IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb: Greetings IATSE Sisters, Brothers, and Kin – it gives me great satisfaction and pride to report that on Thursday, March 11, 2021 President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law. This long-awaited, comprehensive COVID-19 relief legislation is a monumental victory for IATSE members and working people across the nation.
The IATSE membership — like so many across this country — have endured far too much over the last year. The American Rescue Plan Act will reduce suffering for those most impacted and put our members closer to getting back to the careers they love. We said from the beginning that the severity of this health crisis demands decisive action from our federal government. Saying this shouldn’t be a partisan statement. It was true a year ago, it was true during the November election, and it is true today.
And yet, every Republican member of Congress chose to vote against the American Rescue Plan and tried to stand between us and meaningful COVID-19 relief. Make no mistake, help is on the way, but it was only made possible because together we turned out in record numbers to elect pro-worker candidates to lead the executive branch and both chambers of the federal legislature.
I’ve asked IATSE Political/Legislative Director Tyler McIntosh to review the highlights of the law for IATSE members and local unions. Tyler…
Tyler McIntosh, IATSE Political & Legislative Director: Thank you, President Loeb and hello IATSE kin. It is an honor to share this hard-fought victory with you.
The American Rescue Plan Act delivers on IATSE’s most urgent priorities for subsequent COVID-19 relief legislation:
It extends unemployment insurance. The pandemic unemployment programs that were set to expire on March 14, including the current $300 weekly supplement, have been renewed for another six months through September 6. In addition, the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits received by households making less than $150,000 will not be subject to federal tax.
It provides $1,400 direct payments to individuals making less than $75,000 and married couples making under $150,000, as well as dependents. Partial payments will also be received by those making under $80,000 and couples under $160,000.
It fully subsidizes healthcare for those who have not yet returned to work. The law provides a 100% subsidy of COBRA through the end of September, so members can remain on multiemployer health plans. Individuals will not have to pay any premiums, for six months. The subsidy is also available to those who did not elect COBRA coverage during their original election period, as well as those who initially elected COBRA but let their coverage lapse.
For local unions with their own health plans, the employer or health insurance plan will be reimbursed for the full amount of COBRA premiums through a refundable payroll tax credit.
For those not eligible for COBRA, the bill also fully subsidizes Affordable Care Act coverage for two years for those on unemployment insurance and allows more individuals to qualify for subsidies.
It makes 501(c)(5) labor unions eligible for Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans. This means that local unions that have faced significant COVID-19-related declines in revenues can finally get the same federal assistance being offered to businesses and continue to provide critical support to their members.
It protects our healthy pension plans and delivers generational relief for the multiemployer pension system. $86 billion in financial assistance is provided to struggling multiemployer pension plans, to cover all benefits due through 2051, with no cuts. This delivers long-needed support to troubled plans, without jeopardizing healthy plans like ours through the draconian cuts that have been proposed in recent years. Ultimately this law has guaranteed the retirement security promised to workers for the long-term.
It provides a total of $445 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Corporation for Public Broadcasting; and an additional $1.25 billion for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program, which originated from the Save Our Stages campaign. This economic support will help our employers in the arts and entertainment industries stay afloat and get people back to work when it is safe to do so.
Additional provisions include expanding tax credits for employers who provide their employees with paid sick and family leave through September, extending the Employee Retention Tax Credit through December, providing housing assistance, providing $350 billion in state and local government aid, and significant funding for vaccinations and a plan to defeat the virus.
You made this possible. The collective political and legislative activism of IATSE members made this a reality. We’ve spoken a lot in the last year about how elections have consequences. We went to the polls in record numbers in 2020 to elect President Joe Biden and pro-worker Democratic majorities in Congress. We advocated tirelessly and demanded that IATSE worker priorities be included in a subsequent relief bill – and our voices were heard by the Democratic leadership and Members of Congress. Elections matter.
The American Rescue Plan Act provides relief to entertainment workers who remain out of work through no fault of their own and economic support until a safe return to work is possible, while also beginning to set the stage for the recovery of our industry.
Thank you for your activism, your continued perseverance, and your solidarity. In the words of President Biden, “help is on the way!”