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Sewell slams legislature’s relief funding ‘wish list’

During a virtual press conference held Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-AL, slammed Republicans in the Alabama Legislature over a recently-released “wish list” that includes spending $200 million of COVID-19 relief funds for the construction of a new statehouse.

“The state legislature has really hijacked this process,” Sewell said. “That wish list was an abomination, in my opinion. It didn’t reflect the values that hold close and dear and I know this is not the legislative intent of that funding.”

Sewell stressed that there are still “huge gaps” in testing across the state and the process of contact tracing has only begun.

Further, the congresswoman asserted that the plans for the relief funding did not include additional funding for counties and cities, still reeling from the pandemic, to assist in providing needed resources to frontline workers.

Sewell also believes the legislature should have reserved some of the relief funds for the expansion of Medicaid, a move she said is widely supported by healthcare professionals, particularly those serving rural communities, and one that would be a boon for the state as it witnesses record-high unemployment numbers, which inevitably lead to an increase in the number of uninsured.

“I think that wish list was truly outrageous and a show of bad faith when it comes to our lawmakers,” Sewell said. “I hope that they will rescind that wish list and go back to the drawing board and try to provide projects that truly address the here-and-now, the crisis that we’re enduring right now. There’s so many on the fronlines and I believe that we can have both a healthy economy, as well as healthy people, but we have to right now prioritize the gaping holes that we have in our testing across the State of Alabama and begin contact tracing, as well as do treatments. I clearly did not mean for that money to go to fund some Taj Mahal for our state legislators.”

Sewell also discussed the recent health order issued by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, which relaxed some coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses, which officially began Monday and followed a weekend that marked the largest increase in cases across the state since the start of the pandemic.

“I want to stress at the outset that these numbers are incredibly worrisome,” Sewell said. “These numbers reflect not just numerical numbers, but our neighbors, our church members, our colleagues and friends and family members. Opening up our economy also opens our communities up the potential for increased cases and we’re seeing that.”

Sewell also reported that Congress is currently negotiating a new relief bill that will provide further assistance to counties and cities, more funding to provide free testing and treatment and more.

The congresswoman voiced opposition to what she called congressional Republicans’ “pause posture” on further relief funding, saying that the harm still being done to workers and businesses is not taking a pause.

“The only way we can truly have confidence in our economy is if people have confidence that we’re having adequate testing, rapid testing, so that we can open up this economy with confidence,” Sewell said before returning to a familiar refrain. “Healthy people lead to healthy economies.”