Senate Democrats

S. 3689, the Economic Recovery Act of 2008

On November 17, 2008, Majority Leader Reid introduced S.3689, the Economic Recovery Act of 2008, which was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar on November 19. The bill is co-sponsored by chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Byrd. Drafted in response to the nation’s deepening economic crisis, the legislation contains a package of economic stimulus measures aimed at addressing high unemployment, state budget shortfalls, the struggling auto industry, and rising food and energy costs. The bill also makes significant infrastructure investments in an effort to rebuild our roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure — and to create new jobs. The legislation also increases loan opportunities for small businesses and expands affordable housing and foreclosure prevention resources. In total, this package contains $100.3 billion to promote economic recovery and create over 635,000 jobs.

It is anticipated that Majority Leader Reid will ask for consent to begin consideration of S.3689 on November 19.

Major Provisions

For a complete summary of the bill, please see the Senate Appropriations Committee summary here.

Unemployment:S.3689 would extend unemployment benefits by seven weeks in all states and extend unemployment benefits by 13 weeks in states with high unemployment rates.

State Assistance:S.3689 would include $37.8 billion in assistance to states to reduce state Medicaid costs by increasing the Federal share of costs by eight percent.

Auto Industry Assistance:S.3689 would provide $25 billion in loans for the auto industry from the $700 billion already allocated under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. The companies would be required to provide a long-term financial plan and be subject to oversight and executive compensation rules.

Tax Relief for New Car Purchases:S.3689 would provide that consumers purchasing new cars between November 12, 2008 and December 31, 2009 receive “above the line” tax deductions for interest payments on car loans and state sales/excise taxes. Families who make less than $250,000, or individuals making less than $125,000 a year, would qualify for the full deduction.

Food Assistance:S.3689 would temporarily increase Food Stamp benefits by 10 percent to help low-income families with rising food costs. The bill includes $445 million for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, $50 million for Food Banks, $8 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food program (CSFP), and $60 million for senior meal programs.

Addressing High Energy Prices:S.3689 would provide $500 million for Weatherization Assistance Programs, which would improve the energy efficiency of roughly 300,000 homes.

Energy Independence and Environmental Cleanup:S.3689 would include $300 million for Advanced Battery Technology and $1 billion for the advanced battery loan guarantee program which would authorize more than $3.3 billion in loan guarantees. The bill also includes $500 million to assist local governments improve energy efficiency, $500 million for grants to develop energy efficient and renewable energy projects, and $140 million to improve the electricity transmission grid.

Over $5 billion is included for environmental clean up projects including $1.12 billion for the Department of Energy’s Environmental Cleanup programs of former nuclear weapons production plants and $500 million in public-private funding for the restoration of National Park Service facilities and the creation of programs.

Building Infrastructure and Job Creation:S.3689 would provide $13.5 billion for building and repairing highways, bridges, mass transit systems, airports, and AMTRAK.

$10 billion is included for highway investments and $2.5 billion is included for transit agencies to meet their capital and operating needs. In addition, $400 million is included to fund capital projects along the Amtrak corridor, $500 million for capital improvements at airports across the country, $120 million for marine transportation investment and improving shipyard capacity, $50 million for Economic Development Administration (EDA) economic adjustment grants, $500 million for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to accelerate the purchase and installation of security equipment at airports, $792 million in loans and grants for community facilities in rural areas, $172 million for the USDA to upgrade computer systems which are necessary for the implementation of the new Farm Bill, and $1 billion for the Corps of Engineers to perform work which would provide construction jobs.

Housing:S.3689 would provide $700 million for capital funding grants for public housing agencies to make needed repairs and upgrades and $200 million to provide additional assistance in response to rising energy costs. The bill would also include $575 million for families and individuals facing foreclosure to provide relocation and temporary housing assistance; $3.2 billion in direct and guaranteed single family housing (SFH) loans; more than $51 million to assist the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) meet new demands and update its systems; and $37.5 million for the Legal Services Corporation to provide legal assistance to families facing foreclosure proceedings.

Military Families:S.3689 would provide $175 million for the construction and improvement of military family housing at Army and Air Force installations and $75 million for the construction of child development centers at Navy installations.

Education and Job Training:S.3689 would provide $2.5 billion for school repairs, $600 million for training programs and employment opportunities for teenagers and dislocated workers, $200 million for the Community Services Block Grants to serve low-income families, and $36 million for the education of homeless children.

Health Assistance:S.3689 would provide $1 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to award research grants, $46 million for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to combat infectious diseases, and $905 million for the Public Health and Social Services (PHSSEF) to support our preparedness against a bioterrorist event or influenza pandemic.

Small Business:S.3689 would provide $615 million to support $22.5 billion in zero-fee loans to small businesses under the 7(a) program and the 504 program. In addition, $1 million to support $10 million in new microloans for small businesses and $4 million for technical assistance for these borrowers. $1.07 billion for loans and grants to support business opportunities and expand employment in rural areas.

Crime Prevention and Safety:S.3689 would provide over $1 billion for border security initiatives and homeland security investments. Other investments include $303 million for improved border security technology, $201 million for the construction and repair of border stations, $490 for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants to support State and local police in their efforts to fight crime, $500 million for the COPS hiring programs, and $50 million for efforts to apprehend fugitive sex offenders.

Science:S.3689 would provide $400 million for NASA to move more quickly toward the completion of a new space vehicle. $175 million to fund research and infrastructure needs at the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. $100 million to implement Section 1051 of the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act and enhance security measures at the National Nuclear Security Administration complex.

Disaster Assistance: Under S.3689, funds would be directed to provide additional loans to communities suffering from disasters in 2008 including the Midwest floods and Hurricanes Ike and Gustav. Those communities whose local economies have been impacted by 25 percent or more would be able to apply for loans up to 50 percent of their pre-storm revenue.

Consumer Protection:S.3689 would further provide $13.1 million to implement new authorities of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, including enhanced enforcement, market surveillance, and oversight of the futures markets. The bill would also include $75 million for the FBI to investigate mortgage fraud claims and $10.5 million for the Treasury Inspector General to conduct reviews of the recent failure of many banks.

Legislative History

On November 17, 2008, Majority Leader Reid introduced S.3689, the Economic Recovery Act of 2008, which was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar on November 19. The bill is co-sponsored by chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Byrd. It is anticipated that Senator Reid will ask for consent to begin consideration of the measureon November 19.

S.3689 is the latest in a series of measures to repair and boost the American economy. In February, Congress passed the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-185). The bill was an early response to the nation’s emerging economic downtown. It provided a $300 to $600 rebate and a $300 per child tax credit; helped families at risk of foreclosure by expanding mortgage financing opportunities; and promoted job-creating business investments by providing tax relief for American businesses, especially small businesses. In June, Congress passed an emergency extension of unemployment benefits as part of the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008 (P.L. 110-252). In July, Congress passed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-289), a comprehensive legislative package to help American homeowners and stabilize the housing markets while maintaining fiscal responsibility.

In September, faced with increased long term unemployment and a deepening economic crisis, Congress began consideration of a second economic recovery package The House passed H.R.7110, the Job Creation and Unemployment Relief Act of 2008, on a vote of 264 to 158, and the Senate attempted to pass a similar measure, S.3604, the Economic Recovery Act of 2008. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans blocked further consideration of S.3604 on a 52 to 42 vote (60 required).

In October, the House passed H.R.6867, the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2008 on a vote of 368 to 28, which includes unemployment insurance extension provisions similar to those in S.3689. H.R.6867 was also placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar on November 18.

Given the economy’s continued decline, Senate Democrats are working to pass S.3689, the Economic Recovery Act of 2008, which is an updated version of S.3604,during the week of November 17. If blocked, Senate Democrats will work to pass a smaller package, S.3688, the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2008, which includes unemployment insurance extension and auto-loan provisions similar to those included in S.3689 and H.R.6867 (unemployment insurance only), in an effort build upon earlier recovery measures and get the nation’s economy working again.

Expected Amendments

At the time of this writing, no amendments are expected to S.3689.

Administration Position

At the time of this writing, no Statement of Administration Position has been issued for S.3689.  

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