Statement of Senator Feinstein on Passage of Legislation to Provide Assistance to Workers, Businesses and States
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today welcomed passage of legislation designed to boost the economic recovery while providing assistance to workers, businesses and states. The "American Workers, State and Business Relief Act" was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 62-36, and will now be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration before it can be sent to the President for his signature.
"The emergency relief package approved by the Senate today is the second in a series of bills designed to help boost the recovery effort and assist those who are the most hard-hit by the economic downturn," Senator Feinstein said.
"The bill will offer much-needed relief to the 2.26 million out-of-work Californians who are relying on unemployment insurance and COBRA health benefits to tide them over until they can find a good paying job -- by extending those vital safety net programs through the end of the year.
The legislation will also help the State of California bridge budgetary shortfalls by extending for another six months the enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, or FMAP, enacted under the Recovery Act. This will provide an additional $1.5 to $2 billion in federal assistance to California.
Finally, I'd like to extend my thanks to Senator Lincoln for including a provision in her amendment -- at the request of Senator Boxer and myself -- to give specialty crop farmers access to $150 million in emergency financial assistance regardless of whether their crops were devastated by flood or drought. This will be helpful to California farmers, where three years of drought cost nearly $600 million in lost crops last year and resulted in the fallowing of more than 400,000 acres of farm land. Last year, 24 counties in California were declared drought disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and this relief will help prepare farmers for the coming harvest cycle."
The legislation, (H.R. 4213), contains several provisions that are of particular importance to California, including:
* Extending unemployment relief to out-of-work Americans through the end of the year, including unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits. There are currently 2.26 million Californians unemployed and looking for work.
o This provision could assist an estimated 200,000 Californians who could become ineligible to receive benefits once the current 30-day extension expires.
o For unemployed California families, the average monthly COBRA premium is $1,107. The COBRA premium assistance reduced this cost to $388 per month, and without this benefit, unemployed Californians could lose $720 a month.
* Providing a six month extension of the enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) enacted under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This extension would provide an increase of $1.5 to $2 billion in federal funding for the state to cover Medicaid costs and help close the budget gap. This additional Medicaid funding will help the state continue to provide health care services for the poor, and meet the increased demand caused by the economic downturn.
* Providing $150 million in disaster relief for specialty crop producers who have suffered heavy losses because of drought. The emergency assistance, included at the request of California Senators Boxer and Feinstein in an amendment by offered by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), will provide critical help for California specialty crop growers. California is the largest specialty crop producer in the country, with 39 percent of the nation's specialty crops. The emergency aid will be awarded to states based on the value of specialty crop losses in 2009, and states will distribute the aid to growers in primary disaster counties. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared 24 of the California's 58 counties as primary disaster counties due to drought conditions.
The bill also offers relief to working families through tax relief provisions for tuition payments, energy efficiency improvements for homes, as well as school supplies for our teachers. And it will also promote the growth of our businesses through an extension of the research and development tax credit and other tax relief provisions.
Finally, the legislation includes assistance for small businesses. Specifically, the bill extends through the end of the year increased loan guarantees offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA). The guarantees were enacted through the Recovery Act, and are expected to support $18.5 billion of loans to America's small businesses.
A summary of the legislation can be found online at:
A detailed summary of the benefits for California can be found online at: