By Congressman Kweisi Mfume
One year ago, I took the oath of office to begin the 117th Congress. The initial coronavirus strain and COVID-19 pandemic were as they are now, in full throttle. Likewise, Donald Trump was contesting the November 2020 election results, we were days away from the January 6 violence at the U.S. Capitol which disrupted the process of ratifying the work of the Electoral College, and the balance of power in the U.S. Senate was undecided pending the outcome of two elections in the state of Georgia. With that backdrop, the year got off to an unlikely start and the pace never slowed.
In reflecting on 2021, I am struck by how much has been done to move us from where we were as a nation one year ago to where we are today. We still have many roads to travel and navigate, especially in light of the coronavirus variants. However, I can report that the difficult and unpredictable job of moving us through this crisis in the best possible way is getting done.
I look forward to building on the progress we are making and I remain committed to creating an America where opportunity is available and abundant for all who call it home. With that said, here are some brief highlights of the work done for you in the Congress this year.
MONEY BROUGHT BACK TO THE DISTRICT
A key component of my work since returning to Congress has been to keep our local governments and the State of Maryland from financial ruin caused by the global pandemic. I have helped to lead the effort to deliver over a billion dollars to our Congressional District. This is funding beyond what would otherwise come to Maryland and its local governments from the federal government.
I successfully fought to ensure stimulus payments got to every eligible resident of the district, child tax credit payments to every eligible family, and enhanced unemployment benefits to every eligible worker. These were real dollars delivered to keep communities and residents afloat.
Specifically, $640 million was delivered directly to Baltimore City, $160 million to Baltimore County and $63 million to Howard County for a total $863 million this year.
As a member of the Education and Labor Committee, I worked to secure $808 million in funding for the public-school systems in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County Public this year alone. Additionally, as Vice-Chair of the Congressional Small Business Committee, I voted for and helped to pass $5 billion in Paycheck Protection Program funding, more than $20 million to keep live performance venues and museums open, and $11 million in Restaurant Revitalization funding,
TRANSFORMATIVE LEGISLATION SIGNED INTO LAW
In 2021, Congress passed and President Joe Biden signed into law two of the most significant pieces of legislation enacted in a generation: the American Rescue Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The Rescue Act is delivering direct relief to communities everywhere. It was a first big step in the effort to try to beat the virus. The benefits of this legislation will be felt for years to come, including but not limited to $20 billion for the development and distribution of vaccines, and billions of dollars in funding to address racial disparities and ensuring vaccines are reaching every community. It provided more than 163 million people-in-need help to pay their bills and get the economy moving. Millions of families across the country saw the first monthly payment of the expanded Child Tax Credit, which provides them up to $3,000 per child under age 17 in an effort to cut childhood poverty. It included $170 billion for education and $45 billion for childcare providers to help schools safely reopen for in-person learning. $122 billion has been allocated to school districts nationwide.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
The Infrastructure and Jobs Act is a once-in-a-generation investment in our nation’s infrastructure and competitiveness. The legislation will help ease inflation and strengthen supply chains by making long overdue improvements to our nation’s ports, airports, rail, and roads. It will prioritize good-paying union jobs and grow the economy sustainably and equitably so that everyone has the opportunity to get ahead for decades to come.
It will improve highways, roads, and bridges in our communities by investing $4 billon in Maryland’s highway programs and specifically $409 million for bridge replacement and repairs in the state over five years. Baltimore will now be able to compete for funds to eliminate the “Highway to Nowhere” and the devastation it helped to cause as an eyesore in our neighborhoods. It will improve our public transportation system which is the only way many people have to get around. The legislation will build out electric charging stations around the state to reduce carbon emissions in the air that we breathe.
The bill also expands internet access for families throughout our district allocating $100 million to help provide communities with broadband coverage. It also strengthens our city and county governments against cyber-attacks and the Act provides overt $4 billion in investments for weatherization to reduce energy costs for families.
The legislation invests $844 million over five years to deliver clean drinking water to our communities across the state and provides $158 million for infrastructure development to BWI and other Maryland airports. Above and beyond the items I just listed, the House of Representative has a sizeable list of significant legislation we passed in 2021 that the Senate has yet to act upon.
That becomes the unfinished business of the Congress that must be completed. Among those items is the Build Back Better Act which makes transformational investments in children and caregivers, lowering health care costs, expanding health care coverage, and lowering the cost of tuition among other matters.
The other important priorities include the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. All these bills remain awaiting passage in 2022. As you can see, it’s not just a matter of having achieved a lot this year, it’s a matter of now trying to achieve more in the days and months ahead. That is the real work for us in the New Year.
Most importantly it’s is an honor to serve as your congressman at this very unique time in our nation. Like you, I too look forward to the challenges and successes of 2022.
Congressman Kweisi Mfume represents the 7th District in Maryland.
The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO. Send letters to The Afro-American • 145 W. Ostend Street Ste 600, Office #536, Baltimore, MD 21230 or fax to 1-877-570-9297 or e-mail to email@example.com
Help us Continue to tell OUR Story and join the AFRO family as a member – subscribers are now members! Join here!