02.10.09

Economic Recovery Bill Will Create Jobs and Support Families in Rhode Island, Whitehouse Says

Bill Includes Measures Whitehouse Championed to Increase Social Security Benefits and Support Doctors Who Invest in Health Information Technology

Washington, D.C. - Economic recovery legislation passed by the U.S. Senate today will create thousands of Rhode Island jobs, cut taxes for working families, and make critical investments in our state's future, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said today. Whitehouse worked to include provisions to boost Social Security payments to seniors and disabled Americans and invest in health information technology.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will create or save 13,000 Rhode Island jobs over the next two years; provide a refundable tax credit up to $1,000 for 470,000 Rhode Island workers and their families; make 14,000 Rhode Island families eligible for a new, $2,500, partially refundable American Opportunity Tax Credit to make college affordable; and offer an additional $100 per month in unemployment insurance benefits to 86,000 workers in Rhode Island who have lost their jobs in this recession. Rhode Island would also receive approximately $132 million for road and bridge repair; $46 million to improve drinking water and sewer systems; $12 million for Weatherization Assistance; and $7 million for police departments.

"This is a positive step forward for America," said Whitehouse. "It will give President Obama and our local governments the tools they need to put people back to work, jump-start our faltering economy, and support our struggling families. Obviously, there's much more that will need to be done in the weeks and months ahead, but this is an important first step in our efforts to get our country back on track."

Last month, Whitehouse asked Senate leaders to consider a temporary increase in Social Security benefits as part of the recovery legislation. Whitehouse emphasized that fixed incomes and reliance on costly prescription drugs make older and disabled Americans particularly vulnerable to economic downturns. He also noted that Social Security recipients, who often live on fixed incomes, are more likely to spend such funds rather than save them, helping further stimulate the economy.

The Senate bill, as passed today, includes a provision along these lines to provide a one time increase of $300 to all Social Security and SSDI recipients. That would mean over $40 million for Rhode Island alone, where more than 138,000 seniors received Social Security benefits in 2007, the most recent information available. Social Security benefits in 2007 averaged just $12,956 per recipient per year.

Whitehouse also spearheaded an effort to create central and regional resource centers to provide information and assistance to doctors who implement health information technology systems. In a speech on the Senate floor last week, Whitehouse stressed that "this bill doesn't just hand out grants to buy big, fancy new boxes of equipment to sit in office closets. This bill includes implementation assistance so that doctors have a little help opening that box, installing that technology, and putting it to work on behalf of their patients."

The economic recovery bill also includes $18 billion in Medicare and Medicaid incentives for doctors who use health IT in their practices to improve the quality of care for their patients, as well as $3 billion for grants, loan programs, and other provisions to enhance our health IT infrastructure.

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