Auchincloss Sends Letter to Leadership on District Needs Ahead of American Rescue Plan Mark-Up
Washington, D.C. - Today, Congressman Jake Auchincloss (D, MA-04), sent a letter to House and Senate leadership ahead of the Committee mark-ups of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan outlining his requests for district specific relief. In the letter, Congressman Auchincloss calls for funding for a national vaccine program to help supply meet demand and get as many Americans vaccinated as soon as possible; clear federal guidance, technical assistance, and funding to scale up testing and contact tracing to reopen schools and childcare centers; rental and homeowner assistance to prevent evictions and foreclosures; and relief for public transit agencies. A full text of the Congressman’s letter can be found attached and below:
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, and Leader McCarthy:
I write to you in support of urgently-needed relief to help my constituents recover and rebuild from this pandemic. It has been over one year since the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the United States, and while daily case counts are decreasing, over 90,000 Americans are testing positive each day and 80,000 remain hospitalized.[i] We are in a race between vaccinations and variants. It is essential we go big and bold with a relief package, and I urge you to include the following priorities for my district as we work to pass President Biden’s American Rescue Plan:
· Funding for a national vaccine program to help supply meet demand and get as many Americans vaccinated as soon as possible. Specifically, I urge you to include at least $20 billion for a national vaccination program in partnership with states, local governments, and Tribes and $10 billion to expand domestic manufacturing of vaccine components under the Defense Production Act. Congress should provide flexible funding for innovative solutions to address racial and socioeconomic disparities in access to vaccines, including mobile vaccination centers and community-based solutions.
· Clear federal guidance, technical assistance and funding to scale up testing and contact tracing to reopen schools and childcare centers. In Massachusetts, vaccine rollout is inching along, with teachers and school staff to be included in Phase 2 of the Commonwealth’s plan. As we work to get as many teachers vaccinated as soon as possible, we should follow the guidance of CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, with input from teachers’ unions, on re-opening the schools.[ii] We know that re-opening will require a concerted federal effort to help districts develop testing and contact tracing programs. As such, I urge you to include at least $130 billion in relief to elementary and secondary schools and $40 billion in emergency aid to childcare providers.
· Rental and homeowner assistance to prevent evictions and foreclosures. In my district, the median value of owner-occupied housing units is over $450,000, more than double the national average.[iii] The federal eviction moratorium is a short-term solution for a long-term problem—my constituents were already struggling to afford housing before the pandemic and now it is only getting worse. During a pandemic, our government should provide aid to those unable to afford rent and keep them in their homes, rather than driving them to homelessness or to congregate settings like shelters. To that end, I urge you to include at least $25 billion for emergency rental assistance and housing counseling services. I also support at least $10 billion for direct assistance to homeowners who cannot afford monthly mortgage payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
· Relief for public transit agencies to maintain needed levels of service, provide PPE to transit workers and support critical infrastructure that will get Americans back to work. In Massachusetts, the MBTA is looking at modifying service levels and furloughing workers. The December relief package delivered $250 million to the MBTA, $178 million of which will be used to replenish the capital budget that was used to address the existing deficit and up to $17 million to restore some service.[iv] To move closer toward full service and protect our workers, I urge you to provide $30 billion in relief for transit agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the ongoing threat of COVID-19.
Thank you for considering these top priorities for the people of Massachusetts’ Fourth Congressional District. I look forward to working with you to pass a robust relief package that addresses the acute needs of my district and communities across the country.