Applauding President Biden's Ambitious Plan to Invest in America
May 1, 2021
This week, I watched President Biden – flanked by Vice President Harris and Speaker Pelosi – address a joint session of Congress and lay out ambitious plans for a once-in-a-generation investment in America. I was pleased to see elements of my MEAL Act, which I introduced this week, incorporated in the President’s American Families Plan. The plan also has a provision closing the carried-interest tax loophole for hedge fund operators and real estate developers that I have been working to eliminate. I also spoke at the Downtown Neighborhood Association about issues important to downtown; spoke to residents of Binghamton about the Scott Street connection to Poplar Avenue; introduced a bill to help homeowners and landlords pay for the removal of harmful lead paint from residences; provided guidance for applying for restaurant revitalization grants; called attention to a new pandemic-related rental and utility assistance program; announced significant National Science Foundation grants to the University of Memphis and Head Start grants to the Shelby County Board of Education and to Porter-Leath; and offered a health tip. Keep reading and follow me on Twitter and Facebook to see what I’m doing as it happens.
On Wednesday night, President Biden addressed a joint session of Congress and outlined an ambitious plan for a once in a generation plan to invest in American infrastructure and American families. I was pleased to see elements of my Making Essentials Affordable and Lawful (MEAL) Act to lift restrictions on the receipt of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for people with prior felony drug convictions in President Biden’s American Families Plan. The President’s plan also does away with the carried-interest tax loophole that I have been working to eliminate with Representatives Lloyd Doggett of Texas and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut. See my statement released after the President’s remarks here. You can also read a recent New York Times story that covers my attendance at previous presidential addresses to joint sessions of Congress here.
On Monday, I joined Congresswomen Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey and Jahana Hayes of Connecticut in introducing the MEAL Act, which would lift restrictions and repeal a lifetime ban on individuals with prior drug-related convictions receiving SNAP and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). See my release on the measure here.
On Tuesday evening, I was the featured speaker at the Downtown Neighborhood Association’s meeting at the new Hyatt Centric on Beale. I talked about issues of importance to downtown including Tom Lee Park, for which I’m working to help secure funding in the upcoming federal budget, and other downtown projects for which I am seeking funding in the Appropriations and Transportation bills. My family started in downtown with my grandfather joining his former partner from Kansas City in The World News Company, a newsstand at Main and Monroe, beginning in 1906. My grandfather’s ownership of The World News in the same part of downtown continued for more than 50 years. I’m proud of my involvement with downtown improvements, including being responsible for the AutoZone Park’s sales tax rebate, and the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant which was the essential funding to make Charlie McVean’s dream of a bicycle-and-pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi river (The Big River Crossing on the Harahan Bridge) a reality. In addition, over the years I’ve gotten Choice neighborhood grants of nearly $30 million for South City (formerly Foote Homes) and helped bring riverboats back to Memphis.
On Tuesday, I spoke at First Baptist Church – Broad to Binghamton residents and City Council members about my concerns about a proposal to close off access to the Poplar Avenue viaduct via Scott Street. I have been carefully following the issue and in January wrote to the state Department of Transportation and the City’s Division of Engineering to express the concerns my constituents and I have with the proposal and to urge them to heed the community’s needs. See that letter here.
I want to call attention to the new Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance Program designed to help thousands of renters in Shelby County who are behind in their rent and utility bills because of the pandemic. I supported and voted for the bill that authorized the U.S. Department of Treasury to grant $28.2 million to the City of Memphis and Shelby County to administer the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program. The program can pay up to 12 months of owed rent and utilities to those affected by COVID-19. Those facing eviction can also receive free legal assistance. The program is open to Shelby County renters and is being administered by the City of Memphis and Shelby County Government. Go to www.home901.org/covid-resources/, or email HELP@home901.org for more information. You can also call 211, or text HOME901 to 21000 (or text CASA901 to 21000 for Spanish). The program will re-open applications today, May 1, and will close for May on the 14th at midnight. The applications process will be re-opened at the start of each month.
On Thursday, I joined Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Congressman David McKinley, Republican of West Virginia, in introducing bipartisan legislation to help American families cover the cost of eliminating lead from their homes. The Home Lead Safety Tax Credit Act of 2021 would significantly broaden the national response to this public health challenge by providing refundable tax credits for homeowners, landlords, and tenants to remove lead from homes. See our release on the measure here.
The Small Business Administration on Friday announced that applications for the $28.6 billion in Restaurant Revitalization grants established in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan are being accepted beginning Monday, May 3. Registration for the program opened today. Minority and women applicants are being given priority. For detailed information on the program, see guidance here.
The National Science Foundation this week announced it is underwriting two major projects at the University of Memphis, one involving earthquake science, the other involving chemistry. See my release on these prestigious grants here.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, I announced significant Head Start emergency supplemental grants to the Shelby County Board of Education and to Porter-Leath. This funding helps prepare young children to meet the challenges of the 21st century. See my releases here and here.
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to get a coronavirus vaccine shot. The surge in vaccine distribution capacity created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has resulted in quick in-and-out appointments with no lines. But I was disappointed to hear this week that 80 percent of Shelby County’s vaccine allotment last week went un-used. Spring is here, but the opportunity to normalize life depends on enough of us being vaccinated. Do it for yourself, your family, friends, and community. Walk-ins are welcome at the Pipkin Building at the old Mid-South Fairgrounds and, starting next week, a new walk-in vaccination clinic will open at 3230 Jackson Avenue, running every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. To make an appointment at other sites, go to https://covid19.memphistn.gov/ or call (901) 222-SHOT (7468).
“The worst pandemic in a century. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War. Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation, America is on the move again. Turning peril into possibility, crisis into opportunity, setbacks to strength.” – President Biden in Wednesday night’s address to a joint session of Congress.
As always, I remain.