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Valley congressmen vote for $2,000 per person coronavirus relief bill

MCALLEN, Texas – The three members of Congress representing the Rio Grande Valley voted to increase coronavirus relief checks for struggling Americans from $600 to $2,000.

U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar, Filemon Vela and Vicente Gonzalez were among 275 members of Congress to back the Caring for Americans with Supplemental Help (CASH) Act of 2020. Those voting against the measure totaled 134. 

Many Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the CASH Act.

On Sunday, President Trump signed into law the original $900 million stimulus bill into law. However, he had earlier railed against it, saying the $600 relief payment needed to be increased to $2,000. 

The $900 billion coronavirus relief bill provides individuals who make less than $75,000 with $600 and an additional $600 per child.

“A single check is not sufficient for households that are struggling during this health and economic crisis, especially not one that only provides $600,” said Congressman Vela, D-Brownsville. 

“This country has endured physical, emotional, and economic devastation for nine months, and finally we have reached a point where we can agree with the President’s suggestion to increase economic impact payments to $2,000.”

Vela said even with the $2,000, more needs to be done.

“This amount is still far from enough, but better equips struggling Americans to temporarily provide for their families,” Vela said.

“I am proud to have joined my colleagues in passing this piece of legislation, and hope Senate Republicans join us in this effort and not block critical relief from reaching families who are hurting.”

Congressman Cuellar, D-Laredo, said the was pleased President Trump changed his mind last week and decided to support Democrats’ call for increasing direct payments to $2,000.

He said House Democrats immediately went to the Floor to ask for Unanimous Consent to bring a stand-alone bill to increase the payments. 

“Millions of Americans are struggling to put food on the table, to pay their rent or mortgage, or to keep up with medical bills that they have accumulated over this difficult year,” Cuellar said. 

“I voted to pass the CASH Act to put $2,000 into the pockets of Americans in need and help alleviate some of the economic hardship they are currently facing.”

Cuellar said he is urging his colleagues in the Senate to bring the CASH Act to the floor before the legislative session ends. 

“As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, I will continue to fight for the additional support that Americans require as we continue to battle the COVID-19 crisis,” Cuellar said.

Congressman Gonzalez, D-McAllen listed some of the benefits of the CASH Act: 

  • Increases the value of the economic impact payments (EIPs) provided in the end-of-year COVID relief package so that each eligible family member receives $2,000, up from $600.
  • Applies the same, broader eligibility established in the end-of-year package to mixed-status families where one spouse has a Social Security Number (SSN). As specified in the latest COVID relief legislation, these families are eligible for the EIP amount for each family member with an SSN, and can claim the corresponding amount for the first round of economic impact payments when they file their 2020 taxes.

Gonzalez said the federal government should have been providing monthly economic impact payments to help constituents stay safe and keep food on the table throughout the pandemic.

“A $600 check is not enough,” Gonzalez said. “I represent one of the hardest impacted districts in the nation and they’re counting on us to get this right. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We need to do the right thing and help the American people through this dark period in our history.”

Gonzalez noted that back in May and October, House Democrats passed two bills that would have provided $1,200 in direct assistance to Americans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell repeatedly blocked them from receiving an up-or-down vote in the Senate. 

The Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) released the following statement after the vote:

“House Democrats have always favored sending more substantial relief to struggling families, and the CASH Act does just that. Increasing the second round of economic impact payments to $2,000 will make a real difference for Americans experiencing extreme financial hardship. Now that the House has approved these larger checks, it is up to Senate Republicans to do the same.”

“Even if the CASH Act does pass the Senate and becomes law, it must not be the last COVID relief we provide to workers and families. The pandemic will not suddenly disappear when the calendar turns to 2021, and the economy will not immediately make a full recovery. Congress will need to work with the Biden Administration to create new jobs, successfully address the public health crisis, and ensure that Americans have the support they require to get back on their feet.”

Senators are set to return to session Tuesday to consider the measure. If they back the CASH Act, the overall cost of the stimulus bill would go from $900 billion to $1.36 trillion, according to House data released on Monday.

Article was originally published on December 29, 2020.