Chairman Clyburn’s Opening Remarks at Hearing on the Success of Pandemic Relief Programs
Washington, D.C. (September 22, 2021) —Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, delivered the following opening statement at today’s hybrid hearing examining the economic progress made from the pandemic relief programs, such as those provisions under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and the need for additional legislation.
Ahead of the hearing, the Select Subcommittee released a staff analysis outlining evidence that the ARP’s relief provisions have helped alleviate economic hardship, reduced poverty, and supported economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic.
Remarks (As Delivered):
As the coronavirus spread nationwide in the spring of 2020, the economic harm was immediate and devastating. Over 22 million people lost their jobs, and the share of Americans unable to afford their basic expenses, like food, housing, and health care, sharply increased. Congress responded to this crisis with unprecedented relief legislation.
That response worked. The relief packages we enacted, culminating with the American Rescue Plan, have eased Americans’ financial hardships, reduced poverty, and supported a robust economic recovery.
Recent Census Bureau data show that the pandemic relief legislation, particularly the American Rescue Plan, helped millions of Americans pay their basic expenses and reduced the poverty rate even as the pandemic continued to wreak havoc on our economy. An analysis of Census data conducted by Select Subcommittee staff and released just this morning show that, in the weeks after the American Rescue Plan’s relief payments were distributed, the share of households without enough food to eat or behind on rent both declined by almost 20 percent, and that continued for many months after the payments were made.
The Select Subcommittee’s analysis is confirmed by many other studies. The Urban Institute estimates that the American Rescue Plan’s direct relief payments, Child Tax Credit expansion, unemployment insurance extension, and other measures are contributing to the most dramatic poverty reduction on record, with a particularly significant decline for Black Americans.
This summer, as the Biden Administration rolled out the American Rescue Plan’s expanded Child Tax Credit’s advance payments, families with children saw significant declines in food insecurity and poverty. One analysis found that after just one Child Tax Credit advance payment, 2 million fewer children went hungry, and another report found that the first payment lifted 6 million children out of poverty.
Data released just last week also show that nearly 3 million Americans have gained health coverage through Affordable Care Act exchanges with the support of the American Rescue Plan’s enhanced tax credits for health insurance. The ARP drove down premiums and health care costs for children at a wide range of income levels buying insurance on the exchanges, ensuring expanded access to health care as we continue to combat the pandemic.
In addition to relief measures that have directly alleviated hardship, the American Rescue Plan has supported a robust economic recovery. The U.S. economy has grown at a rate far higher this year than most forecasters anticipated before its passage. And the United States is the only country among the G-7 nations that has already recovered and surpassed its pre-pandemic economic output.
This economic growth has fueled a significant job recovery, with over 3 million jobs created since the American Rescue Plan’s passage in March 2021. Despite the challenges presented by the the spread of the Delta variant driven by the unvaccinated, the United States has added an average of 750,000 jobs per month over the last three months. For those American families still struggling, this vital financial assistance is continuing to provide an essential lifeline.
The dramatic progress we have made in easing financial burdens and reducing poverty during this crisis shows that we can reduce economic disparities when we have the will. Now, in order to avoid a reversal of this progress, we must find the will once again.
The American Rescue Plan was designed as a temporary stopgap measure to rescue our economy from an unprecedented crisis. We must now extend many of its provisions and build on them to create a strong, sustainable and inclusive post-pandemic economy.
To achieve this, we must act to ensure that children are not mired in poverty, that people have access to affordable healthcare, that Americans have decent housing and the ability to care for their loved ones, and that all communities have the infrastructure necessary to connect them with opportunity. Extending the Child Tax Credit expansion, making health insurance more affordable, closing the Medicaid coverage gap, ensuring paid family and medical leave, and making broadband accessible and affordable are just a few of the steps we must take. They are just a few of the elements of the Build Back Better agenda, which we must enact to build a better future for all Americans.
Before I yield to the Ranking Member, I want to respond to the recent letter he sent to me renewing his request that Treasury Secretary Yellen testify before the Select Subcommittee. As I responded earlier, I share his desire for a hearing with Secretary Yellen, and my staff has been working diligently with the Treasury Department to schedule it. Given that this is a hearing the Ranking Member and I both hope to have, I would suggest that we have direct and private meetings to further discuss our preparations for a meeting with the Secretary.
With that, I now yield to the Ranking Member for his opening statement.