the nevada independent logo
East front of the U.S. Capitol on July 13, 2017. (Humberto Sanchez/The Nevada Independent)

Key House committees advanced parts of the Democrats' $1.9 trillion COVID-aid package, which included an estimated $4 billion for Nevada under a provision that would provide $350 billion to state and local governments.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), who served as Nevada Senate majority leader during the 2009 economic recession, said the funding would help Nevada recover from the severe economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Last week’s work on the House COVID bill came as the state Legislature was working on the biennial budget

"The provisions in this bill are going to help them make a lot of critical decisions," Horsford said in an interview last week. "I know, having been in their spot, in the middle of a budget crisis, how tough of a position they're in." 

“They need predictability, they need to know how these funds can work, how they can help shore up the budget,” Horsford continued, adding that unemployment has stressed the finances of the state’s social safety net, including a surging Medicaid caseload.

"And so that's why I want to make sure we get this done," Horsford said.

Horsford spoke in between votes during the House Ways and Means Committee’s two-day markup of its portion of the bill. The panel is responsible for about half of the House’s package, including all of the tax and unemployment aid provisions. Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) helped advance another portion of the measure out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate closed in on the end of former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, which included shocking never-before-seen security video of the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol. Despite the House impeachment managers' impassioned and highly detailed presentation, there does not appear to be the requisite number of Republicans to reach the 67 votes needed to convict Trump of inciting insurrection. The final trial vote could come as soon as Saturday.

Asked whether impeachment was a distraction from the legislative work on the COVID bill, Horsford said it was not.

“There's nothing distracting the process,” Horsford said. “We can both hold people accountable for the insurrection that led to the death of five individuals, Capitol Police officers, and a lot of destruction on our democracy and deliver for the American people at the same time.” 

COVID aid

As the nation's historic fourth impeachment trial was driving to its conclusion, House Democrats made headway crafting their $1.9 billion COVID-aid measure, known as the American Rescue Plan.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she wants to get the bill to the Senate as soon as possible, possibly next week. 

“We hope to have this all done by the end of February, certainly on the president's desk in time to offset the March 14th deadline where some unemployment benefits will expire,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday.

In its current form, of the estimated $3.9 billion poised for Nevada from the $350 billion state and local fund, $2.9 billion would go directly to the state. Localities would get $947 million, including $443 million for Clark County and $92 million for Washoe County. Las Vegas would receive $121 million and Reno would get $50 million. 

That's a considerable increase from the $1.25 billion in direct state aid provided to the state in the CARES Act's Coronavirus Relief Fund last year, which earmarked $150 billion for states and localities. Under that program, a portion of the state's total was doled out to local governments with populations of at least 500,000. As a result, Clark County received $295 million and Las Vegas received $118.9 million. Nevada received $836 million from the fund.

States would be able to use the new federal funds to address the negative economic impacts of the pandemic, which makes them more flexible than CARES Act funds, to help tourist economies, according to Titus, who pressed for the flexibility. Distribution of the funds also considered job loss, which would especially help Southern Nevada, where unemployment has been among the highest in the nation.  

“The American Rescue Plan provides states and local governments with the flexibility to accelerate vaccine distribution, keep frontline workers on the payroll, and help get the economy back on track,” Titus said in a statement from her office. The “legislation allows Nevada and Clark County to provide direct relief to residents in need and develop creative methods to bring good-paying jobs back to downtown Las Vegas and the Strip.” 

“Importantly, this package will provide more resources to places like Southern Nevada where the unemployment rate is highest,” Titus continued.

During the Ways and Means Committee markup, Horsford spoke in favor of passing the bill and extending unemployment aid. He stressed that people of color in Nevada are more likely to be unemployed because many work in the hospitality industry and cannot work from home. 

“Many of my Black and Latino constituents work in the casinos, hotels and restaurants that we all love to go to when we visit Las Vegas, and we’ll be welcoming you back soon,” Horsford said. “But the work they do cannot be done remotely and they cannot go back to work until we crush this virus.”

The bill would extend the three unemployment insurance benefit programs through Aug. 29. These include the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which helps the self-employed and gig workers, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which extends aid to the long-term unemployed to 48 weeks from 24 weeks once they exhaust the state’s initial 26-week allotment.

The bill also would boost to $400 from $300 the weekly supplemental payment for those collecting unemployment, known as the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program.

Other highlights of the package include a $1,400 direct payment to taxpayers, which would go to individuals who earned up to $75,000 last year and then begin to ramp down. Couples who earned up to $150,000 would receive the full payment. Adult dependents would be eligible for the funds this time, unlike previous rounds of direct payments.

The income threshold for the payments and other aspects of the package could change in talks with the Senate, where Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has said he wants the payments more targeted to those that need it. 

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) said last week that she opposes an increase in the minimum wage to $15.00 that Democrats had included in the package. 

With a 50-50 divided Senate, Democrats are employing the reconciliation process, which prevents the bill from being filibustered. But they will need every Democratic vote to get the bill through the chamber, a scenario which likely entails Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.

The measure would also increase, for one year, the child tax credit to $3,000 per child for children over the age of six and create a new $3,600 per-child credit for those younger than age six. The credit, which currently maxes out at $2,000, would also be fully refundable under the House bill, meaning that if the filer’s tax liability is less than the amount of the credit, that difference would be paid to the filer in the form of a refund. Under current law, only $1,400 of the $2,000 credit is refundable. 

Another provision would raise, for one year, the child and dependent care tax credit to $4,000 for one child and $8,000 for two from $1,050 and $2,100, respectively. The credit is designed to help offset the cost of care for a child or dependent to allow the taxpayer to work or seek work. 

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) last week signed on to a Senate bill to expand the credit by the same amount. 

Titus also celebrated the passage of the transportation section of the measure, particularly $3 billion for the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to provide grants to assist communities in need of economic assistance. That includes $450 million that is dedicated to communities suffering from the loss of jobs in the travel and tourism sector.

“I pushed to include this provision in the bill to help get Southern Nevada’s economy back on track,” Titus said in a release. She is chairman of the transportation panel’s subcommittee with jurisdiction over the EDA.

If signed into law, this would be the first time that the EDA would have a requirement to provide grants to communities suffering from the loss of jobs in the travel and tourism sector.

The transportation portion also included $50 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund. Those dollars could be used to reimburse state, local, and tribal governments for COVID-19 response and recovery, including vaccination efforts, deployment of the National Guard, providing personal protective equipment for public sector employees and disinfecting activities in public facilities such as schools and courthouses.

Airports would also receive $8 billion, including $800 million for airport concessionaires.

Miscellany

In addition to hosting an impeachment trial, the Senate last week managed to hold a few hearings, including one on Neera Tanden’s nomination to head the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which writes the president’s annual budget blueprint.  

At a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) received a commitment from Tanden not to propose any funding for building a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain. President Joe Biden has said he opposes the project. 

“Yes, I absolutely will, and as you know, President Biden has made a similar commitment,” Tanden said.

Rosen also voted to advance Miguel Cardona's nomination for secretary of education and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for secretary of labor out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The Senate also confirmed Denis McDonough, the former White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama, to be veterans affairs secretary on an 87 to 7 vote. Both Cortez Masto and Rosen voted for the nomination.  

Meanwhile, Cortez Masto organized a call with the delegation and officials from the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services on vaccine distribution to the state.

“We requested this call to discuss the administration’s vaccination plan and advocate for the Silver State,” Cortez Masto’s office said in a release.

The call was prompted by problems the state has had in getting the vaccine—ranking  second-to-last among states—which has left local officials scratching their heads as to why.

The release also noted that the CDC and HHS officials outlined steps to improve vaccine allocation and distribution around the country. Those included increasing the overall doses allocated to states by 20 percent before the end of February and beginning the vaccines' rollout to select retail pharmacies.

For a full rundown of the measures the delegates supported or opposed this week, check out The Nevada Independent’s congressional vote tracker and other information below.

SEN. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO

Legislation sponsored:

S.307 A bill to amend the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965 to authorize the Secretary of Commerce to make grants for travel promotion, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.306 A bill to provide a process for granting lawful permanent resident status to aliens from certain countries who meet specified eligibility requirements, and for other purposes.

S.291 A bill to establish the National Office of New Americans within the Executive Office of the President, and for other purposes.

S.281 A bill to authorize the appropriation of funds to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for conducting or supporting research on firearms safety or gun violence prevention.

S.271 A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to enhance the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and make the credit fully refundable.

SEN. JACKY ROSEN

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.306 A bill to provide a process for granting lawful permanent resident status to aliens from certain countries who meet specified eligibility requirements, and for other purposes.

S.291 A bill to establish the National Office of New Americans within the Executive Office of the President, and for other purposes.

S.282 A bill to designate a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness.

S.281 A bill to authorize the appropriation of funds to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for conducting or supporting research on firearms safety or gun violence prevention.

REP. DINA TITUS

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 1015 To establish a grant program for the funding of water recycling and reuse projects, and for other purposes.

H.R. 985 To secure Federal access to scientific literature and other subscription services by requiring Federal agencies and legislative branch research arms to make recommendations on increasing agency library access to serials, and for other purposes.

H.R. 963 To amend title 9 of the United States Code with respect to arbitration.

H.R. 928 To require full funding of part A of title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

H.R. 921 To amend title 49, United States Code, to prohibit the transportation of horses in interstate transportation in a motor vehicle containing 2 or more levels stacked on top of one another, and for other purposes.

REP. MARK AMODEI

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 707 To award a Congressional Gold Medal to the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops and the 3133d Signal Service Company, in recognition of their unique and highly distinguished service as a "Ghost Army" that conducted deception operations in Europe during World War II.

H.R. 677 To improve and reform policing practices, accountability and transparency.

REP. SUSIE LEE

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 685 To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to exempt a portion of unemployment compensation received during 2020 from income taxes.

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD

Legislation sponsored:

H.R. 934 To amend the CARES Act to extend Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and increase the weekly amount, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 1009 To require all Federal agencies to translate COVID-19 materials into multiple languages, and for other purposes.

H.R. 959 To end preventable maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity in the United States and close disparities in maternal health outcomes, and for other purposes.

H.R. 958 To codify maternity care coordination programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

H.R. 957 To direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a grant program to protect vulnerable mothers and babies from climate change risks, and for other purposes.

H.R. 951 To direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to carry out a national campaign to increase awareness of the importance of maternal vaccinations for the health of pregnant and postpartum individuals and their children, and for other purposes.

H.R. 950 To require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish and implement a Perinatal Care Alternative Payment Model Demonstration Project, and for other purposes.

H.R. 948 To improve maternal health outcomes for incarcerated individuals, and for other purposes.

H.R. 945 To direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue guidance to States to educate providers, managed care entities, and other insurers about the value and process of delivering respectful maternal health care through diverse and multidisciplinary care provider models, and for other purposes.

H.R. 943 To address social determinants of maternal health with respect to pregnant and postpartum individuals, and for other purposes.

H.R. 937 To amend title XI of the Social Security Act to integrate telehealth models in maternity care services, and for other purposes.

H.R. 928 To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to make the child tax credit fully refundable, establish an increased child tax credit for young children, and for other purposes.

H.R. 925 To amend the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 201 et seq.) to authorize funding for maternal mortality review committees to promote representative community engagement, and for other purposes.

H.R. 921 To amend title 49, United States Code, to prohibit the transportation of horses in interstate transportation in a motor vehicle containing 2 or more levels stacked on top of one another, and for other purposes.

Comment Policy (updated 10/4/19): Please keep your comments civil. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, use an excess of profanity, make verifiably false statements or are otherwise nasty.

What Happened Here: A six-part series on COVID-19 in Nevada

correct us
ideas & story tips