Congressman Antonio Delgado lobbied for his proposed Rural Revitalization Now Act Thursday when he held his 48th Town Hall--over Facebook.
He also stressed the need for additional COVID relief from Washington as the clock ticks down on 2020.
“There are a lot of needs out there and we haven’t really gotten anything down since March. Nine months ago,” he said of Congressional COVID assistance.
“We have to put politics aside. It doesn’t have to be perfect at this point. But we need something done by the end of the year…sooner rather than later. I will keep pressing on that.”
The virtual meet-up—one of a dozen he’s held since COVID in March—isn’t the same as meeting in person, Congressman Delgado told those from around Congressional District 19 who logged on, “…but as we close out the year, it’s a chance to hear firsthand the needs of the community.”
Most of those needs are COVID-related, participants said in the Q&A session that followed Congressman Delgado’s remarks.
Among them: better access to broadband now that it’s essential for everything from school to telemedicine to how to access the grants and loans they need to stay in business.
Though not directly related to COVID help, Congressman Delgado’s Rural Revitalization Now Act, introduced with Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer of Iowa, would provide up to $50,000 in student loan relief for people who commit to live and work in rural communities for at least eight years.
The federal government would provide half of the $50,000, he said, with sponsors that could include a state, county or non-profit providing the rest.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of job you have, but that you live in a rural community,” Congressman Delgado said; all of the 19th Congressional District meets the definition of rural as outlined in the proposed bill.
The idea drew support and questions from several who participated in the Facebook Live.
Others who sent in questions, including one identified as Dawn’s Dog Boarding of Ulster County, pleaded for more COVID-related assistance.
“Dawn” said she’s racked up severe credit card debt and is very near to closing her business because of COVID; the unemployment of $182 a week she had been getting isn’t cutting it, she said.
“John,” an elected official in Delaware County, said they’re being hurt by people who’ve simply stopped paying their water and sewer bills.
The accounts angered Congressman Delgado, who asked, “If we aren’t stepping up and doing something [in Congress] what is our role?:”
New York State is already “hemorrhaging” due to a loss of sales tax revenues, he said. “…if we don’t step up in Washington…”
Other Town Hall participants returned to the topic of reliable and internet access, something Congressman Delgado said he’s been lobbying for since before COVID.
“It’s a basic utility at this point,” he agreed.
Other participants spoke to the need for additional funding for EMS agencies dealing with COVID and others asked for help understanding the tax implications of the Payroll Protection Program loans and grants.