The political dispute over COVID-19 relief that stumped federal lawmakers through most of 2020 inspired U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, to focus on transparency and accountability in his second term in Congress, he said during a State of the District address late Monday.
Delgado livestreamed his 2021 State of the District address on Facebook because of the coronavirus pandemic.
During his speech, the sophomore congressman reviewed the hardships of 2020, including the COVID-19 pandemic and lawmakers embroiled in a months-long stalemate over federal coronavirus aid to U.S. states for testing, unemployment, local governments and more.
“So much of what Americans find frustrating about Congress — what makes them lose faith in this institution — was on display during those months of negotiations: Political gamesmanship, petty partisan fights and an apparent indifference toward the pressing needs of the people we represent,” Delgado said. “...After months of partisan gridlock, in December I was glad to finally vote for another pandemic relief package that included measures to address the urgent needs of individuals, families, businesses, nonprofits, farms and hospitals enduring through the pandemic.”
President Donald Trump signed a $908 billion stimulus bill into law Dec. 27. The House first passed a subsequent COVID-19 relief bill, the $3 trillion HEROES Act, in May, and an amended $2 trillion HEROES bill in October.
But the stimulus bill negotiations riddled with political dysfunction gave Delgado hope going forward.
“...it was the passage of that [stimulus] bill that left me deeply inspired by the opportunity to serve,” Delgado said. “It reaffirmed my belief that truly focusing my time on listening to community members at home can not only yield legislative successes that bring about important changes, but also improve the quality of our democracy. Government for the people and by the people.”
More than 300,000 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the state with more than 600,000 dosages in supply. The federal supply has seen a multitude of delays, slowing distribution in U.S. states across the nation.
“While the vaccine rollout in New York and across the nation has gotten off to a slower than anticipated start, I’m confident that our state and our country will continue to accelerate the rate of vaccinations in the coming months,” Delgado said. “To that end, it is imperative that Congress provides more funding for state and local governments to support those on the ground doing the heavy lifting of coordinating the vaccine’s distribution.”
Delgado received his first of two required doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 18. He is scheduled to receive his second injection Friday.
“Like many of you, I’ve felt despair at times during the past 10 months, but I’ve also felt hope,” Delgado said, adding how local food banks, small businesses, health care workers have risen to the challenge to keep their communities safe through the public health crisis. “As a community, we can be proud of the compassion, the heart and the can-do spirit we have brought to bear in response to this crisis. I’ve always found that difficult times bring out the best in people, and this pandemic has proven to be no exception.”
The congressman briefly reviewed successes of his first term, including holding 50 town halls across the district’s 11 counties, not missing one vote in the last two years and the passage of the Fairness for Local Veteran Cemeteries Act to provide veteran cemeteries federal support. The bill awaits the president’s signature.
Delgado vowed to continue to listen to the local upstate New York communities he represents in the 117th Congress. The 19th District encompasses Columbia, Greene, Delaware, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster counties and parts of Broome, Dutchess, Montgomery and Rensselaer counties.
“I believe that the best ideas on how to empower our community don’t come from Washington, but from those who live and breathe the issues that Congress is working to address,” he said. “...And virtually all of my work in Washington is informed by the conversations I have regularly with community members and my bipartisan local advisory committees, which cover agriculture, healthcare, small businesses, and veterans issues — all areas critical to the well-being of our district.”
Delgado recited his top-focused principles — accessibility, accountability and transparency — and promised to work with Americans and New Yorkers on both sides of the political aisle.
“To me, these are not just words — they are my creed,” he said. “I can’t promise that we will always see eye-to-eye on a particular issue, but I can and do promise you that I will listen to your views, that I will treat them and you with respect, and that, whether we agree on an issue or not, I will explain my position to you.”
Delgado, a member of the Small Business, Agriculture and Transportation and Infrastructure committees, said he will work to help the district’s 27,000 small businesses, 5,000 farms and push for investments in regional infrastructure, including roads, broadband, hospitals, cell phone service and affordable housing.
The congressman took his oath of office Sunday. Delgado thanked his constituents in the 19th District for the opportunity to serve a second term.
“It has been the privilege of a lifetime,” he said. “Tonight, I make another pledge to you: that I will continue to listen to your concerns and priorities for our nation; that I will always put what is right for our community above what is easy but wrong; and that I will strive to be an effective representative for everyone in our district.”