This Thursday, President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID economic stimulus package (aka the American Rescue Plan) into law.  The American Rescue Plan (ARP) passed the House and Senate without a single Republican vote. The House had cleared the final version of the bill on Wednesday by a 220-211 vote. Only one Democrat, Jared Golden of Maine, voted against the final bill.   ARP provides $1,400-per-person payments to individuals with incomes up to $75,000 a year and couples making up to $150,000. The payments are phased down and then cut off after income reaches $80,000 for an individual and $160,000 for a couple. Democrats lauded the ARP as a way to provide assistance by putting money directly in people’s pockets, while Republicans criticized it as wasteful, unneeded, government spending. 

The $1.9 trillion bill includes $22.7 billion in agriculture and nutrition provisions.  In addition, it allows state and local governments to use the funding they will receive for rural development activities such as broadband and water and sewer infrastructure.

A much-noticed provision in the agriculture portion of the bill requires USDA to make payments to socially disadvantaged farmers worth up to 120% of their indebtedness on USDA direct and guaranteed loans. Although funding for the provision is uncapped, it is estimated that approximately 15,000 farmers will be eligible for relief and will receive payments averaging about $220,000 each.

The ARP also includes $3.6 billion earmarked to fund commodity purchases and to provide grants and loans to processors, farmers markets, producers, and organizations to pay for needs such as workers’ personal protection equipment and to retool operations to maintain and improve food and agricultural supply chain resiliency.  Another $500 million is earmarked for grants to rural health care providers to compensate them for revenue lost due to the pandemic and to help with a range of needs, including the cost of testing and vaccine distribution.  ARP will expand child nutrition assistance and extend the temporary 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits through September.

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