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Sewell: ‘Resilience’ abounds in ‘face of despair’

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-AL, gave her annual “State of the District” address last week, a report on the ups and downs experienced in Alabama’s 7th Congressional District over the last year, in which the struggles connected to the ongoing CVID-19 pandemic loomed large.

“2020 was a difficult and indeed and unprecedented year,” Sewell said in her address. “The global COVID-19 pandemic caused a public health crisis that took the lives of our loved ones and resulted in an economic crisis that caused hundreds of thousands of Alabamians to lost their jobs and too many of our businesses to shut their doors. This year presented new and difficult challenges, increasing our resolve to ensure that those who live in Alabama’s [7th] Congressional District are able to access the COVID relief programs and also receive continuous updates about the virus and our economy.”

Sewell noted that, while the pandemic had limited public gatherings, her office hosted 90 district events over the past year, including telephone town halls, virtual grant workshops, the annual job fair and more.

Additionally, Sewell said her office secured $1.6 billion in grants for the district, as well as more than $1.1 million recovered “in favorable benefits owed” to the district by the federal government.

“Our commitment to you remains unwavering, especially in these very difficult times as we build back better,” Sewell said. “Perhaps the most important work that Congress did this year was in response to the COVID-19 crisis. I know that Alabama families and businesses continue to struggle and I will continue to press in Congress for additional aid.”

Over the past year, Sewell said she fought to secure $1.7 billion in direct care spending for the state and more than $115 million to deal directly with the crisis in Jefferson County, which emerged as a coronavirus hotspot in the state early in the pandemic.

Additionally, relief legislation provided $845 million for Alabama hospitals and healthcare providers, $124 million for state nursing homes and $27 million for community health centers.

“At the ed of 2020, our incredible scientists who have been working tirelessly to address the health needs of the public confirmed a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine for distribution,” Sewell said. “Alabama hospitals have already begun their first round of vaccinations for our most vulnerable citizens, as well as our frontline healthcare workers.”

Further, via the massive Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Sewell noted that over $217 million had been handed down to Alabama schools, $2.8 billion had gone out in federal unemployment benefits in the state and more than $8 billion had been allocated for small business relief in Alabama.

Alabama families have also thus far received about $4 billion in direct stimulus payments.

“I know that these payments have not been sufficient,” Sewell said. “But now that we have a new administration, it is my hope that Congress will work together to provide additional cash payments to help families in need.”

Sewell also discussed the current effort to get COVID-19 vaccinations in the arms of people across the state, as well as the nation, noting that she has already received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine and experienced no “negative side effects.”

“There is no denying that through the Tuskegee and other experiments, Black Americans have been medically exploited,” Sewell said in the address. “And I understand your concern about the vaccine. But the vaccine approval process has been transparent. And it’s important that we confront this deadly disease. And the vaccine will help us do that.”

But the pandemic wasn’t the only thing on Sewell’s mind during her annual address.

“2020 was not only difficult because of the pandemic – our nation experienced protests, a reckoning on police accountability and systemic racism, as well as the death of several civil rights icons, including my dear friend, colleague and mentor, the beloved congressman John Robert Lewis,” Sewell said. “His fight for voting rights embodies the very heart and spirit of our district and will inspire us to continue his fight to ensure that all Americans are able to make their voices heard at the ballot box.”

Sewell noted the election of Joe Biden to the presidency and the election of Kamala Harris to the vice presidency, making her the first woman and the first person of color to serve in the position.

“It is time for us as a nation to begin to heal and work together to continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic crisis and the ongoing needs of our communities,” Sewell said. “We will implement a national strategy to crush the coronavirus, vaccinate Americans equitably and build our economy back better. In 2021, I am also hopeful that we will be able to honor John’s legacy by…passing the John Robert Lewis Voting Rights Act into law. I will continue to fight for better economic opportunities and more resources for our district, always putting our constituents first. It’s the honor of a lifetime to serve you in Congress.”