Activists unfurled a banner from a bridge in Augusta on Wednesday thanking 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree and Sen. Angus King for their votes in support of federal COVID-19 relief and infrastructure funding while calling attention to important priorities like drug prices, child care and climate change that remain unfinished by Congress.
In 2021, King and Pingree championed and voted for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which brought more than $6 billion in investment to the state and lifted 10,000 Maine kids out of poverty through the expanded Child Tax Credit, which expired in December.
Second District Rep. Jared Golden was the sole Democrat to vote no on ARPA, and Sen. Susan Collins joined all of her Republican colleagues in the Senate in voting against the pandemic relief.
“This pandemic wreaked havoc on families’ health, workers, businesses and the economy,” said Amy Halsted, co-director of Maine People’s Alliance, of which Beacon is a project. “Both ARPA and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act have been and will be immensely positive as we come out of what we hope are the worst parts of the pandemic, and we thank Rep. Chellie Pingree and Sen. Angus King for supporting and championing those bills. But if our representatives in Congress stop now, we will lose all the gains we’ve made. We need to keep going.”
The activists praised ARPA for expanding the Child Tax Credit and making it a monthly rather than a yearly payment, for expanding unemployment benefits for all kinds of workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic, and lowering the cost of health care for many Mainers by lowering marketplace health insurance premiums for thousands.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed by President Joe Biden in Nov. 2021, will bring billions of dollars into Maine for bridges, electric vehicle infrastructure, public transportation, broadband and airports.
Activists called for Congress to take action to build off the good work they’ve done so far to help communities recover, to invest in child care, education, affordable housing, green building, jobs and energy, to bring back the expanded Child Tax Credit, and to pass immigration reform so that all Mainers can use services they deserve.
“I have coverage but I still struggle to pay for health care,” said Gina Morin, an MPA member leader from Lewiston who has had chronic health issues for decades. “I am in pain every day because of things I could fix if they were covered — but I can’t afford to. Any civilized country takes care of its own, and I think most of us believe we should fix it. We need to lower the price of prescription drugs, make sure everyone who needs it can get healthcare, and do the right thing by the most vulnerable people.”
Top photo: Activists unfurled a banner from the Rines Hill Bridge in Augusta on Wednesday | Beacon