Congressman Jared Golden of Maine on Wednesday earned himself the dubious distinction of being the only Democrat in either chamber of Congress to vote against final passage of a far-reaching $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that will send direct relief payments to hundreds of millions of Americans, provide crucial aid to cash-strapped state and local governments, and slash child poverty in half.
"When Mainers needed him most but his caucus had the votes, Golden chose to vote against Covid relief that will lift 50% of poor children out of poverty and help 90% of Mainers."
—Marie Follayttar, Mainers for Accountable Leadership
Golden's vote Wednesday, which was met with swift backlash from Maine-based advocacy organizations, was the second time the congressman has voted against the American Rescue Plan in less than two weeks. Late last month, Golden—who is up for reelection in 2022 in Maine's 2nd congressional district—voted against an earlier House version of the nearly $2 trillion relief package, claiming the bill includes "unnecessary or untimely spending."
"When Mainers needed him most but his caucus had the votes, Golden chose to vote against Covid relief that will lift 50% of poor children out of poverty and help 90% of Mainers," Marie Follayttar, director of Mainers for Accountable Leadership, told Common Dreams.
"I cannot find a reasonable justification to vote against a bill that provides direct relief to 90% of Mainers, supports our schools and town budgets, funds shots in our arms to inoculate us against a pandemic, and is supported by over 70% of the population," Follayttar said in a statement. "Rep. Golden voted against helping the people of Maine."
Imagine voting against a bill that cuts child poverty in half, increases healthcare subsidies, provides direct relief to 90% of Mainers and supports our schools and town budgets. Yeah, we can't imagine a reasonable justification either. #mepolitics https://t.co/bPT8lLiRLI
— Mainers for Accountable Leadership (@mfalpac) March 10, 2021
The local Portland Press Herald reported Tuesday that Maine could receive receive up to $6 billion from the American Rescue Plan in the form of state and local aid, unemployment relief, direct payments, food and housing assistance, and more. President Biden is expected to sign the measure into law on Friday.
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Citing an analysis by the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP), the Press Herald reported that around 90% of Maine households will qualify for direct relief payments.
"I'm proud to have supported this legislation from the beginning. Maine families will feel lasting relief when this bill is signed into law by President Biden."
—Rep. Chellie Pingree
"Unemployed Mainers will continue receiving an additional $300 per week through September. The bill also extends federal unemployment programs enacted almost a year ago that cover those ineligible for state benefits and adds half a year of unemployment pay," the Press Herald noted. "Based on an average of roughly 50,000 Mainers receiving unemployment benefits each week through September, the bill could bring up to $780 million in unemployment aid to the state."
In a statement following Wednesday's vote, Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine's 1st congressional district called the American Rescue Plan "one of the most important pieces of legislation Congress will ever pass."
"With this vote," said Pingree, "90% of American households will get a stimulus check; schools and local and state governments will receive the funding they so desperately need to fill in the gaps; renters will be able to stay in their homes; families will be able to put food on the table; more vaccine shots will go into arms; and reliable broadband will become more accessible for rural states like Maine."
"Without significant action, the economic damage caused by Covid-19 will last well beyond the pandemic," Pingree added. "As someone who has long believed that government can and should be a force for good in our lives, I'm proud to have supported this legislation from the beginning. Maine families will feel lasting relief when this bill is signed into law by President Biden."