Democrats fan out to tout giant relief bill

Sen. Catharine Cortez Masto speaks with reporters after visiting Doris Hancock Elementary School. (Photo: Jeniffer Solis)

With their reelections perhaps hinging on how the public will view the impact of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP), Democratic members of Nevada’s congressional delegation highlighted what they say the legislation will mean for schools, families, business owners, and medical providers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and recession.

For Nevada, the share of the ARP stimulus, according to independent analyses and estimates outlined by congressional offices, policy organizations and other sources, is projected to be at least $12 billion in direct aid to individuals and government entities in the state. Billions more will flow to the state through other conditional or indirect programs funded by the bill.

With Congress in recess, Democrats in Nevada’s delegation who will almost assuredly find themselves in tough campaigns next year came home this week to visit vaccination sites, schools, small businesses, and community events to make the case that ARP will help Nevadans get through the pandemic and its economic upheaval.

Not a single Republican in either the House or the Senate voted for the bill.

On Wednesday, Rep. Steven Horsford toured FirstMed Health and Wellness Center, a community health clinic in North Las Vegas. Community health clinics are federally funded health care centers that deliver affordable primary health to medically underserved communities and vulnerable populations. 

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Rep. Steven Horsford tours toured FirstMed Health and Wellness Center, a community health clinic in North Las Vegas. (Photo Jeniffer Solis)

This money will save lives, stop the spread of the virus, and help those who are struggling with their mental health during this deeply challenging time,” said Horsford.

Statewide, eight health community health centers received more than $25 million from the American Rescue Plan to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts and services for vulnerable populations. One in eleven people nationwide depend on community health clinics for their primary care, more than 91 percent of health center patients are individuals or families living at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, and nearly 63 percent are racial or ethnic minorities.

The FirstMed Health and Wellness Center received $1.8 million to provide medical and mental health services to more than 5,000 patients in Southern Nevada. The clinic is working on vaccinating underserved Nevadan’s and will be doing pop-up clinics and expanding telehealth to reach underserved populations better.

Getting underserved populations vaccinated can be as simple as making sure patients have somewhere to ask for more information from health providers, said the chief medical officer at the clinic Lilnetra Grady. Building up medical infrastructure in low-income areas is necessary for future health outcomes.  

“I’ve had family members who outright refused then had conversations with them, and then at the end of that conversation they’ve gone to schedule an appointment,” Grady said. “We are a safe haven for undocumented patients, for our underserved communities.” 

Sen. Cathrine Cortez Masto visited Doris Hancock Elementary School — the grade school she herself attended —  during students’ first week back to full in-person learning. The American Rescue Plan includes funding for school re-openings, as well as more than $1 billion in flexible funds for Nevada school districts that can be spent over the next three-and-a-half school years.

Cortez Masto said the flexibility of the funds was an important component of the relief bill.

“This is my elementary school, I can tell you when I came here there was no internet, there were no tablets, there was nothing like that,” Cortez Masto said. “We have to make sure we are providing them the resources they need to improve and upgrade so no child is left behind.”

“We’re moving from response and recovery to renewal in education. The districts have this opportunity now to revisit their strategic plans for educating all of our students,” said Jhone Ebert Nevada Department of  Education Superintendent of Public. Instruction. 

Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara said the Clark County School District will receive about $800 million in funding from the legislation, and district officials are still reviewing how the money can and will be spent. Closing the digital divide and enhancing mental health services were two priorities Jara identified.

On Thursday, Rep.  Susie Lee toured preschool programs offered by the Valley View Recreation Center in Henderson to promote the American Rescue Plan’s expanded earned income tax credit and child tax credit, which is expected to cut childhood poverty in half for the year they are in place.

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Rep. Susie Lee visits with students at Valley View Rec Center Preschool. (Photo courtesy of Susie Lee)

“We are viewing this as sort of a pilot program and seeing what it actually means for families and young children,” Lee said. “There will be a move to try and make this permanent and I think we need to see the results of doing it now are before we push forward for making it permanent” 

In Nevada, the expansion of the child tax credit is expected to lift 40,000 children out of poverty, according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 

The plan increases the child tax credits for families with low or no income from $2,000 to $3,000 for children ages six to 17 and $3,600 for children under the age of six. Eligible families can also receive payments of between $250 and $300 per child per month from July to the end of the year.

One mother spoke about the value of the preschool program at the recreation center and the relief provided by the expanded child tax credits during financially uncertain times.

“It allows us to be able to keep our children in programs and give them that sense of normalcy, so we as the parents can focus on bills and focus on everything a child should not have to worry about,” said Ashley Young.

National Republicans have targeted Cortez Masto as one of a handful of Democratic senators on the ballot in 2022 who they think is vulnerable. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has already aired attack ads against her.

The congressional districts held by Lee and Horsford, since their creation after the 2000 and 2010 censuses, respectively, have been competitive in nearly every election cycle, and both parties expect the same in 2022.

Jeniffer Solis
Reporter | Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies. While at UNLV she was a senior staff writer for the student newspaper, the UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press, and a news reporter for KUNV 91.5 FM, covering everything from the Route 91 shooting to UNLV housing. She has also contributed to the UNLV News Center and worked as a production engineer for several KUNV broadcasts before joining the Nevada Current. She’s an Aries.