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Booker: Proposed COVID-19 relief bill is 'far short' of desired pandemic aid for states and communities

Booker: Proposed COVID-19 relief bill is 'far short' of desired pandemic aid for states and communities
© Bonnie Cash

Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerMenendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill Democrats want businesses to help get LGBT bill across finish line Garland commits to combatting systemic racism MORE (D-N.J.) on Wednesday night said that the $900 billion coronavirus relief bill that Congress is on the edge of passing fails to provide “robust funding” to communities of color that have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

Booker made the comments at a virtual town hall hosted by the NAACP aimed at educating the Black community on the multiple vaccines that have been produced to inoculate the public from the virus.

The former Democratic presidential candidate acknowledged that Democrats currently didn’t have “buy-in” from congressional Republicans.

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“What I've been pushing for is really robust funding, especially for those jurisdictions that are most in crisis to be able to distribute this vaccine,” Booker said, noting the well-documented fact that Black, Latino and Native American communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. “We need to make sure that state and local communities have the money to get the job done.”

“I'll be frank with you, we do not have the buy-in to do this at the level that we need,” Booker continued. “Without that robust funding, I fear that some places will see similar hiccups and barriers that we did and still do see as we try to roll out a comprehensive testing regime. We know that when these barriers are erected or the challenges are faced, they're most difficult when it comes to Black and Brown communities, in low income and poor communities.”

Booker was joined by National Institutes of Health senior researcher Kizzmekia Corbett, who is on the front lines of vaccine development, and Marcella Nunez-SmithMarcella Nunez-SmithOvernight Health Care: White House to ship coronavirus vaccines directly to community health centers | WHO: 'Unlikely' that COVID-19 came from a lab | Uber and Walgreens to offer free rides to COVID vaccine sites White House to ship COVID-19 vaccines directly to community health centers Mistrust of government is significant roadblock to Black American vaccination efforts MORE, a Yale physician who is co-chair of President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenHoyer: House will vote on COVID-19 relief bill Friday Pence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Powell pushes back on GOP inflation fears MORE’s coronavirus advisory board.

All underscored the need for access to the coronavirus vaccines to be “equitable” for the most vulnerable Americans.

The only vaccine currently being administered to Americans is Pfizer’s. Critical care nurse Sandra Lindsay, who is Black and thought to be the first American to receive the vaccine outside of clinical trials, was given the injection on Monday.

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Communities of color, but in particular Black communities, have been disproportionately ravaged by COVID-19.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black people in the U.S. are 3.7 times more likely to be hospitalized and 2.8 times more likely to die from the coronavirus than white people. Native American and Latino people are hospitalized at about four times the rate of white people and are over 2.5 times more likely to die.

Increased funding for state and local governments, the kind of aid that Booker and Democrats have been pushing for, has been one of several contentious policy areas.

The current iteration of the bill would provide another round of stimulus checks — a big desire of the Democrats — but will most likely be for $600 or $700 apiece, lower than the $1,200 checks distributed through the CARES Act after it was passed in March.