Cantwell Hails Passage of Senate's Second Jobs Bill

Legislation extends credits critical to America's economic recovery

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined a super-majority of the Senate in passing legislation that will extend tax cuts, unemployment insurance benefits and health care for unemployed workers through the end of 2010. The bill, passed in a 62-36 vote, extends a package of tax cuts and other benefits, including some that were originally part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
“This legislation extends essential assistance to those who need it most in today’s economy,” Senator Cantwell said. “Cutting off unemployment insurance and health benefits for those who lose their jobs and employee coverage would have been a travesty in these difficult economic times.”
Among the extended benefits are a tax credit designed to promote construction of affordable rental housing, tax credits for energy-efficient homes and for the production of biodiesel fuel, and an extension of the state and local sales tax deduction. The American Workers, State and Business Relief Act (AWSBRA) provides tax fairness and stability American families and businesses need to recover from the recent financial crisis.
 “I’m very pleased the Senate was able to come together to extend credits for clean-energy alternatives, state and local sales tax deductions, and low-income housing credits that have already benefited millions across the country and brought over $90 million in investment to Washington state,” Senator Cantwell said. “With these tax cuts and other benefits, Americans have the stability, and businesses the certainty, they need to rebound.”
The bill extends through the end of 2010 the Tax Credit Exchange Program that was enacted as part of ARRA that makes it easier for states to use their allocation of low-income housing tax credits. The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit is the nation’s largest and most successful affordable rental housing production program. In recent years, the program has financed about 120,000 homes annually. However, due to the disruptions in the financial sector and credit markets, Congress created the Tax Credit Exchange Program in 2009 to allow states to elect to receive a direct payment in lieu of the tax credit. In Washington state just last year, the program directed $94.5 million toward the construction of 898 units of affordable housing that would not have been possible without the ARRA provision. Click here to see a breakdown of the affordable housing investment by Washington state county. The program has spurred projects that otherwise would have stalled for lack of financing, supporting jobs in at least 16 communities across the state. Extending the exchange option for another year will help deliver even more investment and jobs to the state.
The bill extends for six months the increased federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) made available to states in ARRA. This extension will provide states additional funding through June 30, 2011. Senator Cantwell strongly advocated the FMAP extension. Washington state will receive approximately $430 million as a result of this extension. 
The bill extends through 2010 the credit for the construction of energy-efficient new homes that achieve a 30 to 50 percent reduction in energy use, as well as the biodiesel tax credit. To date, this tax credit has helped encourage biofuel production to increase from 25 million gallons in 2004 to 690 million gallons in 2008. In 2008, this industry supported 51,893 jobs in the United States.
AWSBRA extends the state and local sales tax deduction through the end of 2010. Senator Cantwell is the main champion of this itemized deduction, which provides Washington residents parity with residents of states that have income taxes. Senator Cantwell pushed to create the deduction in 2004 and continues to support making the deduction permanent, but current practice is to extend it one year at a time. Read more about Senator Cantwell’s work on the state and local sales tax deduction.
Certain unemployment insurance benefits expired on February 28, 2010. Prior to expiration, an unemployed worker could receive up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits provided by the state and up to 53 additional weeks funded by the federal government depending on the state’s unemployment rate. AWSBRA extends these unemployment insurance benefits through the end of 2010 and retroactively to March 1, 2010.
AWSBRA extends Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) Premium Assistance, guaranteeing the continuation of the 65 percent health care coverage subsidy for terminated workers through the end of 2010. The subsidy was originally enacted as part of ARRA and was expanded later in 2009.