Durbin Hosts Virtual Guests For President Biden's First Joint Address To Congress

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today held a virtual news conference to preview President Joe Biden’s first Joint Address to Congress and discuss how the American Rescue Plan has helped Illinoisans. Durbin was joined by four Illinoisans who are his “virtual guests” for the President’s Joint Address to Congress. The guests discussed how the American Rescue Plan improved COVID-19 vaccine awareness and distribution, extended unemployment insurance and protected health insurance for unemployed workers, provided state and local governments with financial support, and offered assistance to restaurants and their employees struggling amid the pandemic.

“President Biden’s first 100 days in office, along with the first 100 days of Democratic leadership in Washington, has resulted in trillions of dollars of support to American communities. There is still much more work to do to get our economy back on track and to create more jobs and more opportunities for Americans. That’s why President Biden is pushing a more than $2 trillion infrastructure investment through the American Jobs Plan and a $1.8 trillion investment in our kids and families through the American Families Plan. Because of President Biden and Democrats’ efforts, help is on the way,” said Durbin.

Joining Durbin at today’s news conference as his “virtual guests” were Mayor Tom McNamara, Rockford, Illinois; Sam Sanchez, Chair of the Illinois Restaurant Association; Natascha Jeffries, Nurse Practitioner for Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation (SIHF) in Centreville and East St. Louis, Illinois; and Vahap Sarac, Banquet Captain at the Palmer House in Chicago, Illinois, who has been unemployed since the start of the pandemic. 

“Like cities our size across the country, Rockford has been hard hit by the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve been incredibly proud of how our residents came together to help each other during these difficult times. The American Rescue Plan was an aggressive and critical approach to help the country recover and rebuild from the devastating impact of COVID-19.  With Sen. Durbin’s leadership of the Illinois delegation and his advocacy for the Plan, we’re able to continue the vital services and programs our residents need and deserve,” said Tom McNamara, Mayor of Rockford.

“One of the most significant milestones of the Biden Administration’s first 100 days in office is the passage of the American Rescue Act, including the $28.6 billion for a dedicated Restaurant Revitalization Fund,” said Sam Sanchez, Chairman of the Board, Illinois Restaurant Association. “This is exactly the kind of relief restaurants have advocated for throughout this devastating year, and we commend and thank the administration for making it happen. Having funds set aside for small businesses, as well as establishments that are owned and led by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals is a critical element in the industry’s potential for long-term recovery.”

“As we continue to fight this war against COVID-19 as a country, and as a community and as a family, we are now left to manage these illnesses. This continues to increase the responsibility of healthcare workers and first responders throughout our country. COVID relief funds made available by the ARP will aid in providing much needed resources to these individuals.  Also, I am so impressed at how smaller communities such as East St. Louis and Centreville have really rallied together to support each other during these difficult times,” said Natascha Jeffries.

“I was laid off because of the pandemic, and this March I had a scary time losing my health insurance. As a father with two children, one who has a medical condition, and a wife who depend on me for health insurance, it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever gone through. I’ve never been in a situation like this and at one point I was so worried about my kids’ health insurance, I was considering sending them to Europe to have access to health care. Without 100% free COBRA, I would not be able to afford health insurance. Without the extension of unemployment benefits, we would not be able to pay our bills and buy food. I’m grateful to Senator Durbin and the Chicago Federation of Labor for listening to us and fighting to include 100% COBRA in the American Rescue Plan,” said Vahap Sarac.