HUDSON — Politics are irrelevant in the age of COVID, U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado said during his 51st town hall meeting Wednesday.
Delgado, D-19, discussed ongoing COVID issues and relief packages with constituents in a virtual town hall meeting on Facebook Live.
“COVID-19 doesn’t know if you’re a Democrat, a Republican or an independent,” he said.
Delgado talked about the stimulus package passed in December. Several parts of the legislation, including the Paycheck Protection Program, can help local people. The program has assisted more than 9,000 small businesses in the 19th Congressional District.
A key area where previous relief packages have been lacking was providing aid to state and local governments, Delgado said.
“I was incredibly frustrated with the lack of state and, specifically, local government funding to support our counties, to support our towns, to support our villages, who are really shouldering the burden when it comes to figuring out how to provide meaningful services in our communities,” said Delgado.
“From substance abuse prevention to mental health issues, to access to care and housing,” he said. “All of these things are administered in many regards through our local governments.”
Delgado said local governments and health departments are dealing with COVID-19 vaccination distribution.
Several of the questions asked by constituents involved the difficulty they have faced in registering for and receiving the vaccine.
“There’s no doubt that New York has been slow to vaccinate residents,” Delgado said. “We’re seeing that, particularly with the low supply end, has made a lot of folks rightfully so frustrated. It is frustrating to have to sit for hours on hold, waiting to get an appointment, or to have to drive long distances to get a COVID-19 vaccine.”
Delgado said the amount of supply is beginning to ramp up. He said in the coming weeks there will be more direct partnerships between the federal government and pharmacies.
“As these things continue to materialize, that’s going to be helpful,” Delgado said. “But funding to our counties and to our local public health departments so that they are able to coordinate effectively is critical.”
The state has been receiving between 250,000 and 300,000 doses of the vaccine weekly, Delgado said. The state’s 1A and 1B categories include more than 7 million people who are eligible to be inoculated against the virus.
Delgado said the White House expects to increase vaccine supply to states by 16% over the next three weeks and that they are purchasing an additional 100 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine.
Delgado also spoke about the proposed congressional stimulus package. He said the Biden administration has proposed a $1.9 trillion relief package.
“I will note a highlight for me in that is the $350 billion in critical state and local relief funding,” Delgado said.
The proposed relief package includes funding for items such as $1,400 in direct payments to individuals, additional money for unemployment insurance, more funding for testing and public health programs, rent and mortgage relief money, funding for K-12 school reopenings, more funding for farmers and broadband funding, Delgado said.
Several questions came from people who wanted to know more about gaining access to broadband internet.
Reliable internet service is no longer optional, Delgado said. During the pandemic, an increasing number of people need broadband access for their jobs and education. Delgado said his district is the eighth most rural in the nation.
“Inexcusable, it’s inexcusable, that in the 21st century, that in America, the richest country the world has ever known, we have communities going without what basically amounts to a basic utility at this point,” Delgado said. “And it affects not just our ability to watch TV or download information or engage in the internet.”
Delgado said broadband affects small businesses, people’s ability to access telemedicine and children’s ability to participate in remote learning.