho Viejo: $536,375.74
Rio Hondo: $590,231.35
San Benito: $9,629,321.30
San Juan: $8,069,184.28
San Perlita: $121,229.64
Santa Rosa: $593,719.97
South Padre Island: $605,712.11
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez.
Quality journalism takes time, effort and…. Money!
Producing quality journalism is not cheap. The coronavirus has resulted in falling revenues across the newsrooms of the United States. However, The Rio Grande Guardian is committed to producing quality news reporting on the issues that matter to border residents. The support of our members is vital in ensuring our mission gets fulfilled.
Can we count on your support? If so, click HERE. Thank you!