New York Congressman Antonio Delgado held a virtual town hall Wednesday. The Democrat from the 19th District answered a variety of questions, with some focused on frustration with getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
A few of the 15 questions selected from the more than 100 submitted before the Facebook live town hall, and even more in real time, focused on vaccine distribution. Steve from Sullivan County says there is frustration with scheduling and wanted to know how vaccine distribution could be improved.
“There’s definitely frustration,” says Delgado. “We, we, we hear it on the ground. We hear it from our phones and emails received from constituents.”
With demand far exceeding supply, Delgado says the federal government is working to balance the scales.
“There will be an increase in weekly shipments to states, by 5 percent, and there will be a program administered by the White house and federal government to directly supply doses to our pharmacies, which is going to be big for our seniors,” says Delgado. “I also will note that the White House expects to increase supply to states by 16 percent over the next three weeks and is buying an additional 100 million doses, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine.”
In addition to more supply, Delgado agrees there need to be more vaccination sites, and says the Biden administration hopes to direct money toward communities for vaccination clinics and mobile vaccination units. He says these would benefit rural communities such as those in his district.
“Ellen, from Columbia County, submitted the following question: I am 77 and I have had extreme difficulty getting a vaccine appointment. Will more vaccines be coming to more local sites so I do not have to travel a great distance?” says Delgado. “Ellen, this has been a common refrain.”
Before answering questions from constituents, though, Delgado talked about the contents of the latest COVID-19 relief package. He says while the package contained many beneficial pieces, there was a big piece missing.
“The one thing the last package did not include, which I certainly was incredibly frustrated over, was the lack of state and, specifically, local government funding,” Delgado says.
He hopes the next package, in the works, contains one of his measures.
“My bill, the Direct Support for Communities Act, a bipartisan bill, would ensure that there would be direct federal relief that would go not just to the state of New York but to every locality therein, irrespective of population size,” Delgado says.
He added more about the next package:
“The Biden administration has proposed a $1.9 trillion bill,” Delgado says. “I will note a highlight for me in that is the $350 billion in critical state and local relief funding.”
He says a positive in the last COVID relief package is another round of the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, to help some of the hardest hit businesses, with added flexibility for independent restaurants.
“PPP has helped over 9,000 small businesses in New York’s 19th congressional district keep the lights on and retain 73,000 employees, so the program certainly has done some good,” says Delgado.
Delgado’s office is hosting a webinar with the Small Business Administration, February 9 at 6 p.m.
“William, from Ulster County, what is your position on H.1 For the People?” says Delgado. “Well, William, I’m for it.”
H.R. 1 For the People Act is a bill for democracy reform, and proposes to expand voting access, stop voter suppression, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and more.
“It’s government for the people. And I really have an issue with folks who make it their agenda to make it more difficult for people to vote,” Delgado says. “You can’t say you’re for democracy or you’re for government for the people by the people, on the one hand, but then say you’re not of the mindset that we should try to make it so that people can vote, exercise this critical right.”
Mark from Rensselaer County says Biden promised a public option under the Affordable Care Act and wanted to know if the president would follow through.
“Well, I’m not going to speak for the president, but I can speak for myself, and I can tell you that getting a public option done is a top priority of mine,” Delgado says.
Other questions he addressed were about rural broadband, forgiving student loan debt and climate change.