Clarke, Jeffries vote yes on historic American Rescue Plan

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, left, listens as Congresswoman Yvette Clarke speaks during a press conference outside police headquarters in New York.
Associated Press/Bebeto Matthews, file

Brooklyn Democratic Congressional Representatives Yvette D. Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries on Wednesday joined their Democratic colleagues in the US House of Representatives in voting for final passage of H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act.

The landmark, life-saving legislation will provide urgently-needed resources to defeat COVID-19 virus, and put vaccines in people’s arms, money into families’ pockets, children safely back into classrooms and people back to work.

President Joe Biden was expected on Thursday to sign the measure into law.

“Millions of Americans are feeling the daily devastation of the pandemic, not only in their lost loved ones or their health but in their ability to put food on the table or send their kids to school safely,” said Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.

“With 530,000 Americans’ lives lost, millions without jobs and countless more suffering silently, my greatest fear for relief was doing too little,” she added. “I am proud to support the American Rescue Plan, which I know will bring our country’s people the aid they deserve, and save lives and livelihoods.”

Speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives in support of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and a member of the Budget Committee, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic is “a once-in-a-century crisis.

“It requires a once-in-a-century comprehensive, compassionate and continuing congressional response,” said Jeffries, whose 8th Congressional District includes parts of Brooklyn and Queens. “That is what the American Rescue Plan is all about.

“More than 500,000 Americans have died, hundreds of thousands of businesses have closed, almost 30 million Americans infected by the coronavirus, tens of millions of Americans dealing with unemployment or food insecurity or on the brink of homelessness,” he added. “So much pain, suffering and death, and our Republican colleagues want us to do nothing? What is wrong with you?

“We are going to act with the fierce urgency of now,” Jeffries continued. “We will crush the virus, we will provide direct relief to everyday Americans who are struggling, we will revive the economy.

“We will send the American Rescue Plan to President Biden’s desk,” the congressman said. “We will ‘Build Back Better for the People’. Help is on the way.”

The plan will mount a national vaccination program that includes setting up community vaccination sites nationwide and addressing disparities facing communities of color.

It will also take complementary measures to combat the virus, including scaling up testing and tracing, addressing shortages of personal protective equipment and other critical supplies, investing in high-quality treatments and addressing health care disparities.

The plan finishes the job on the President’s promise to provide $2,000 in direct assistance to households across America, with checks of $1,400 per person, following the $600 down payment enacted in December.

The plan will also provide direct housing assistance, nutrition assistance for 40 million Americans, expand access to safe and reliable child care and affordable health care, extend unemployment insurance, so that 18 million American workers can pay their bills and support 27 million children with an expanded Child Tax Credit and more than 17 million low-wage workers through an improved Earned Income Tax Credit.

The landmark legislation delivers $170 billion for education and $45 billion for child care providers.

This includes a $130 billion investment in K-12 school re-opening and making up for lost time in the classroom, with funds that can be used for such things as reducing class sizes, modifying spaces, so that students and teachers can socially distance; improving ventilation; implementing more mitigation measures; providing personal protective equipment; and providing summer school or other support for students that help make up lost learning time this year.

In addition, the American Rescue Plan provides more than $40 billion for higher education.

It will provide crucial support for the hardest-hit small businesses, especially those owned by entrepreneurs from racial and ethnic backgrounds that have experienced systemic discrimination, with EIDL grants, expanded PPP eligibility and more.

The plan provides crucial resources to protect the jobs of first responders, frontline public health workers, teachers, transit workers and other essential workers that all Americans depend on.

“Economists agree that the American Rescue Plan’s targeted, evidence-based action is needed – both for struggling families and for the American economy,” said Clarke, stating that the legislation’s provisions will generate $1.25 for every $1 of spending, cut child poverty in half and lift nearly 12 million people out of poverty.

“The facts are clear: the American Rescue Plan is what we need to beat COVID, safely reopen schools, deliver relief to working families and foster an inclusive recovery,” the congresswoman added. “I am honored to vote yes on the largest relief bill in American history and sent it to President Biden’s desk. To every American, we say: ‘help is on the way.’”

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