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Public Employee Press: PEP Talk

American Rescue Act provides aid to NYC


Both New York City and the State stand to receive billions in aid after a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill cleared the U.S. Senate on March 6.

After a second vote in the House of Representatives on the Senate’s revisions to the hard-fought bill, the legislation was signed by President Biden on March 11.

The American Rescue Act (ARA) radically alters the strategy in dealing with the economic and social consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, now entering its second year.

DC 37 strongly campaigned for passage of this landmark legislation as part of a widespread push by its national union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

The American Rescue Act comes at a critical time for essential public workers in New York City who faced possible layoffs until narrowly averted last year by an agreement between the de Blasio administration and the City’s public worker unions, including DC 37 (see related articles on pages 3 and 4 of the PEP Talk magazine).

After confirmation from Mayor Bill de Blasio, DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido said, “This is a major win. We fought tooth and nail against layoffs and now we have a firm commitment that our agreement to delay them will extend another year.”

Under the Act, New York City receives $6 billion in aid. This is significant, because the aid triggers a provision in the no-layoff agreement that extends the guarantees until the end of June 2022.

“By passing the American Rescue Act, our home state senator and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, delivered for all of us. His leadership led to $6 billion in vital aid to New York City,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido. “Mayor de Blasio confirmed that as a result, good union jobs have been protected and layoffs are off the table for at least another year.”

The aid provides leverage in ongoing City budget negotiations and strengthens DC 37’s lobbying efforts in Albany to pass an Early Retirement Incentive for the City’s essential public workers and other COVID-related aid for the City.

Also, New York State will receive $44 billion, which includes $24 billion earmarked for a safe reopening of state and city schools, as well as money to small businesses that bore the brunt of the pandemic shutdowns. The American Rescue Act creates a new relief fund for these businesses to cover payroll, mortgages, rent, PPE, and other expenses. In this, the first major legislative victory of the Biden presidency, the American Rescue Act focuses on addressing the impact of the pandemic on essential public workers and the neediest communities directly hit by COVID-19.

The ARA also includes direct payments of up to $1,400 for hundreds of millions of middle-class and at-risk populations, adds supplemental weekly unemployment benefits of $300 for those laid off due to the pandemic, provides needed relief for states and cities in order to maintain vital public services and prevent layoffs of frontline public workers, sends billions to shore up schools and small business that struggled in the last year, and funds distribution of the three COVID-19 vaccines.

There is a provision expanding the Child Tax Credit, unaddressed in previous relief measures, to benefit low-income families. The legislation includes monthly payments of $250 per child, or $300 for children under age six.

In what was characterized as the longest vote in modern U.S. Senate’s history, the bill passed by a narrow 50-49 vote.