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Sen. Raphael Warnock talks first year in office during town hall

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Sen. Raphael Warnock talks first year in office during town hall

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock hosted his first in-person town hall on Feb. 4 at the Maloof Auditorium in Decatur, where he discussed his first year in office and answered audience questions. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock held his first in-person town hall on Friday, Feb. 4, at the DeKalb County Administration building in Decatur. During the event, he discussed his first year in office, his accomplishments and issues he is focusing on in his second year.

“[DeKalb County] has given me the honor of my life, and that is to represent you in the United States Senate,” Warnock said. “It’s a great thing for the people of your state, the people in your community, to decide that they want you to represent them. That’s a high honor.”

During his first year in office, Warnock helped pass the American Rescue Plan to provide economic relief to individuals, cities and states. The $1.9 trillion legislation provided stimulus payments to individuals and families, $350 billion in aid to state and local governments and $14 billion for vaccine distribution. The bill also provided $130 billion to help K-12 schools reopen safely, according to CBS News.

“We put shots in people’s arms,” he said. “We put resources in people’s bank accounts. We supported small businesses. We provided PPE for small businesses. We helped our municipalities to retrofit to make it through the pandemic.”

The legislation provided $11 billion of support to small businesses in Georgia. Among the many provisions in the bill, Warnock said one of his favorite provisions is the expanded child tax credit and the earned income tax credit.

“[The Child Tax Credit], which has helped 2 million children in the state of Georgia. Experts say it cut child poverty 40% to 50%,” he said. “It is a tax cut for ordinary people.”

Warnock said the American Rescue Plan wouldn’t have passed if the 2021 Senate election results were different. The legislation passed in March 2021 along party lines.

After the COVID-19 relief bill passed, the Congress pushed forward and passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, Warnock said. The Senate passed the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in August 2021. The bill included funding for public transit, broadband, airports, ports and waterways, and passenger and freight rail, among other things, according to NPR.

“We found a way to work together. Georgia’s a multimodal state,” Warnock said. “The bipartisan infrastructure bill is a jobs bill. In that bipartisan infrastructure bill, we are providing resources to repair our bridges and our roads and our highways and our ports and our airports. We are providing resources to support broadband because broadband is in the 21st century, what electricity was in the 20th century. You can’t thrive in a modern economy without a broadband connection.”

Warnock focused on an amendment he worked on with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Cruz wanted Interstate 14 to be named a priority corridor. The interstate runs through Texas, Alabama and Georgia, connecting military bases and Georgia’s communities.

“Where other folks saw political difference, I saw an opportunity to grow out our economy,” Warnock said. “My job as a senator, and I believe all of our jobs, particularly in the midst of a pandemic, is to find the road that runs through our humanity, find ways to connect to one another, to get the things done in order to prepare a future that is worthy for all of our children.”

He is also focused on lower prescription drug costs, making the child tax credit permanent, criminal justice reform and dealing with student debt. An idea he suggested was to forgive the first $50,000 of student debt and strengthening the Pell Grant program.

“Our children shouldn’t have to have a mortgage before they have a mortgage,” Warnock said. “I am pushing the Biden Administration to get moving on a student debt forgiveness program. We ought to wipe out the first $50,000 [of student debt]. We ought to do it because it would lower people’s burdens, it would spur entrepreneurship, it’s investment in our people.”

While voting rights legislation has stalled in the Senate, Warnock said he is not giving up.

“Y’all know that I’m going to stay focused on voting rights,” he said. “I’m going to keep fighting to deal with dark money in our politics. I’m going to keep fighting to deal with racial and partisan gerrymandering. I’m going to keep fighting against those who are trying to make it harder, rather than making it easier for people to vote.”

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