February 13, 2009

Senate Passes Economic Recovery Package

Legislation will create or save 44,000 jobs in Oregon

Washington, D.C. - Helping move the country towards more solid financial footing, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today cast his vote in favor of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The compromise package was the result of a conference committee between House and Senate negotiators and passed the Senate by a vote of 60 to 38. The package includes at least $1.78 billion in funding for Oregon to create and save thousands of good-paying jobs, upgrade the state's roads and bridges, expand access to broadband technology, especially into rural communities, and provide essential relief to families facing rising health care costs and to those who have lost their jobs.

"This economic recovery legislation will create jobs Oregon and the nation desperately need right now," said Wyden. "It also looks to the future by protecting over 300,000 Oregonians from the crushing alternative minimum tax, helping economically distressed homeowners and putting our schools on a better foundation."

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 includes provisions that:

Make Work Pay

• Create or save 44,000 jobs in Oregon over the next two years, in industries that range from clean energy to health care, with over 90% in the private sector;

• Provide a "making work pay" tax cut of up to $800 for 1,400,000 workers and their families. The plan will make a downpayment on the President's Making Work Pay tax cut for 95% of workers and their families, designed to pay out immediately into workers' paychecks;

Create Rural Jobs and Heal our Forests

• Create thousands of new jobs and restore the health of the state's choked forests by providing Oregon with a large share of $515 million allocated for fire management, including the reduction of fuels in the forest that endanger communities with increased risk of fire;

Support Education

• Make 41,000 Oregon families eligible for a new American Opportunity Tax credit to make college affordable;

• Provide funding to modernize at least 102 schools in Oregon so students have the labs, classrooms and libraries they need to compete in the 21st century economy;

• Providing $128.9 million to prevent cuts in programs for special education students and low-income residents;

• Supporting education with $461.4 million through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund to local school districts and public colleges and universities in addition to incentive grants as a reward for meeting key education performance measures and additional funding for other high-priority needs such as public safety and other critical services, including education. As well as $131.3 million to help close the achievement gap and enable disadvantaged students to reach their potential.

Strengthen the Economic Safety Net

• Ease the burden on unemployed Oregonians with $86.1 million in new funding;

• Offer an additional $100 per month in unemployment insurance benefits to 329,000 workers in Oregon who have lost their jobs in this recession, and providing extended unemployment benefits to an additional 53,000 laid-off workers;

• Helping struggling Oregonians put food on the table by giving a boost of more than $301.8 million to the state's food stamp benefits program;

• Make ARRA subsidies available to "mini-COBRA" programs that exist in Oregon and other states to help the many people who have lost their jobs in small businesses keep the coverage they had or similar coverage;

• Provide healthcare for low-income Oregon residents with $830 million in additional Medicaid funding;

Rebuild our Infrastructure

• Build on the Wyden-authored Build America Bonds program which provides state and local governments with a new tax credit bond to stimulate investment in infrastructure projects;

• Increase broadband access in underserved areas through a $4.7 billion investment in the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, and a $2.5 billion investment in Rural Utilities Service, of which 75 percent will be focused on rural communities;

• Increase Bonneville Power Administration borrowing authority by $3.25 billion to finance construction of new electric transmission projects to increase reliability and connect new renewable energy projects to the electric grid;

• Invest in Oregon's mass transit systems with $75.7 million in Transit Formula Funding nationwide;

• Improving Oregon's roads with at least $333.9 million in highway funding.

Reform Taxes for a Stronger Future

• Protect over 310,000 Oregonians from the Alternative Minimum Tax in 2009;

• Encourage renewable energy production with a tax credit for energy providers who help move the country down the path toward true energy independence, ushering in a new industry of green jobs;

• Create a new tax credit for investments in equipment and factories to manufacture green energy technologies, such as solar cells.

Ease Access to Housing

• Make it easier for Americans to purchase their first home by increasing the First-Time Home Buyer credit up to $8,000, eliminate the repayment obligation for homes bought after January 1, 2009 and extend the availability of the credit for five months, to include homes bought before December 1, 2009;

• Fund low-income housing with $27 million in HOME Funding to enable state and local government to acquire, construct, and rehabilitate affordable housing and provide rental assistance to poor families; and

• Fight homelessness with $14.9 million to be used for prevention activities, which include: short or medium-term rental assistance, first and last month's rental payment, or utility payments.