In the News

Houlahan holds town hall in support of small businesses, decries breach of U.S. Capitol

Originally published in Daily Local

U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th, of Easttown, held a virtual town hall on Monday hosted by the Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry.

While the focus was Congressional action to support small businesses in wake of the ongoing pandemic — including relief for nonprofit organizations — the conversation concurrently tackled recent happenings at the Capitol.

Houlahan, during the Jan. 11 virtual town hall, via Zoom, provided a platform for business owners and nonprofit leaders in Chester County to ask questions to the congresswoman on opening up the economy again, and schools, and discussion on en route new COVID-19 relief measures to help Americans overcome the financial strain brought about by the pandemic which the president declared a national emergency on March 13 last year.

One item brought up during the Zoom event was a call to expand limited liability protection for businesses in wake of the pandemic.

Houlahan expressed support for the leaders of Chester and Berks counties who have called for municipal relief to overcome the pain caused from the COVID-19 crisis.

Still, the conversation on Monday continued to return to “what just went down” at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“This was an insurrection,” Houlahan said, referring to a pro-Trump mob breaching the Capitol, an incident that resulted in the deaths of five people.

“We need to act in a unified way to protect our democracy.”

Houlahan represents Pennsylvania’s 6th congressional district. The district spans Kennett Square in Chester County to Reading in Berks County. Pennsylvanians first elected Houlahan as the U.S. representative for the 6th Congressional District in 2018. She has held countless town halls in support of small businesses and nonprofit organizations since the pandemic crisis began last year.

In addition to an insurrection, a pandemic, and the cry from small businesses and nonprofits, as well as municipality governments, for financial relief from the federal government, censorship is also now a hot topic on the American political stage.

After the breach by many violent insurrectionists on the Capitol on Jan. 6, tech giants, including Twitter and Facebook, censored the president and banned his accounts from sharing additional information on those platforms.

Houlahan was present during the attack on Congress, as was Vice President Mike Pence and members of his family.

When asked by the Daily Local News what has been the most important lesson learned on Jan. 6, Houlahan responded: “That democracy and truth prevail and that we are strong and resilient.”

On Monday, the Daily Local News asked the congressional representative what is the role of censorship in American society today and how does the First Amendment ensure free speech, free press and a free nation.

“Every American citizen has the right to free speech including our elected representatives,” Houlahan said. “For me, part of elected leadership is a mandate to use that right to speak freely to tell the truth to your constituents, no matter how difficult and sometimes unwelcome that truth may be.”

Houlahan is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and an engineer with a lauded degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her father, Andrew Jampoler also served in the military as a naval pilot.

“Both as an Air Force veteran and now as a congresswoman, I have taken an oath to uphold, support and defend the U.S. Constitution. I am continually inspired by my community, this ‘purple’ place, every day to lead with our values and serve this great democracy,” she said.

Houlahan told members of the chamber of commerce that there is still much work to accomplish to get everyone out of the pandemic.

“There’s quite a lot going on in Washington that’s unrelated to what we’re talking about right now,” she told listeners at the close of the Zoom event on Monday. “My head and my heart are still very much engaged in this issue,” regarding saving small businesses and nonprofits in Chester County from going under.

Many small businesses have closed forever in Chester County in wake of the ongoing pandemic and coupled with gubernatorial restrictions imposed since last winter on businesses deemed "non-essential" by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.

Across the nation, thanks to the pandemic and government restrictions on gatherings, media across the nation has estimated that half of America's small businesses have permanently closed their doors forever.

Many of these businesses include family-owned and operated restaurants which have served as flagship destinations along Main Street communities across America for generations.

Now 2021, and 10 months since the national COVID-19 emergency officially began last March, people in Chester County and beyond are still suffering financially from the impact Wolf’s COVID-19 restrictions imposed on their businesses, including limitations on gatherings and limited capacity mandates of social hubs from restaurants and barber shops.

In Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth forbid restaurants from offering patrons in-person dining services during the recent holiday season, the restriction lasted from December until Jan. 4. Now restaurants may serve people inside again at 50 percent capacity.

Houlahan remains hopeful for the future, and is working with the incoming President-Elect Joe Biden and his administration on next steps. She’s advocating for more relief for local and regional bodies, businesses, nonprofits and calling for faster rollouts of COVID-19 vaccines for American citizens.

Yet, America remains deeply divided today in 2021. 

A divided America. Concurrently, Biden has pledged to unite the nation. Biden traveled to D.C. for decades from his family home base, which is south of Hockessin and adjacent to the Tatnall School, and just a few miles shy of Southern Chester County near Landenberg, along the White Clay Watershed. U.S. Secret Service have steadily guarded the compound since the day President Barack Obama first nominated Biden as his running mate back in August 2008.

Meanwhile, on Jan. 11, ABC News reported that the FBI has received information indicating armed protests are being planned at all 50 state Capitols in the days leading up to Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.

“All who perpetrated this offense on our democracy must be held accountable — that is not partisan,” Houlahan said. “It is American.”

The future remains unwritten. Folks often said last year, “It’s 2020. Anything can happen!” 2021 is surely off to another unprecedented beginning. No president has ever been impeached twice in American history.

And while most people around the world have condemned the violence that struck the Capitol building on Jan. 6, the call for free speech is equally being echoed as paramount — in democratic societies — from Philadelphia to Berlin.

On Monday, outgoing, and long-serving, German Chancellor Angela Merkel decried Twitter’s decision to ban President Trump from its global social platform for being “problematic” — declaring the tech giant's move a breach of the “fundamental right to free speech."

“This fundamental right can be intervened in, but according to the law and within the framework defined by legislators, not according to a decision by the management of social media platforms,” the chancellor said via spokesperson Steffen Seibert in Berlin. “Seen from this angle, the chancellor considers it problematic that the accounts of the U.S. president have now been permanently blocked.”

Freedom of speech, the right to peacefully assemble and a free press are all guaranteed in the U.S. Bill of Rights under the First Amendment.

“We heal by being united in the face of adversity,” Houlahan said. “We must hold accountable all of those responsible for the attack on the U.S. Capitol. This was an attack on us all. We must work tirelessly to contain and beat the COVID pandemic and to build a more inclusive and robust economy.”