Payne discusses hard-fought battles in Congress at Irvington meeting

U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr. was welcomed as a special guest to the April 26 Irvington Township Council meeting.

IRVINGTON, NJ — U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr., who represents New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District, spoke at the April 26 Irvington Township Council meeting to give a congressional update and discuss resources that could aid the township.

“As we know, it’s still a very difficult time for our country. COVID-19 continues to affect daily life, and new variants have been found across the country. But unlike last year, we have a path of returning to normalcy,” Payne said. “There are several vaccines in use throughout the country to protect Americans from COVID-19, and I’m glad to see that the CDC went back to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which means people can have a one-dose shot, which really helps us in a lot of areas.

“Right now, we’re actually vaccinating about 3 million Americans every day. At this rate, we can reach herd immunity in the fall,” he continued. “When we do so, we can reopen society safely and completely and not have to worry about masks and social distancing anymore. President Biden has said we might be able to reach this by July, and, at the rate that he’s going and vaccinating people, he might very well get there.”

Payne praised the Biden administration for its speedy vaccine rollout, telling viewers that Biden had hoped to have 100 million people vaccinated in his first 100 days in office, but actually exceeded that by vaccinating 200 million people.

“I’ve been vaccinated, and I’m proud to see so many Americans get vaccinated to help us get to herd immunity,” Payne said. “Until then, I’m fighting in Congress to get you the resources to survive this global pandemic.”

Payne detailed the recent accomplishments made in the American Rescue Plan, and spoke of the challenges he and his fellow Democrats overcame in the Congress and Senate in working with their Republican counterparts to push through the CARES Act.

“Recently, we’ve approved the American Rescue Plan — a $1.9 trillion stimulus package that helps Americans and local governments deal with the coronavirus directly, and it includes funds to support vaccinations nationwide,” Payne said. “The new package benefits Irvington residents in several ways: It provides the popular $1,400 stimulus check to lower- and middle-income Americans, aids in paying bills, includes an additional $300 in unemployment benefits to jobless Americans until September, includes almost $38 billion to help Americans pay for rent and mortgages, and it stops evictions and foreclosures until October.

“It also adds almost $8 billion to the popular Payroll Protection Program, so small businesses can keep their employees; it creates a new $25 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund to support the food service industry directly,” he continued. “In addition, this expands the child tax and earned income credit to keep millions of children out of poverty.”

Payne emphasized the importance of residents and business owners in the 10th District knowing about these programs and using them for relief.

“Thankfully, with the help of my colleagues, Irvington will get help as well,” he said. “I was proud to call the mayor when I learned of the amount that Irvington would receive, and I contacted every mayor, personally, in the 10th District to let them know what the American Rescue Plan was going to do for their municipality.

“I fought for Irvington to get more than $29 million from that fund,” Payne said. “That should go a long way in helping you with some of your additional costs around COVID. We’ve made it fairly liberal, and you can use it for anything, such as streets, fire equipment, extra personnel in the police department. … We did not put a lot of constraints on that money.”

Payne also spoke about his involvement with the federal vaccination center located at NJIT in Newark, which serves the entire district.

“To make sure vaccinations get to communities on time, there is a special fund for transportation of the vaccine,” Payne said. “I was proud to help us get a federal vaccination center in Newark to support our entire district, and that center is on the campus of NJIT. It is open now and can vaccinate 6,000 people every day. The increased vaccinations will help us reopen schools for in-person learning.”