U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Wednesday that the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package approved by Congress will help bolster the city’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and provide needed aid to hard-pressed families and individuals.
“We’re in rescue mode right now,” Moore said, as she defended the size of the package.
“Economists have said to us, too little, too late is too bad,” she said.
Barrett called it the most significant piece of legislation in a generation.
The two top Democrats made their comments hours after Congress approved the measure, which will be signed Friday by President Joe Biden.
Under the American Rescue Plan, Wisconsin will receive an estimated $5.7 billion in federal funding that will be directed to state and local governments and tribes.
The breakdown is $3.2 billion for the State of Wisconsin, $2.3 billion directly to local governments and $189 million for critical infrastructure projects.
Money will go to large and small communities, with Milwaukee receiving $406 million, Milwaukee County $183 million, Dane County $106 million, Waukesha County $78 million, Brown County $51 million, Madison $49 million and Racine $47 million.
Barrett said the city has lost tens of millions of dollars in revenue during the course of the pandemic and indicated some of the new money could help plug shortfalls.
He said key areas for potential spending include housing, “stemming any evictions” and creating jobs.
“We’re looking to see some of the critical infrastructure, things like lead pipes,” he said. “Is this an area where we can use some of this money? Is there going to be an infrastructure package that comes down the road that we can utilize?”
Barrett said the first tranche of money from the bill will be received later this year and the overall funds will be spent over several years.
Package helps Wisconsin schools
Moore said the package will also help “stand up schools.”
“We are very pleased this package contains money to get our kids back to schools,” she said.
The bill also provides direct relief to many individuals and families, including $1,400 stimulus checks, while also expanding a child tax credit and extending a $300 weekly unemployment supplement.
Track COVID-19 in Wisconsin:See the latest numbers and trends
She said the stimulus checks are needed, especially for those who haven’t been able to pay rent for several months, while the extra $300 in unemployment will also provide a needed boost for those who are still out of work.
Republicans said the bill is ladled with hundreds of billions of dollars in unnecessary spending with only a small portion targeted at combating COVID-19.
The bill passed the House along partisan lines, 220-211, with all Republicans and one Democrat voting against the measure.
As expected, the Wisconsin delegation split, with Democrats Moore, Mark Pocan and Ron Kind voting for the bill, while Republicans Scott Fitzgerald, Mike Gallagher, Glenn Grothman, Bryan Steil and Tom Tiffany were in opposition.
Steil cites ‘Pelosi Payoff’
In a statement, Steil said the bill was a “costly liberal spending wish list” and dubbed it the Pelosi Payoff, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“Only 1% of this $1.9 trillion spending bill goes to accelerate vaccine distribution,” Steil said. “Less than 10% of total funds combat coronavirus. Getting our kids safely back into the classroom should be our top priority, yet Pelosi’s bill has no requirement for schools to reopen. The bill also puts Wisconsin taxpayers on the hook to bail out the bad spending habits in Illinois. I am focused on getting our way of life back. This spending bill fails to do that.”
Gallagher said “instead of working across the aisle, President Biden pushed for the wrong plan, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons. So much for unity.”
Last weekend, the Senate approved the bill on a party-line vote, with Democrat Tammy Baldwin voting in favor and Ron Johnson voting against the measure.