The American Rescue Plan, the latest in the series of federal pandemic relief legislation, could help Oklahomans in more ways than just a direct stimulus payment. Though the plan itself received no support from any members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation.
Some Oklahomans have already begun receiving the $1400 per person checks in their bank accounts. The money is part of the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill called the American Rescue Plan Act to provide coronavirus relief for Americans.
The American Rescue Plan was approved on the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic.
Most of the economic relief in the American Rescue Plan will be through stimulus checks and expanded Child Tax Credit for this year.
In a statement, President Joe Biden said “This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation, the essential workers, the working people who built the country, the people who keep this country going a fighting chance.”
The American Rescue Plan passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 220-211, but required a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Kamala Harris in the Senate.
According to the Pew Research Center, 63% of lower-income Republican citizens supported the economic aid package. However, no Republicans supported the measure in the House or Senate.
In a post to his Twitter account, Senator Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, said he voted against the legislation because he said Democratic lawmakers were attempting to “go it alone” and said Democrats are “Using the pandemic as an excuse to pass a $1.9T bill where just 1% goes towards vaccines.”
Writing on Twitter, Senator James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, said he voted against passing the legislation because, “We aren’t in the same spot we were in a year ago—we should only borrow what absolutely needs to be spent.”
Oklahoma Representative Kevin Hern wrote on Facebook that he voted against the “Pelosi Payoff legislation,” referring to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Representative Hern said the bill included wasteful spending. “COVID relief is not an excuse to write the Biden Administration a blank check.”
The American Rescue Plan Act is providing financial relief to families in Oklahoma. Beyond the direct payments, state and local government aid, extended unemployment benefits as well as funding for testing, tracing and vaccines.
The American Rescue Plan Act is also helping Native American communities in Oklahoma. These communities have been hit harder than many other parts of society by the pandemic. The legislation provides monetary aid for tribal governments, healthcare and education.
Expanded benefits could impact Oklahoma even more than other states, because the food scarcity rate is at 15.3%, which is above the national average.
Hunger Free Oklahoma, an organization that focuses on hunger and poverty issues, says “The American Rescue Plan Act brings new hope to Oklahoma families facing hardship and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”