Originally published in the Reading Eagle.
Members of Congress representing Berks County had mixed reactions to the approval of a sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on Wednesday.
The 220-211 vote in the House of Representatives almost entirely along party lines now sends the American Rescue Plan to President Joe Biden's desk. The plan includes $1,400 checks for millions of people, nearly $7.3 billion for small businesses, about $7.5 billion to distribute vaccines and $81 million for Berks County.Here's what they had to say:
Rep. Dan Meuser, a Luzerne County Republican
"Over the past year, Congress passed five bipartisan and targeted relief bills totaling $3.7 trillion to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. These packages have succeeded in supporting our economy through the worst of this crisis.
"Now, Democrat leadership wants to spend another $2 trillion on an excessive spending bill that directs just 1% towards vaccines and provides far beyond what is needed to fuel our continued recovery.
"States will receive $350 billion, on top of the $500 billion already allocated, despite the fact that in many states, revenue is actually up. Significantly supplemented unemployment compensation will be extended through September, even as businesses need employees to return to the workforce and fill open positions. Felons, including currently incarcerated murderers, will receive a stimulus check paid for by the taxpayers. Federal workers will receive up to $35 an hour, in addition to their full salary, to care for a child learning from home
"When we should be focused on economic recovery, getting our children back to school, and vaccine distribution, Democrats are intent on passing legislation that caters to special interests, while also enormously expanding our national debt and the role of the federal government in our lives."
Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, a Chester County Democrat
"Today marks a major turning point in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The American Rescue Plan will help tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians, and I’m proud to have helped secure provisions that will directly uplift our community: stimulus checks, increased support for small businesses, aid for state and local governments to accelerate vaccine distribution, funds for our schools to both safely and quickly reopen, enhanced unemployment for Pennsylvanians who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, support for our childcare centers so parents can go back to work knowing their children are safe and more.
"This is the relief our commonwealth so desperately needs to weather the last stage of this crisis, to reopen and to rebuild."
Rep. Madeleine Dean, a Montgomery County Democrat, has not yet issued a statement.