Benefits for Families and Nonprofits Also Applauded

Readers of the New York Times were recently treated to an interesting, if not fascinating, article about how, casting aside complaints within his own party, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) boldly worked to promote, in the latest pandemic relief bill, a $2.75 billion allocation for nonpublic schools. And, surprisingly, he did it with the approval of Ms. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Less surprising, as the Times further pointed out, Senator Schumer pursued the deal in response to pleas from nonpublic school representatives, particularly those from the Orthodox Jewish and Catholic communities.

Throughout the course of the year, Agudath Israel of America, a longtime advocate for yeshivas in New York and across the country, worked with allies to emphasize to Senator Schumer and others the importance of this relief to nonpublic schools that suffered, academically and financially, from the effects of the pandemic. Indeed, a large segment of nonpublic schools – including Jewish schools — have demonstrated their commitment this past year to re-open their programs to in-person learning and have expended significant sums to ensure that students and teachers are safe. This was communicated in ongoing memos, emails, phone calls, and zoom conferences. And Senator Schumer was listening.

“Our schools, no less than their public school counterparts, have faced enormous challenges over the past year and are in desperate need of this vital aid,” observed Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s Vice President for Government Affairs and Washington Director. “We are enormously grateful to Senator Schumer for his sensitivity to these concerns and for courageously standing up to help address them.”

Earlier proposals that had advocates in both the House and Senate either offered nothing to non public schools, or a limited percentage of aid for a single designated purpose. But these were rejected by the Senator after hearing the concerns of Jewish, Catholic and other nonpublic school advocates.

Other provisions of the COVID relief bill that Agudath Israel had made priorities throughout the legislative process were also included in the final bill. They will benefit needy Americans, and particularly many in the Orthodox Jewish community who face the financial challenges of raising large families. These include cash allowances and tax credits for needy parents and children, and expansion of aid to nonprofits that cater to the needs of our communities.

Stimulus Checks of $1,400 per individual and $2,800 for those filing jointly. In addition, there will be a payment of $1,400for each dependent, including higher ed students and other qualifying relatives. These include relevant phase outs and conditions.

Child Tax Credits will be expanded to $3,600 for each child under age 6, and $3,000 for each child ages 6 to 17. These credits are refundable, so that payments will be made even when no tax is due from the filer. Here, too, there are relevant phase outs and conditions.

PPP Program will be extended and expanded. As Senator Schumer ensured since the first COVID relief bill, shuls and other religious entities will be eligible to participate in the critical Paycheck Protection Program, helping our local institutions continue to serve our communities. A further accomplishment by Senators Schumer and Ben Cardin (D-MD), and a top priority for Agudath Israel, is the expansion of PPP assistance to include not only small, but also midsize, entities, covering many needy institutions in the Orthodox community.

The bill also includes assistance for housing, food, vaccines, and small businesses, unemployment benefits, and various tax credits.

“The COVID relief bill will bring an enormous amount of assistance to the nation and to the Jewish community in New York and elsewhere,” noted Rabbi David Zwiebel, Agudath Israel’s Executive Vice President. “When Orthodox needs are at stake, Agudath Israel springs into action. But we know that Chuck Schumer is right there with us, in the forefront of the good fight.”

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