Rep. Sewell Welcomes First Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden to Birmingham As Part of the American Rescue Plan Tour
Birmingham, AL - Today, Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) welcomed First Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden to Birmingham to highlight the historic reduction in child poverty that will be achieved thanks to the American Rescue Plan. Rep. Sewell played a critical role in drafting the expansions of the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit in the American Rescue Plan, which are projected to cut child poverty in the United States by more than a half.
Rep. Terri Sewell: Good afternoon Birmingham! What a great day to welcome Dr. Jill Biden, the First Lady of the United States, to our wonderful city of Birmingham.
As the only member of the Alabama Congressional Delegation to vote in favor of the 1.9 trillion dollar American Rescue Plan, here’s what I know for a fact: the people that I represent need assistance to get through COVID-19. I heard from them, and I know that they need money to be able to afford food on their tables and resources to make sure that they are equitably receiving the vaccine.
Thank God that because of the American Rescue Plan, 1.9 trillion dollars were able to put shots in arms and in record time. You know the Biden-Harris Administration said that they were going to do 100 million shots in arms by the first 100 days. We were able to do it in 58 days! We also know that we needed direct funds to our state but also to our counties and our cities. I heard you Mr. Mayor and all of our mayors across the 7th Congressional District when they said they wanted direct resources and I am proud to announce that help is here!
Today I am thrilled to talk about another aspect of the American Rescue Plan. We knew that it was critically important that we help families, the whole family. We knew how important it was to help our children so the second round of $600 that went out in December, as well as the $1400 that went out just 2 weeks ago, include resources not just for the adults in the family, but for the children in the family as well. Through this plan, a family of 4 would receive not just the $1,400 for mom and dad, but for their children as well. That’s $5600 for an average family of four.
Today I am proud to be right here at the YWCA and I want to thank LaRhonda and all of your staff for hosting us today. We started off at the James Rushton Early Learning Center at Woodlawn and I want to thank them and the Woodlawn Foundation for allowing us to see firsthand how our children are not only learning but they are thriving even in the midst of this pandemic. And that’s what it’s about.
Under the leadership of LaRohanda and so many others, the YWCA of Central Alabama has had a profound impact on countless families and children in our region. As I said earlier today, we were at the Woodlawn Foundation’s James Rushton Early Learning Center, where we toured a classroom and met with children who are benefiting every day from this institution. For years they have dedicated themselves to revitalizing the community of Woodlawn and they are doing it. They’re not just talking about it—they are about it!
Also, I am thrilled to be with Alabama Child Advocate Liz Huntley who will introduce Dr. Biden in a minute. She is among the countless local leaders that are present here today as we talk about child poverty and the fact that the American Rescue Plan deals will deal with that directly.
I see my dear friend, Senator Doug Jones: You will always be my Senator! And his lovely wife, Louise, thank you.
The Biden Administration knows that the time is now to address the systemic inequities that have left so many families struggling to make it. Together with Congressional Democrats, we passed the American Rescue Plan because of our fundamental belief that good governance creates an environment that allows all of our people to reach their full potential. If we’ve learned anything during this pandemic, it’s that we cannot wait a single day to provide resources to America’s working and struggling families to try and level the playing field, especially for our children. That is why I'm so proud to have been the only Democrat in Alabama’s Delegation to vote in favor of the 1.9 trillion dollar American Rescue Plan.
We know that one of the greatest contributors to the opportunity gap between children in communities like the one we’re in right now and the ones in wealthy neighborhoods across the nation is the financial investment the parents are able to make in their children. Every parent I met in my district, irrespective of zip code, wanted the best for their children, but they struggle day in and day out just to make ends meet. They fall behind when it matters most and we know that we need additional resources for our public schools.
I am proud that we are investing in our public schools not just immediately but also acknowledging that we need remedial help as well. Our children learn best in the classroom and we all know that which is why the American Rescue Plan will be giving direct assistance to individual school systems such as Jefferson County Public Schools and the City of Birmingham Public Schools. That is hundreds of millions of dollars and that money will be earmarked to not only deal with COVID-19 relief now to get our children back into schools safely, but also to deal with the remedial learning that we know our children will need. And so I want you all to know that the American Rescue Plan is truly that: a rescue plan to deal with COVID-19 and make sure our communities not only survive this pandemic, but they thrive through it!
As of 2019, 34% of the children in my district lived below the poverty line and 53% of those children, that's over half of the children in America, do not receive the full benefits of the Child Tax Credit because it isn’t fully refundable. We know that our response has to be big and bold in this rescue plan.
It is important that we use every tool in the toolbox to deal with this pandemic and to provide relief. As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, our jurisdiction is taxes. It is the revenue-generating operation of the House, and we thought that it was critically important that we make the Child Tax Credit fully refundable.
What do I mean by that? By making this Child Tax Credit fully refundable, we are reaching the neediest of families. We are not only doing that, we are also expanding it by providing direct payments in the form of a child allowance. This year families will receive $3,600 per child under the age of 6 and $3,000 per child for children between the ages of 6 and 16. These payments will be made on a recurring monthly basis with families receiving their first checks hopefully in July.
This is about saving working families and ensuring our children get out of poverty. As a lifelong educator, I know that Dr. Jill Biden has dedicated herself to transforming the lives of American children. Now, as the First Lady, she has taken the same vigor and applied it to eradicating child poverty. We know that just by making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable that we can lift 40% of the children living below the poverty line above it. The American Rescue Plan not only provides help, but it also uplifts our community and it does so for our children as well.
I want to say in closing that it was Martin Luther King that said, “poverty is a state of mind but, it also is a state of existence" and we in the greatest country in the world, should not have anyone living in poverty. We need to figure out a way that we can provide the resources so that every child can grow up and reach their fullest potential. We see that with the wonderful children here at the YWCA and we saw that at the James Rushton Early Learning Center.
I am so happy that Dr. Jill Biden chose to come to Alabama, to Birmingham, to tell us that the help that we’ve been looking for is here. It is going to be incumbent on all of us in this room to use those resources to the best of our ability to make sure that everyone gets through this pandemic.
Background on the American Rescue Plan District Tour:
Rep. Sewell’s American Rescue Plan District Tour is a series of site visits, roundtable discussions, and constituency meetings to connect residents of Alabama’s 7th Congressional District with all the resources available in the American Rescue Plan. The tour began on Tuesday, March 23, 2021, and will continue through April.