As 2021 comes to an end, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on all we’ve been able to accomplish this year — despite the challenges facing our nation.
2021 has been nothing if not a year of extremes. The rapid development and rollout of effective vaccines was a bright spot, yet the pandemic continues to rage with the death toll from COVID-19 still tragically rising. A robust economic recovery, record profits for many large businesses, and wage gains for some workers come as low-wage workers, caregivers, and certain sectors of the economy, such as restaurants and child care, suffer continued economic pain. And the horror of an armed attack on our Capitol by radical partisans intent on disrupting the peaceful transfer of power stands in stark contrast to the courage of those who have acted to defend the Capitol, our constitution, and the rule of law.
The past year has been far from easy, but I am incredibly proud of the work Congress has done to improve the lives of all Americans and the work my team has done with local officials and agencies to bring relief and real opportunity to the people of Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District.
One of the most consequential actions taken by the 117th Congress was passing the American Rescue Plan, which delivered $1.9 trillion in relief to address the twin health and economic crises created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Rescue Plan provided direct stimulus checks to the vast majority of Americans, increased unemployment benefits, provided support to local governments, created grant programs to help small businesses, allocated billions for emergency rental assistance, and expanded both the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit. According to leading economists, the American Rescue Plan also helped the U.S. recover faster than other developed countries.
Thanks to this legislation:
- Nearly 6 million jobs have been created, including more than 141,700 in Pennsylvania.
- Unemployment claims are at the lowest level since 1969.
- Over 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated, and booster shots are readily available.
- $190 million in tax cuts were delivered to more than 76,000 PA-05 families via the Child Tax Credit; child poverty was cut by almost half nationally.
- $41.5 million in grants went to PA-05 restaurants.
- $409.5 million Shuttered Venue Operated Grants went to small businesses throughout Pennsylvania.
- Pennsylvania received $4.9 billion to help K-12 schools safely reopen.
Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties received more than $1.7 billion in direct, flexible funding from the American Rescue Plan to help tailor recovery spending to the needs of our residents. Several communities in our district used a portion of their funding to address gun violence that has increasingly ravaged the country throughout the pandemic — something I experienced firsthand during an armed carjacking right before Christmas.
Throughout the year, I’ve worked with local, state, and federal officials to tackle gun violence in our communities. Based on input from law enforcement and our community, I have cosponsored a number of common sense gun safety measures, including bills to close background check loopholes and address the huge increase in ghost guns on streets across the country. I have also advocated for resources that would provide communities with tools to avert violence, such as funding for a mobile mental health unit for Delaware County and the Mental Health Justice Act, which would create a grant program to support mental health diversion programs in 911 call centers. Such measures have been proven to effectively address community mental health needs while allowing police to focus on law enforcement issues. I also visited with community leaders and elected officials in Southwest Philly and Chester to learn more about promising anti-violence strategies, so that Congress can better support such efforts.
Another landmark bill passed by Congress this year was the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — the largest investment in America’s infrastructure needs in generations. We’re just beginning to see funding roll out for Fiscal Year 2022, and already, the impact on our region is coming into focus. Philadelphia International Airport is set to receive $30.7 million this year, with similar levels of funding expected in the years to follow, and they’ll use the boost to support a cargo expansion that will bring thousands of jobs to our area. The U.S. Department of Transportation also recently announced $2.1 billion in funding coming to Pennsylvania to fix our roads and bridges; and anyone who has been stuck in traffic — or lost a battle with a pothole — on the Schuylkill Expressway, the Blue Route, or I-95 knows how badly that money is needed. And importantly, the EPA has committed millions in funding to accelerate cleanup at the Lower Darby Creek Area Superfund site — moving the anticipated completion date up to 2023.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act builds on the previous work we’ve done to increase economic development opportunities for our region and bring more good-paying jobs to PA-05. When I took office late in 2018, Philly Shipyard was quiet, with just a few dozen employees. Since then, we’ve helped the shipyard secure a contract with the federal government to build five national security multi-mission vessels for the U.S. Maritime Administration and undertake repair work for the U.S. Navy. Through apprenticeships and innovative workforce partnerships with both PIDC and Delaware County College, Philly Shipyard has hired more than 600 people this year — and intends to scale up to around 1,200 employees in 2022. In addition to positions directly connected to shipbuilding, the maritime supply chain in our region supports thousands of other jobs. The U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Navy also launched a new workforce pilot program in our region this year, recognizing the high demand for skilled workers and the readily available talent pool in the greater Philadelphia area. I’ll continue fighting to bring these types of jobs to our district — good-paying jobs that can support a family, that don’t require a four-year degree, that can recruit talent from our community colleges and technical training programs, and that can’t easily be transferred abroad.
On a personal note, I was pleased to introduce 15 bills this year, to see my Justice for Juveniles legislation pass the House with overwhelming bipartisan support, and to join President Biden at the White House as he signed two bills I co-led: the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act and a measure designating the September 11th National Memorial Trail Route. The VOCA Fix Act in particular has a huge impact on Pennsylvania — funding local agencies that provide services to victims of crime ranging from domestic abuse to gun violence.
Bills I introduced in 2021 included:
- Inaugural Fund Integrity Act
- Disability Voting Rights Act
- Dropbox Access Act
- Protecting Our Election Workers Act
- Justice for Juveniles Act
- Justice for Student Borrowers Act
- Driving for Opportunity Act of 2021
- Help Grandfamilies Prevent Child Abuse Act
- Accessible Voting Act of 2021
- ACCESS Act of 2021
- Veterans Medical Legal Partnerships Act of 2021
- Courtroom Dogs Act
- Teaching Engaged Citizenship Act of 2021
- Resolution Recognizing January 2021 as “National Mentoring Month”
- Resolution Designating “Public Radio Music Day”
I was also glad to support a number of other key bills that passed the House this year, including:
- Build Back Better Act
- For The People Act
- John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act
- Protecting Our Democracy Act
- Women’s Health Protection Act
- Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act
- Paycheck Fairness Act
- Equality Act
- George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
- American Dream and Promise Act
- PRO Act
While the Senate has not yet taken up these bills, I want you to know that I won’t stop fighting for these priorities.
As we head into 2022, I am keenly focused on the future of voting rights legislation and the policies contained within the House-passed Build Back Better Act. Some have argued that Congress should move on from Build Back Better and turn to voting rights. Well, it can’t be one or the other — America needs voting rights legislation AND the life-changing policies in the Build Back Better Act. The American people must know that their sacred right to vote is protected. They also deserve paid leave, affordable health care and prescription drugs, pre-K for their kids, and meaningful investments to address the climate crisis.
PA-05’s children and families remain my top priority. As always, I’ll continue working to reduce poverty and hunger, expand access to quality child care and universal pre-K, support kids in foster care and youth who are involved in the criminal justice system, increase funding for school infrastructure, and promote better civics education.
You have my word, in 2022 I am committed to advancing policies that will improve the lives of everyday Americans and invest in our country’s future.
I could not end 2021 without recognizing my incredible team — I am so proud of the work done they’ve done on behalf of our constituents during a tough year. Our office was able to maintain a 99.5% correspondence response rate, and we’ve closed nearly 3,000 cases, helping constituents navigate federal agencies and government. Examples of this work include:
- Helping a 93-year-old widow receive her husband’s government pension payment that she has been unable to secure for 21 years — she got more than $393,000 in total!
- Helping a mother resolve issues with her disabled son’s SSI payments.
- Helping a veteran receive proper disability compensation — including a retroactive lump sum payment of $62,000.
- Helping 58 Americans and allies evacuate Afghanistan following the U.S. withdrawal.
If you ever need assistance with a federal agency, you can reach us by phone at 610–626–2020 or through our website.
It is my great honor to represent you and every resident of Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2022, I look forward to seeing you at more events and hearing your feedback as Congress continues to tackle the issues facing our country.
Best wishes for a healthy, happy new year!