McALLEN, Texas – Congressman Vicente Gonzalez predicts the Rio Grande Valley economy will rebound strongly once the coronavirus pandemic is defeated, to such an extent it will resemble the Roaring 20s.
The McAllen Democrat held a news conference at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce offices on Monday to highlight the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.
He said the speed at which the Biden Administration is moving on COVID-19 vaccines, coupled with the likely economic impact of the new stimulus bill will help the United States recover strongly.
“Over 100 million Americans have received at least one vaccination. So, we are blowing and going in terms of getting vaccines into people’s arms,” Gonzalez told reporters.
“I am very optimistic we are coming out of this (pandemic). We may not be out of the woods but we have certainly turned the corner. And brighter days are ahead. We have certainly gone through a very, very tough last year. Even the beginning of this year has been complicated.”
Gonzalez predicted: “The prosperity is going to be more robust than we have ever seen before and I see us going into the Roaring Twenties. I think the next ten years are going to be full of prosperity and health and we are going to bounce back more than anything we have ever seen in our lifetime. I am really optimistic.”
Gonzalez said he called the news conference to report on a “momentous occasion.” Extolling the virtues of the American Rescue Plan he helped shape and pass through Congress, Gonzalez said that by the end of this week millions of Americans will have received their $1,400 stimulus bill, with 95 percent of the residents of South Texas qualifying for this payment.
“There is $1 billion going to Congressional District 15. There is $584 million going to counties and cities in the district. Hidalgo County will get $212 million, McAllen $42 million, Pharr $28 million, Edinburg 25 million. Every single city in my district will be getting millions of dollars that can be used for so, so many useful projects.”
Gonzalez said small businesses are being helped under the American Rescue Plan, with a special provision for restaurants. Another round of Paycheck Protection Program funding has also been included in the legislation, Gonzalez said. “This means businesses can keep their doors open, keep people employed, and keep the lights on.”
The bill also includes funding for those who have fallen behind with their rent and assistance for those with a mortgage that are in danger of losing their home.
“I find this really satisfying that we are not bailing out banks, we are bailing out homeowners, making sure people do not lose their homes,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said $130 billion has been allocated for schools to help them reopen safely.
“I believe this is the last shot in the arm before we are completely open,” he said.
“We need to continue social distancing and wearing our masks and following CDC recommendations. But, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know President Biden has said by the end of May most Americans will be inoculated and we will have gotten shots in the arms of most people. I am going to be a little bit more cautious and say by July, in my opinion, I think things will be wide open and you will see our economy wide open.”
Asked to respond to critics who say the American Rescue Plan is too large, that pumping that much money into the economy might cause inflation, Gonzalez said:
“Ninety-five percent of this money is going direct to the pockets of the American people. The last tax cut we had in the last administration went to the top one percent of Americans. A trillion dollar tax cut went to the one percent of Americans. Ninety-five percent of this money is going to average Americans like you and I.”
Gonzalez said he always likes to use the comparison of the Iraq War.
“We spent $9.3 trillion dollars in the Iraq War and the average American got zero. What did get for it? Nothing. We are still in conflicts around the world. Some of our beloved veterans have come back wounded. We have lost many lives and we never really gained anything off of that massive investment. We did it again in Afghanistan,” Gonzalez said.
“I think it is time to start taking care of the American people and doing right be people who are struggling in the middle of this pandemic. Average folks.”
Gonzalez said he would like to see Congress pass legislation for those carrying debt caused by the pursuit of an education.
“I hope we are able to do something for student loans and student loan forgiveness. I think we need to do something for the young people that are struggling. I think we have given billions and now trillions of dollars around the country and we have forgotten young Americans who have done their best to try to get an education. I think they deserve a break. We carry more student loan debt than any other country. I find that unacceptable,” he said.
Gonzalez said he has signed on to a letter in the Committee on Foreign Affairs that states that after Americans have had their COVID vaccinations, help be provided to Mexico.
“I hope that once Americans are vaccinated and inoculated, we can look across our borders to our friends and neighbors, on both sides, Mexico and Canada, and start helping them get vaccinated. Because ultimately we don’t live alone and we are not an isolated country. We do not live in a bubble.”
Gonzalez reiterated his call for international bridges to be reopened to so-called non-essential travel. He said the Valley’s economy has suffered as a result.
“A lot of our small mom and pop stores are shuttered, our malls are empty, our hotels and restaurants are not at full capacity. I think you are going to see that changing pretty drastically, once we get these bridges open,” Gonzalez said.
“We are in communication with the Mexican government in terms of trying to figure out how we can be helpful. I want to make it very clear, once we finish getting it done here at home. Once we have immunized out population, once everybody has had their immunization shot and we are at herd immunity, which means we have to get 75 to 85 percent of people vaccinated.”
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