A COVID relief plan unveiled by President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 14 would extend mandatory paid sick and family leave another 14 weeks and expand the requirement to allow workers to take time off from work to get a COVID-19 vaccination. The proposal would, in a major victory for public power, reimburse state and local governments for the cost of this leave. The latter has been a priority for the American Public Power Association.
Biden is also calling on Congress to extend the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums and continue applications for forbearance on federally guaranteed mortgages until September 30, 2021.
The president-elect is also proposing $5 billion to cover home energy and water costs and arrears through programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Increased funding for LIHEAP has been a top priority for APPA.
Meanwhile, a spending cut request submitted to Congress on Jan. 14 by President Trump will briefly hold up funding for energy research programs, including the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program and a $10 million rural renewable energy pilot program, at least until the inauguration of Biden on Jan. 20. Trump has long sought to eliminate the ARPA-E program.
The cuts are part of a $27 billion “rescissions” package sent by Trump to Congress. To take effect, they must be approved by both the House and Senate, which is not expected to happen.
However, by formally submitting the requests, Trump has forced funding for the programs to cease until the request is considered.
Biden can rescind the request, which he is expected to do, thus freeing the funds. However, there will still be a pause in funding until the inauguration.