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4 S.D. Congressmembers extol $1.9T American Rescue Plan

By Donald H. Harrison | San Diego Jewish World, March 5, 2021

SAN DIEGO – Just how much is $1.9 trillion, and what can be done with that much money?  Well, on Friday, just to cover the basics of the American Rescue Plan that they all voted for, it took speeches by four Democratic members of Congress who represent San Diego County. Another eight speakers amplified on various aspects of the landmark legislation.

Congresswoman Sara Jacobs, who organized the press briefing at the Veterans Village of San Diego at 4141 Pacific Highway, detailed portions of the legislation even as the U.S. Senate was continuing to debate the House-passed bill.

She said the measure that was initially drafted in President Joe Biden’s White House, does the following:

“*Invests $20 billion in a nationwide vaccine program to get life-saving shots into arms.

*Provides $1,400 relief checks to people in need and extends pandemic related unemployment benefits.

*Will help small businesses stay afloat by expanding the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

*Makes $130 billion available immediately to schools to re-open safely and equitably.

“Will provide resources to our local governments so they provide services and support essential workers.”

Jacobs added that she is “particularly excited about the $40 billion allocated for child care, and the expansion of the Child Tax Credit, which will cut childhood poverty in this county in half.”

Further, said Jacobs, “with the American Rescue Plan, economists estimate that we  can bring the economy back to near full employment in a little over 12 months, creating 7.5 million jobs in 2021 alone.”

The congresswoman acknowledged that “it has been a really tough year” for Americans.  From losing loved ones and livelihoods, the isolation and the unknown, I’ve heard you, we’ve heard you.  It’s why we worked so hard to get this bill be done quickly.  Things are going to be tough for a little bit longer – we have to continue wearing masks and social distancing.  But help is on the way, and things are going to get better.”

Congressman Mike Levin, who in 2018 defeated Jacobs in a Democratic primary in a neighboring district, but who since has developed a strong working relationship with his former opponent, commented that “even as we are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel, people are losing loved ones to this virus; they are losing their jobs; they are losing their homes; they are losing their businesses.”

He said he met many people at the North County Food Bank, in his district, who “are still struggling to put food on the table – people who never had to go to a food bank before in their lives.  Maybe even people who had volunteered at the Food Bank who are using it for the first time. … It’s a national tragedy, a crisis that requires aggressive and bold action.”

He added, “The bill extends SNAP (food stamps) benefits by 15 percent; allocates $200 million … to support women and infants and expands eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program so that non-profits of all sizes and types—like our local food banks—will be able to make it through.”

“There is a new $25 billion  restaurant revitalization fund.  For all the restaurant owners in North County San Diego, I’ve heard you loud and clear, and help is on the way.”

Levin, who serves on the House Veteran Affairs Committee, told the veterans living at the Veterans Village of San Diego, “help is on the way.  The American Rescue Plan has $386 million for a rapid retraining program to help unemployed veterans get back to work.”

As one whose district includes Del Mar, Solana Beach, Carlsbad, Oceanside and Vista, he said he’s pleased that the plan has $33.4 million in federal aid for Oceanside, $26.6 million for Vista, $13.3 million for Carlsbad “and the list goes on.  This funding is desperately needed to keep our cities moving forward in a positive direction and to keep their employees, particularly their frontline workers, on the job.”

Congressman Juan Vargas, currently serving his fifth term in Congress, spoke both in Spanish and English, and was fulsome in his praise for Congresswoman Jacobs, who was elected in 2020 to the seat from which Susan Davis retired after 20 years service.  “The way she’s hit the ground running in Washington, you’d think that she’s an old pro.  Man, she has worked very, very hard, tirelessly, to make sure that we get things for San Diego, and I appreciate very much all the work you are doing and bringing us together today!”

He said that he was instrumental in securing $10 billion in the bill utilizing the Defense Production Act.  Of that $4 billion was to create state-of-the-art facilities capable of producing 100 million vaccines per month; $1 billion for a stockpile of essential raw materials and ancillary supplies for vaccines to be manufactured in the United States; $3 billion for additional supplies for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as N-95 masks.

“It has been a year and you can not go down over there to the Home Depot and get a mask,” he said.  “We used to be able to do that.  I know a lot of us woodworkers, we use them for other reasons, but I can tell you, Americans should have access to that.”  Current supplies are needed for health care workers, he pointed out, “but there should be enough for them and there should be enough for us.  And it shouldn’t be the case that these hospital workers have to wear the N-95 mask all day; the way it used to be is that they’d only use it for one patient, but there are not enough masks, and that’s why this bill allows us to produce more of them here.”

Vargas said another $2 billion is set aside for U.S. manufacturers to produce coronavirus test kit and other ancillary materials.

Congressman Scott Peters, who like Vargas is in his fifth term, commented that “there is a renewed sense of hope and with a few more months of dedicated vigilance, we should be looking at a more normal summer season and looking at getting our schools open, which our children, our families, and our economy all desperately need.”

One San Diego aspect of the bill on which Peters worked is the allocation of $1.75 billion for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to ramp up geonomic testing nationwide.  He said the U.S. currently tests O.3 percent of coronavirus cases, which is “lagging far behind other nations.  We have to survey at least 15 percent of the cases to better capture and understand the new and emerging (Covid) variants that you have heard about, so that we can understand the variants and guard against them.”  He added that San Diego has been on the cutting edge of geonomics research since 1985.”

Eight other speakers lauded the rescue plan.  They included the host of the event, Akilah Templeton, president and CEO of the Veterans Village of San Diego; County School Superintendent Paul Gothold; Justin Schlaefli, a board member of the San Diego Regional East County Chamber of Commerce; United Way CEO Nancy Sasaki; Dr. Christian Ramers, assistant medical director at the Family Health Centers of San Diego; Kim McDougal, the YMCA of San Diego County’s former executive director for Childcare Resource Services, and Risa and David Baron, owners of Jackie’s Jams, representing small business proprietors.

A fifth member of San Diego County’s congressional delegation is Republican Darrell Issa, who like his GOP colleagues in the House voted against the $1.9 trillion proposal.  He was not included in the news conference

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