Beyond $600: How COVID-19 relief, spending bills will help Delaware

Floating wetlands at Trap Pond State Park.

Floating wetlands at Trap Pond State Park. (DNREC)

The most direct impact individual Americans will see from the COVID-19 stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump Sunday night will be payments of $600, which will be sent out in the coming weeks.

And while there has been debate over whether that amount should have been higher, President-elect Joe Biden has said any assistance Congress approved in its lame-duck session before his inauguration would be just a “down payment” on further assistance his administration would offer.

The $600 payments have gotten the lion’s share of attention, but plenty of other funding is coming to the First State.

That includes an extra $300 per week for people receiving unemployment benefits through March 2021. Businesses hit hard by the pandemic will be able to apply for a second round of the Paycheck Protection Program to keep paying their workers. The Small Businesses Debt Relief Program is also being extended. Nationwide, more than $8 billion in debt relief has been distributed, with about 900 small businesses participating in the program’s initial run.

“This package will provide prompt aid to our small businesses, especially those hardest-hit by this pandemic,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, “to working Delawareans who were laid off through no fault of their own; and to our families that are struggling to pay rent and put food on the table.”

Coons echoed Biden’s in suggesting more relief should come under the new administration in 2021.

“This must not be the last relief bill,” Coons said, “but it’s a strong compromise that will deliver relief to the Delawareans who need it before the holidays.”

The extra help is long overdue, Coons added. “The support we provided through the CARES Act back in March needed to be extended months ago,” he said. “We’ve expanded SNAP benefits, we’ve extended help for food banks and hungry Americans, but there are far too many hungry Americans.”

Along with the stimulus bill, Trump signed a massive federal spending bill into law that keeps the government functioning. That funding includes money for a whole host of items that will directly affect Delaware.

It contains $87.5 million to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, which includes a portion of southwestern Delaware. Another $10 million is allocated for the Delaware River Basin Restoration program, and $63 million is tied to avian health programs to help combat disease in the poultry industry, a major source of employment in southern Delaware.

Lawmakers also approved the Water Resources Development Act, which has a significant impact on Delaware as the lowest-lying state in the nation.

According to U.S. Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, who co-authored the legislation, the act “implements several much-needed reforms to fortify our most vulnerable communities in the First State from the impacts of climate change and rebuild our beaches.”

As part of an effort to combat the effects of climate change, the WRDA requires the Army Corps of Engineers to update existing planning guidance related to sea level rise based on the best available, peer-reviewed science.

The bill also authorizes the construction of the Delaware Dredged Material Utilization Project for coastal storm damage reduction. The project will provide $186.5 million in federal investment toward dredging projects along the Delaware Bay, from Pickering Beach to Lewes Beach, providing critical protections to those bay communities.

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