Representative Karen Bass for California’s 37th congressional district, held a town hall meeting regarding the approval of the COVID-19 relief bill. Congresswoman Bass along with fellow state officials addressed the details of the $900 billion stimulus package, and how the bill will impact the citizens of Los Angeles.
The state officials who attended the meeting were Assembly member Sydney Kamlager-Dove, Deputy Associate Admin for the Office of Field Operations Victor Parker, President & CEO of the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County (CCALAC) Louise McCarthy, and member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Holly J. Mitchell.
The meeting began with Congressmember Bass reporting that “We wanted to have this townhall tonight to talk to everyone in the district to make sure that you understand what happened, and how it impacts you. So, tonight we’re going to talk about the facts. We’re going to talk about what was passed, and we’re also going to talk about how you can access the resources.”
The relief package unveiled Monday afternoon, and in a matter of hours The State Senate cleared the package by a 92-6 votes, then after the House approved it by another one-sided vote of 359-53.
The $900 billion relief package is set to include direct payments of up to $600 per adult/per child, unemployment benefits will receive up to $300 per week through mid-March, $25 billion will go to families that need help paying their rent, $284 billion will go to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, $45 billion will go to transportation-related assistance, $82 billion in funding will go to schools and universities to assist with reopening, $13 billion in the measure will aid to agriculture and farmers, another $13 billion for support of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, $7 billion to broadband Internet companies, and $68 billion will also go to purchasing and distributing COVID-19 vaccines as well as help states conduct testing.
Over the last few weeks, skepticism has echoed around the Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Some are citing the Tuskegee study while others are questioning the motives of the pharmaceutical industry. Congressmember Bass addressed the skepticism saying, “People always cite Tuskegee, I’m tired of hearing about Tuskegee because we have problems today! Black women die in childbirth, in the richest country in the history of the world, [that’s] completely obscene! We still have health disparities, and I do not’ want those health disparities to get worse because we refuse to take the vaccine.”
Representative Bass and CCALAC Louise McCarthy assured the vaccine’s safety, compelling people to go out and get vaccinated the first chance they get. McCarthy stated “We need 75% of the population to be vaccinated for this to work. If other folks do not take it, it’s going to be a problem.” Bass stated, “I had the first shot of the vaccine on Friday, I am going to have my second shot in January, and I would strongly encourage everyone to get the shot as soon as it is available to you.”
Currently, each week, doses are being released by companies for distribution; therefore, reaching the public in ripples at a time. Each person of LA County will be receiving information from their provider on when and how to sign up for vaccination.
McCarthy says, “We are going in phases, and we are currently in phase 1A. In phase 1A., we are first [vaccinating] frontline employees and a few care hospitals. Then to residents and staff of nursing facilities. Ambulance care workers are coming up quick, as well as EMS and first responders are starting this week and the next.”
The reapplication of the PPP loan, or PPP2 as some are calling it, has certainly been a noted as serious topic of concern. The loan contains many similarities as the first round, but there have also been several important differences that are allowing a higher approval qualifications rate for types of businesses. Businesses with 500 or fewer employees are eligible for other SBA 7(a) loans. Sole proprietors, independent contractors, self-employed individuals are eligible; as well as, non-profits—churches included, and food services operations with fewer than 300 employees per physical location.
Associate Admin for the Office of Field Operations Victor Parker said, “As you may recall, early in the first-round folks were unable to obtain funding from some of the larger banks that they may have historically worked with. Now we have brought on board many new community lenders, as well as CDFI’s that will be able to provide funding for this round as well.” Parker mentioned that, “My office will absolutely be able to help you find and navigate those lenders. I encourage small businesses to verify before you start providing your personal information, your tax returns, ect. Please verify that it is a legitimate SBA lender, and my office could do that for you.”
President Trump stirred things up by releasing a video on Twitter saying “I’m asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2000 or $4000 per couple… I’m also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items in this legislation or to send me a suitable bill,” just a few hours before the town hall meeting.
Congresswoman Bass dismissed Trump’s negotiation attempt, she stated, “I do agree with President Trump that $600 is a ridiculous amount. We absolutely wanted it to be $2000. You may not remember, but under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, we passed a bill that provided $1200 earlier this year. I think that bill has been sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk, I believe it has been 6 months now.” Congresswoman Bass ensured that this package will not be the last. She unofficially announced that “We absolutely believe that this bill is just a down payment. We wanted to pass a bill to get something to people before the end of the year, but we absolutely will be back at it after President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris are sworn in.”