U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono submitted the following report to the Hawaii State Teachers Association detailing key provisions of the most recent pandemic relief package approved by Congress and President Joe Biden, called the American Rescue Plan.
During the last year, we’ve all faced unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19. Businesses were shuttered, events were canceled, and K-12 public schools were closed with students and teachers having to quickly adapt to distance learning. Despite these challenges, Hawaii residents have persevered.
Last summer, I met with HSTA teachers to hear how they were adjusting to teaching in distance learning environments. Teachers discussed how they were continuing to work with their students, how they were making sure students attended online classes and remained engaged, how they were balancing teaching responsibilities while looking after their own children, and how they were helping to make sure students stayed connected while at home. Many of these challenges were caused or made worse by a lack of clear direction and resources for teachers and students.
Congress responded by providing additional resources for public school teachers and students in the American Rescue Plan (ARP), an important part of President Biden’s comprehensive efforts to change the course of the pandemic.
Shortly after the bill was signed into law on March 11, Gov. David Ige announced that planned furloughs and layoffs were no longer necessary because of the $1.6 billion Hawaii received through the ARP. With the state Legislature recently finishing its session, the ARP’s funding for state and local governments was directly responsible for preventing furloughs and layoffs for teachers and other state employees.
Separately, the ARP also included important funding for K-12 public schools, child care programs, broadband and connectivity, and $1,400 stimulus payments.
But there are other programs I want to highlight that will benefit young people, families, and our community. I appreciate the integral role schools and teachers play in the lives of our keiki and the community so I thought this information would be of use to you.
For families, the ARP significantly expands the Child Tax Credit (CTC) for 2021, increasing the CTC from $2,000 to $3,000 for children between 6 and 17, and to $3,600 for younger children below 6. It also makes the CTC fully refundable in 2021 and provides half of the credit in advance payments from July through December. Please check my website as we will continue to update information on the CTC as it becomes available.
For families with child care expenses, the ARP also expands the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) for 2021, allowing parents to claim the CDCTC for half of their child care expenses up to certain limits ($4,000 for one child and $8,000 for two or more children).
Between funding for child care programs and the expanded CDCTC, Hawaii parents will receive substantial assistance for child care, which is typically the second-largest household expense for most families, second only to housing expenses.
Speaking of housing expenses, the ARP provides funding for mortgage, rent, and utility assistance programs to help families make ends meet as they continue to recover from the pandemic. The ARP also expands nutrition programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help families put food on the table during these challenging times.
For those who are unemployed, the ARP provides funding to address Unemployment Insurance (UI) processing delays and continue the additional $300 in UI benefits through September 2021.
The ARP also expands COBRA health care coverage for those who may be between jobs, a provision I worked on closely with UNITE HERE Local 5 to make sure Hawaii hotel workers who are currently unemployed will be able to keep their health insurance through September 2021.
These are a few examples of how the ARP will help families meet some of their immediate financial needs, and there are many others. My office can provide additional information about these programs or answer your questions, and can also provide assistance for those interested in applying for the programs.
You may reach my office by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling (808) 522-8970 (or calling toll-free: 844-478-3478). Information about the programs in the ARP is available on my website. We will be updating the website as more information becomes available.
As our work to recover from COVID-19 and its economic consequences continues, please consider me a resource. Stay safe and be kind.
U.S. Senator (D, Hawaii)