The federal government has upped its number of (COVID-19) vaccines by 28 percent in the last three weeks. We are doing about 1.7 million vaccines a day, which is a lot. But, given our population of 330 million-plus in the United States, it is going to be months and months (before everyone gets the vaccine).
We have got a third company coming in, hopefully soon: Johnson & Johnson. That would add more (vaccines). Also, President Biden has talked to the companies and they have upped the production. He has squeezed them to do a little bit more.
The federal government, we have been sending everything through the state. We have now got the mechanism we are using. The mechanism we are trying to get is now, instead of D.C. to Austin, we want to see D.C. to the arm. At the end of the day that is what counts, the arm. So, we are using the mechanism of community health clinics. There are some that are going to be pilot-tested, starting the end of this week or next week, using pharmacists, not only the big boys, CVS, Walmart, Walgreens. We want to go into community, independent small pharmacists. Those folks know the people. They are trusted. They have been dealing with them for years. So, we want to start working with them.
We are doing a $1.9 trillion relief package. We are going to vote on it next week. In there there is money for vaccines and for the states. As you know, FEMA is going to pay 100 percent of the National Guard, if the state wants to use it (for vaccines). But, it all goes back to, how many vaccines do we have. So, even though we have increased it by 28 percent and even though we have got another company, it is still going to be months. I think we get herd immunity at 75 percent. We will be talking about this into the summer, if the new variants do not throw a curveball at us.
The relief package; what we are going to be doing is health, but it also includes aid to individuals and to entities, $1,400 stimulus checks, unemployment pay, the basic things we have talked about. Monies for schools, and we are certainly going to be sending, with all due respect to the state, the state from CARES Act stayed with somewhere between $8 to $10 billion. It is going to get to the taxpayers but the CARES Act was last year, not this year. So, one of the things we are going to be doing is, and this is only an estimate, we are sending monies to the state, to the city, and to the county governments.
The State of Texas, the estimate is, Texas would get $27.1 billion. Out of that, $16.8 billion will go to the State of Texas, and $10.3 billion will go to local cities and county governments. Starr County would get $13 million. At 0.13 percent, that should be $13 million. And then the cities here, Rio Grande should get $2.6 million, La Grulla would get $313,000, Roma would get $2.1 million, Escobares would $474,000. This is all estimated.
There is money for veterans, vaccines, healthcare. There should be some monies for people using the Affordable Health Care. As you know, the president opened it (ACA) up. I think it is going to be Feb. 15 to May 15, open up the enrollment again. There should be some assistance to help them pay this.
Now, $1.9 trillion is a lot of money. There is a need for that. But, I always remind everybody as a Blue Dog, somewhere down the line we have got to pay for all this, guys. It is all on a credit card. As you know, the federal government, we get about $3.5 trillion in taxes. It used to be more but everyone loves tax cuts and when you do tax cuts, less revenue comes in. So, we get $3.5 trillion in taxes or revenues, excise taxes, miscellaneous fees and all that. And then what goes out is about $4.5 trillion. Out of the $4.5 trillion, two-thirds of that is automatic, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits. And those are the things people do not want us to touch. But in the last 30 days those automatics, mandatories, have gone up one third to two thirds. So, we only deal, on (the) Appropriations (Committee), with $1.4 trillion (in discretionary spending). The rest is automatic. It is formula-driven.
When Obama left the deficit per year was at $450 billion. Under Trump, the year before the pandemic hit, the deficit was at $950 billion. So, under a Republican it was higher. The big reason is tax cuts. People like tax cuts but when you do that less money comes in. So, from $450 billion to $950 billion, due to the tax cuts. Now you add the money we added, a couple of trillion dollars, last year I think about $3 trillion under the CARES Act and then we did about $900 billion in December. Now we are talking about $1.9 trillion right now, to be voted on next week.
And in the Senate? We are trying to get this done by March 15 and we are only in the middle of March. And that leaves the rest of the year. We do not know what is going to happen on that. And so, all of this has to be paid on a credit card. We have to worry about how we are going to pay for this. Soon. Otherwise the Chinese are going to keep getting interest. I think we pay, believe it or not, about $400 billion or $300 billion, just on interest, a year. A lot of money. If you take the Department of Education, a couple of other agencies, the VA, our interest rate is bigger than these three agencies combined.
So, these are the things we have to look at. We are spending a lot of money and we have to the power to do that. But, eventually we have got to have the power to pay for that.
So, going back to vaccines, the cities, the counties, the state Rep. (Ryan Guillen), all have been doing a great job. We all want to be team players. I will let Dr. Vasquez talk about day cares. The mechanism of community health clinics, you will see more from the federal, going directly to certain entities. So, working with the state, we are hoping we can get to the herd immunity sometime in the summer.
Editor’s Note: The above commentary was given by U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo, at a roundtable discussion with Starr County leaders at Starr County Memorial Hospital in Rio Grande City on Feb. 16. Rep. Cuellar, a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, called the meeting to discuss the rollout of vaccines for COVID-19. Starr County leaders had expressed concern at the small number of vaccines coming to their county. The main image accompanying the above commentary shows Rep. Cuellar at the Starr County event. The Rio Grande Guardian will have more commentary from the roundtable in our next edition.
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