Tom Perriello | Report from Capitol Hill

With the economy in crisis and 16,500 Americans losing their jobs each day, Congress acted rapidly, transparently and responsibly to pass an economic recovery package for American families. The bill is not perfect and may yet be improved, but it is a reasonable and decisive step out of economic chaos. I voted for H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, because our families and localities need this lifeline.

There is nothing fancy about this recovery package, just basic measures to help our states and localities to keep teachers and police officers on the job. The vast majority of this bill goes directly to tax relief for families and one-time support to our state and local governments to help cover shortfalls on education, health care, and unemployment benefits. In a major break from the past, there are no federal earmarks in the bill, and controversial programs such as funding contraception were removed. Instead, it includes investments in infrastructure, rural broadband, and energy efficiency that will create jobs and save money in the years ahead.

The bill has flaws, but remains a solid step towards economic recovery and a new kind of solutions-oriented politics. Where the last Congress offered blank-check bailouts, we now see unprecedented transparency and accountability – the public can track every penny of this plan and how it is spent through a website, Where the last Congress focused on Wall Street, we now see investments back in Main Street with tax breaks for small businesses and 95% of American families. Where last year’s bailout saw the federal government claiming all control, this new approach is a partnership with state and local officials to get this economy turned around. The focus is emergency relief and medium-term job creation.

Based on many listening sessions with citizens and local officials, I have fought hard to make sure small towns and rural communities are represented. I have fought for investments in rural broadband and other infrastructure projects that create value and competitiveness over the long term. And I am proud to have co-authored a provision that helps working families keep their children in college. It will also help displaced workers afford a community college or university education to be prepared for new jobs once the economy recovers.

There is still much work to do to get us through the rapids and back to shore. I will be working closely with local and state officials to make sure this package works for our District and our families.


– Tom Perriello represents the Fifth District in the United States Congress.

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