Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks Laying Out How The American Rescue Plan Delivers Support To Puerto Rico And Historic Funding To Reopen Our Schools

March 17, 2021

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the American Rescue Plan’s assistance for Puerto Rico and its life-changing investment in our students. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

I’d like to continue shining a spotlight on different aspects of the American Rescue Plan. The legislation helps so many people and so much of the country, it’s easy to forget many, crucial parts of the bill.

So later today, I’ll be joining my dear friend, Representative Velázquez from New York to talk about how the American Rescue Plan helps Puerto Rico, which is too often an afterthought in federal legislation.

The American Rescue Plan will do three historic things for the people of Puerto Rico, American citizens all.

First, it will deliver federal dollars to the island’s Earned Income Tax Credit for low-wage workers for the first time ever.

Second, it will expand eligibility for residents to claim the Child Tax Credit. Prior to the ARP, only families with three or more children in Puerto Rico could claim the Child Tax Credit. Why those American citizens were treated differently than all the others was beyond me and strikes me as nasty. But now, every family can.

Third, the ARP bill will add $1 billion—$1 billion—in food assistance. Residents of American territories don’t receive traditional food assistance programs like those in the US (such as the SNAP program), but instead their governments receive block grants that have been capped by the federal government.

The American Rescue Plan makes sure that Puerto Rico, which suffers devastating rates of poverty—43%—especially childhood poverty, an unacceptable 57% of all the children in Puerto Rico live in poverty. So we want to make sure that Puerto Rico receives its fair share of federal food assistance.

The American Rescue Plan may be the greatest anti-poverty effort in a generation. And we made sure Puerto Rico is part of it.

Now, let me turn my attention to schools.

One of the most enduring images of the COVID-19 pandemic will be the empty classroom. For twelve months, teachers have done their level best to keep their students engaged with remote learning. But there have been incredible difficulties. Too many students don’t have reliable internet. Too many parents can’t be there to help young kids log-on and keep up with their work.

Simply put, there’s no replacement for having kids in the classroom. We need to get our schools to re-open as quickly and as safely as possible.

Now, my Republican colleagues have made a lot of noise about re-opening our schools, but they don’t want to dedicate any resources to actually getting it done. We need money to do this. There are many more expenses under COVID.

Through the American Rescue Plan, Senate Democrats delivered the single largest investment in American education ever. We are proud of that, proud.

Let me say it again: through the American Rescue Plan, Senate Democrats delivered the single largest investment in American education—ever.

$170 billion to help repair the damage caused by this pandemic, three-quarters of which will go directly to K-12 education, prioritizing school districts that need it the most. This will help schools update ventilation, hire more nurses and janitors, make classroom sizes smaller, and make getting kids to and from school safer.

In short: the American Rescue Plan will greatly accelerate the safe and effective re-opening of schools.

And once kids are back in the classroom, the American Rescue Plan will help make sure they can stay there and succeed. After what has been a lost year for too many students, this bill provides significant support for learning recovery programs—after school programs, summer school programs, and other resources to help kids catch up and get back on track.

Through the American Rescue Plan, we have made a life changing investment in our students. It is one of the many ways this bill will help us recover from the crisis, and come back stronger than ever before.