The latest COVID relief legislation has now been approved by both houses of Congress. After passing through the Senate on Saturday, the U.S. House of Representatives took up the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package once again. The bill was passed in the House by a vote of 220-211, largely among party lines. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill into law sometime on Friday at the White House. The bill includes individual stimulus payments, extended unemployment benefits, funding for ag and nutrition programs, and healthcare support for rural communities.
The legislation known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 received no support from Republicans in either house of Congress. Special budget reconciliation rules requiring only a bare majority in the Senate allowed the bill to move forward with only Democratic support. This latest COVID relief legislation has been largely supported by a variety of agricultural groups due to the provisions supporting the industry.
“In many respects, the American Rescue Plan is a positive development. In the immediate term, it provides crucial assistance for both unemployed and food insecure Americans and expedites vaccine administration in rural communities,” National Farmers Union President Rob Larew said in a news release. “But the bill doesn’t just address our most imminently pressing economic and medical concerns – it also endeavors to change the agricultural sector for the better by redressing racial inequities in federal farm programs and increasing resilience in our food supply chain.”
The COVID relief legislation includes several provisions that will benefit the agricultural sector and rural communities. American Farm Bureau Federation Chief Economist, John Newton has indicated that nearly $23 billion will be used to support agricultural and nutrition initiatives. More than $10 billion is earmarked for strengthening the ag and food supply chain. Of that total, the vast majority is allocated for debt forgiveness for socially disadvantaged farmers as well as food purchase and distribution. The legislation also provides $500 million in funding to help support rural healthcare efforts.