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Washington Report – Feb. 19, 2021

Posted by: jgomori Posted date: February 19, 2021

President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid package includes $350 billion in additional aid to state and local governments for pandemic related budget and revenue shortfalls and to help with vaccine distribution. The package includes an additional $1,400 tax rebate checks, $400 of weekly federal unemployment insurance through September, $440 billion for communities and small businesses, an additional $30 billion for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund for health care and first responder personal protective equipment and supplies, $130 billion to help schools reopen safely, and $20 billion to establish a universal vaccination program. It also would raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour, which has many business groups, Republicans and a few moderate Democrats balking at the plan; The House Committee on Oversight and Reform marked up the provisions related to state and local government aid. $195.3 billion would go to state governments, with $169 billion distributed based on a state’s total unemployed workers and the rest ($25.5 billion) evenly divided among the states. $130.2 billion will be divided equally among local governments; The House Ways and Means Committee included in their portion of the reconciliation package an extension of the payroll tax credit for employers to provide additional COVID-related paid sick leave to their employees. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which mandated employers provide this paid leave, but exempted emergency responders and health care workers, expired Dec. 31, 2020. The Ways and Means Committee extended the tax credit to employers and amended it to include state and local governments so first responders would be covered; During the week of March 1, the House is slated to vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act – which the House passed June 25, 2020 – under a closed rule, meaning no amendments are allowed unless they are unanimously supported. NAPO is disappointed House Democrats are voting on this bill without discussing NAPO’s significant concerns with it; NAPO, together with our public safety pension partners, is working on legislation to address issues with the HELPS Retirees provision of the Pension Protection Act. This provision provides public safety officers, who often retire earlier than other occupations because of the physical demands and unique job hazards they face, with more affordable healthcare options until they are Medicare-eligible; Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) reintroduced the NAPO-supported Law Enforcement Officers Equity Act, which would expand the definition of “law enforcement officer” for retirement purposes to include certain Federal law enforcement officers, who are not granted the same retirement benefits as other law enforcement officers.

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