The American Rescue Plan Act Raises Minimum Wage To $15 Per Hour

On March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The 1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill includes: 

RAISING THE FEDERAL MINIMUM WAGE. Increases the federal minimum wage for employees to $15 per hour by 2025 ($9.50 in 2021; $11.00 in 2022; $12.50 in 2023; $14.00 in 2024; and $15.00 in 2025). 

ELIGIBILITY FOR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BENEFITS FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES DIAGNOSED WITH COVID-19. Provides that federal and postal employees who came into contact with patients, the public, or coworkers in the course of their duties, and were diagnosed with COVID-19 between January 27, 2020, and January 30, 2023, will receive a presumption that COVID-19 is a work-related illness for purposes of eligibility under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA). FECA provides wage loss compensation for temporary or total disability, medical costs, and death benefits to survivors. Funds are appropriated to the Employees’ Compensation Fund to pay benefit costs through September 30, 2030. 

COMPENSATION PURSUANT TO THE LONGSHORE AND HARBOR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION. Provides that employees who were engaged in maritime employment between January 27, 2020, and January 27, 2023, and were diagnosed with COVID-19, or were ordered to quarantine, shall receive a conclusive presumption that such illness or quarantine was work related for purposes of workers’ compensation benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). 

The LHWCA provides medical benefits, wage loss compensation for disability, funeral expenses, and survivors benefits. Self-insured employers and insurance carriers shall be reimbursed for the cost of such claims from the Employees’ Compensation Fund in the U.S.

CHILD NUTRITION & RELATED IMPROVEMENTS TO WIC BENEFITS. Provides the Secretary of Agriculture with authority and funding to temporarily boost the value of the Cash Value Voucher (CVV) in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) up to $35 per month for women and children for a four-month period during the COVID19 pandemic. 

WIC PROGRAM MODERNIZATION. Provides $390 million for outreach, innovation, and program modernization efforts to improve participation and benefit redemption in the WIC program.  

MEALS AND SUPPLEMENTS REIMBURSEMENTS FOR INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE NOT ATTAINED THE AGE OF 25. Current as of February 22, 2021 Temporarily expands the age of eligibility for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) at emergency homeless shelters from 18 to 25 for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM. Provides $1,150,000,000 to the Secretary of Agriculture, $1,135,000,000 of which shall be for the Secretary to make grants for each of fiscal years 2021 through 2023 to each State agency for the costs of State administrative expenses associated with the supplemental nutrition assistance program. The remaining $15,000,000 is made available to the Secretary of Agriculture for necessary expenses for management and oversight of the supplemental nutrition assistance program.  

ADDITIONAL ASSISTANCE FOR SNAP ONLINE PURCHASING AND TECHNOLOGY IMPROVEMENTS. Provides $25,000,000 for the Secretary of Agriculture to make technological improvements to online purchasing in the supplemental nutrition assistance program, to modernize electronic benefit transfer technology, to support the use of mobile technologies, and to provide technical assistance to educate retailers on such technologies. These funds remain available until September 30, 2026.  

ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS. Provides $1,000,000,000 to remain available until September 30, 2027 for the Secretary of Agriculture to provide grants for nutrition assistance to Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. $30,000,000 of the total funding shall be made available to the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.  

COMMODITY SUPPLEMENTAL FOOD PROGRAM.  Provides $37,000,000 for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, to remain available until September 30, 2022. 

PANDEMIC EBT PROGRAM. Allows the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program to be implemented for any school year in which the COVID-19 public health emergency designation is in effect and allows for P-EBT benefits to be extended through the summer.  

CHILD CARE AND DEVELOPMENT BLOCK GRANT PROGRAM(CCDBG). Provides $14,990,000,000 for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program. Lead agencies may obligate funds during the current fiscal year and succeeding two fiscal years. Lead agencies may use such funds to provide child care assistance to essential workers without regard to such workers’ income. Provides an additional $23,975,000,000 to be used for child care stabilization. Provides an additional $35,000,000 for federal administrative costs, including technical assistance and research, to carry out child care stabilization and implement the additional funding for CCDBG. 

CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION AND TREATMENT. Provides $250,000,000 for child abuse and neglect prevention programs as authorized under Title II of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). Provides $100,000,000 for the child abuse and neglect treatment and response. 

LOW INCOME HOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM(LIHEAP) $4,500,000,000 to help families afford home heating and cooling costs, to remain available through September 30, 2022. 

ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOL EMERGENCY RELIEF FUND. Provides $128,554,800,000 for grants to state educational agencies, to address learning loss and to provide equitable services to students and teachers in non-public and public schools. 

HIGHER EDUCATION EMERGENCY RELIEF FUND (HEERF) which provides grants to institutions of higher education. Public and private non-profit institutions receiving new HEERF allocations will be required to spend a minimum or 50 percent of allocations on emergency financial aid grants to students.  For-profit institutions receiving allocations and institutions receiving allocations due to the enrollment of students enrolled exclusively online will have to spend 100 percent of such allocations on student aid.  Institutions will be solely responsible for determining which students receive emergency financial aid grants. Institutions are required to use a portion of the institutional share of new allocations to implement evidence-based practices to mitigate COVID-19 and conduct outreach to students regarding the opportunity to receive a financial aid adjustment due to the recent unemployment of a family member or other changes in financial circumstances. Restrictions that were applied exclusively to institutions subject to the endowment tax in the previous Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund will not apply to new allocations under this section. This includes fiscal equity guardrails to prevent state budget cuts from disproportionately impacting high poverty school districts and low-income students.  

ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR AGING AND DISABILITY SERVICES PROGRAMS. Provides a total of $276,000,000 in funding for the Elder Justice Act for Fiscal Years 2021 and 2022; ensures that Adult Protective Services (APS) funding may be used to serve all adults.  

SUPPORTING OLDER AMERICANS AND THEIR FAMILIES. Provides $1,444,000,000 in funding for programs authorized under the Older Americans Act (OAA):  

•740,000,000 to support nutrition programs for older Americans;  

• $25,000,000 for services, including nutrition, for Native American communities;  

• $470,000,000 to support home-and community-based support services programs, including support for COVID-19 vaccination outreach and coordination and addressing social isolation;  

• $44,000,000 for evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention;  

• $145,000,000 for the National Family Caregiver Support Program; and  

• $10,000,000 for the long-term care ombudsman program. 

COBRA CONTINUED COVERAGE – PRESERVING HEALTH BENEFITS FOR WORKERS. Provides subsidies to support workers who are eligible for continuation coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) due to involuntary termination or reduction in hours. Eighty-five percent premium assistance will be available beginning the first month following the date of enactment and will remain available through September 30, 2021. Provides for an extended election period to allow individuals who previously experienced a qualifying event to enroll in subsidized coverage. Requires clear and understandable written notices and establishes an expedited review process for workers who are denied premium assistance. Provides a refundable payroll tax credit to allow employers and health plans to be reimbursed for the full amount of COBRA premiums 

THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS. Provides $135,000,000 for the National Endowment for the Arts, with forty percent of funds reserved for grants to state art agencies and regional art organizations, and sixty percent of funds reserved for direct grants that support organizations’ programming and general operating expenses.  

THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES. Provides $135,000,000 for the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

INSTITUTE OF MUSEUM AND LIBRARY SERVICES. Provides $200,000,000 to carry out the Library Service and Technology Act with a minimum allocation of $2,000,000 for each state.  

COVID-19 RESPONSE RESOURCES FOR THE PRESERVATION AND MAINTENANCE OF NATIVE AMERICAN LANGUAGES. Provides $10,000,000 for emergency grants to support Native American language preservation and maintenance. Funding will mitigate COVID-19-related disruptions or threats to Native American languages and the continued vitality of Native American languages during and after the COVID-19 public health emergency. 

FUNDING FOR U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR WORKER PROTECTION ACTIVITIES. Provides $150,000,000 for the Secretary of Labor to implement COVID-19 worker protection activities across the Department, with not less than $75,000,000 allocated to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and within this allocation funds are reserved for OSHA enforcement in high-risk sectors (such as meat processing, corrections, and health care) and the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program.  

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