The House is scheduled to vote this week on nearly $2 trillion in pandemic relief, but Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District says there are urgent needs that can’t wait the weeks it will take to finalize the package.
House committees have been working hard to put the final touches on President Joe Biden’s relief bill, but Golden says some needs should take immediate priority as states and local governments ramp up their vaccination efforts. Those include vaccine doses and distribution as well as personal protective equipment, which he says should be passed now.
“We need to walk and chew gum. And when it comes to investments that can speed up vaccination programs and our capacity to test around the country, that should go first,” he says.
Golden says the larger package is still essential, but includes items that are less immediate, such as the extension of federal unemployment benefits scheduled to run out in mid-March.
“We should simultaneously be able to continue building a response plan to other needs out there like the looming deadline for unemployment. But these things shouldn’t be mutually exclusive,” he says.
Under the budget reconciliation process, the bill passed by the House will go to the Senate, where it can be amended. Then any differences between the two versions will have to be negotiated, a process that will take weeks.