Boris Tsang/Sun Senior Photographer

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) discusses the American Rescue Plan at a press conference outside Cinemapolis on March 22, 2021.

March 23, 2021

Sen. Schumer Announces Relief Bill to Southern Tier, Providing Stimulus Checks and Small Business Aid

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Standing in front of a handful of onlookers while wearing an “Ithaca is Gorges” mask Monday afternoon, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) celebrated the passing of the massive COVID relief bill, the American Rescue Plan, that has hit Ithaca. 

The American Rescue Plan, which aims to provide additional relief for individuals and small businesses that were affected by the pandemic, will provide $1,400 to thousands of Southern Tier residents. This act will also distribute millions of dollars to some of the hardest hit industries like independent movie theaters and restaurants.

The U.S. senate majority leader told reporters in front of Cinemapolis that the American Rescue Plan will cut the child poverty rate in half through three ways. It will make the child tax credit fully refundable and increase the credit amount to $3,000. It also strengthens the earned-income tax credit, a tax break for low to moderate income workers and families. Finally, it will provide eligible individuals with $1,400 stimulus checks. 

Among those who spoke at the event was Latishia Abdellatif, an Ithaca resident, who discussed the relief the stimulus checks provided after struggling to pay bills during the pandemic to keep her family afloat.

“Families like myself, I’ve waited by the TV for this bill to pass and kept checking my bank account until I got the money because I wanted to pay bills. I needed to pay bills,” Abdellatif said to The Sun. “I wanted to thank [Schumer] in person to let him know we do need the money and you did the right thing. I’m being rescued by this rescue plan.”

The plan will also support local governments — $17.02 million will go to the City of Ithaca. At the event, Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 thanked Schumer for funneling vital support to small businesses and assisting Ithaca when the city needed help.

The funds, which the city can use flexibly, will help to make up for lost revenue during the pandemic, Myrick told The Sun Monday. Since this funding is larger than the city’s current deficits, it would help the city make new investments in infrastructure, like building new sidewalks or replacing parking garages, that could have positive ripple effects across the city.

“The effect that [stimulus checks and child tax credit] has on crime rates into the future and on sales tax receipts right now, is impossible to calculate,” Myrick said. “It’s really going to be an enormous benefit for the city.”  

The plan will also provide an additional $19.82 million for Tompkins County. Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, chair of Tompkins County Legislature, stressed the importance of this bill for families. The plan will provide more than $227 million for Southern Tier K-12 schools. These flexible funds will help schools reopen for complete in-person instruction and provide further support for students that will need it. Most of the school districts in the county have a form of hybrid learning, with some students participating virtually and others in-person.

“For the county itself, getting $19 million, really would be the biggest help toward that economic recovery push that we need,” McBean-Clairborne told The Sun. “For our families … there’s that beacon of hope for them.”

In addition to K-12 schools, colleges and universities in the Southern Tier will also receive more than $161 million from the plan. Cornell is receiving $33 million, half of which must go to students in the form of financial aid awards. 

Brett Bossard, the executive director of Cinemapolis, and R.J. Lavine, managing director of the Hangar Theatre, thanked Schumer for championing the arts. 

The Save Our Stages provision gives $1.25 billion to independent live venues, performing arts organizations, cultural institutions and independent movie theaters. It gives venues access to both a Paycheck Protection Program loan and a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, deducting the PPP loan from the grant amount. A PPP loan is designed to encourage businesses to keep their workers on payroll.

Bossard and Lavine said this bill will help prepare them to bounce back from the pandemic in 2020, when Cinemapolis temporarily closed while the Hangar Theatre replaced their live programming with virtual events. Cinemapolis is now open for rented private screenings, and the Hangar Theatre recently announced a socially distant summer 2021 Outdoor Mainstage Season. 

“We need the arts to connect us as a community,” Lavine said. “We can’t take the arts for granted.”