U.S. Rep Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, held a virtual town hall on Thursday night to hear from his constituents, share information about the work being done at the federal level and to express his support and optimism for the Biden administration.
During the town hall, Rep. Carbajal said he was confident that the Biden administration “will do everything in their power” to help heal the nation, not only from the recent divisiveness but also from the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to impact the Central Coast, the nation and the world at large.
The congressman explained that the new administration has started to address the COVID-19 vaccine supply and distribution inadequacies experienced locally and throughout the country, while also developing a national plan to tackle the crisis.
On several occasions, Rep. Carbajal made it clear that he is in full support of President Joe Biden’s proposed American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a $1.9 trillion stimulus package aimed at speeding up the United States’ recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recession.
The proposed plan is expected to include a $1,400 stimulus payment, extended unemployment funds, resources for small business, additional rental assistance and increased funding for food security programs. The plan also calls for $130 billion for K-12 schools to safely reopen.
“Solving the issues we face today will take a concerted and coordinated effort from federal, state and local governments,” he said. “If we expect state and local governments to provide for their struggling residents, Congress must ensure they are receiving additional assistance to do so.
“I am heartened that the American Rescue Plan will right this wrong and provide critical resources to our local and state government.”
Rep. Carabajal also used the virtual town hall event to share information on some of the bills he has introduced. This includes the California Clean Coast Act, which would ban oil drilling off the California coast, the California Land Preservation Act, which would halt new oil and gas leasing on federal lands until a thorough review is conducted proving it will not harm the environment, as well as the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, which would designated more than 240 acres of federal land in the Carrizo Plain National Monument and the Los Padres National Forest as wilderness, the highest form of federal protection, which would prevent any developments in the region, including oil and gas drilling.
“These pragmatic policies make a real difference in the fight against climate change and help ensure we protect the great outdoors for our children and grandchildren to inherit,” Rep. Carbajal said.
Rep. Carbajal fielded a number of questions during the town hall, including protections for the western monarch butterfly, voting rights and election security and student loan forgiveness.
Rep. Carbajal is calling for more funding to protect the butterfly habitat, as well as increased measures to grow the habitat for the species. He has written letters to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife calling for more to be done, and said he is “hopeful that in the near future” the western monarch butterfly will be considered as an endangered species.
In regards to voting rights and election security, Rep. Carbajal pointed to a pair of House Resolutions — HR 1 and HR 4 — would play a key role in ensuring the American people have confidence in its voting system.
“You should know that … the elections we just had were some of the most reliable, effective elections we have had,” he said. “Even Attorney General (Bill) Barr and others, all 50 states, have corroborated that our election systems have had the highest level of integrity and minimal to no fraud. I think what HR 1 will continue to do is make investments to give people even more confidence that our elections are fair and effective.”
HR 4, also known as the John Lewis Voter Rights Act, is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks and is aimed at making sure that no jurisdiction is putting up barriers preventing eligible and willing voters from casting their ballots.
On the topic of student loan forgiveness, Rep. Carbajal explained the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, and said he is hoping to make the program more robust. He also discussed the Degrees Not Debt Act, which provided more pell grants and financial aid packages to students for more affordability and accessibility.
Rep. Carbajal said he is looking forward to working with the Biden administration to cancel out parts of student loan debt that currently exist.
“President Biden has said that he is willing to work to cancel … up to $10,000 for individuals who currently have student debt,” he said. “I think that is a great step forward that we’ll be seeing in the near future.”
Rep. Carbajal was also asked about HR 51, which would make Washington D.C. a state. The congressman explained that the nation’s capital is taxed like every other state, but has no representation.
“We don’t want United States citizens to be taxed and have no representation. If you’re taxing someone they should have the right to have representation,” he said.
Rep. Carbajal also pledged his support of expanding the commercial launch program at Vandenberg Air Force Base, which he said would help with national security as well as the local economy. He explained that the expansion would require “a number of infrastructure upgrades” and he has been working on the House Armed Services Committee to ensure the local Air Force base has the support and resources needed.