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With the economy in crisis and 16,500 Americans losing their jobs each day, Congress acted rapidly, transparently, and responsibly to pass an economic recovery package for American families. The bill is not perfect and may yet be improved, but it is a reasonable and decisive step out of economic chaos. I voted for H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, because our families and localities need this lifeline.
There is nothing fancy about this recovery package, just basic measures to help our states and localities to keep teachers and police officers on the job. The vast majority of this bill goes directly to tax relief for families and one-time support to our state and local governments to help cover shortfalls on education, health care, and unemployment benefits. In a major break from the past, there are no federal earmarks in the bill, and controversial programs such as funding contraception were removed. Instead, it includes investments in infrastructure, rural broadband, and energy efficiency that will create jobs and save money in the years ahead.
The bill has flaws, but remains a solid step towards economic recovery and a new kind of solutions-oriented politics. Where the last Congress offered blank-check bailouts, we now see unprecedented transparency and accountability – the public can track every penny of this plan and how it is spent through a website, www.recovery.gov. Where the last Congress focused on Wall Street, we now see investments back in Main Street with tax breaks for small businesses and 95% of American families. Where last year’s bailout saw the federal government claiming all control, this new approach is a partnership with state and local officials to get this economy turned around. The focus is emergency relief and medium-term job creation.
Based on many listening sessions with citizens and local officials, I have fought hard to make sure small towns and rural communities are represented. I have fought for investments in rural broadband and other infrastructure projects that create value and competitiveness over the long term. And I am proud to have co-authored a provision that helps working families keep their children in college. It will also help displaced workers afford a community college or university education to be prepared for new jobs once the economy recovers.
There is still much work to do to get us through the rapids and back to shore. I will be working closely with local and state officials to make sure this package works for our District and our families.
There is an important deadline approaching: on February 17, 2009, there will be a nationwide termination of traditional analog television broadcasting as the nation transitions to digital television, which provides viewers with a better television experience and frees up the old airwaves for use by our brave first responders.
If you have an analog television set and receive television service by rooftop antenna or rabbit ears, you will lose television service on February 17. Here are your options for converting to digital television:
1. Buy a digital-to-analog converter box at many national retailers. The converter boxes cost $50-$70. All U.S. households may apply for up to two $40 coupons to put toward the purchase of up to two converter boxes. Currently, there is a waiting list, but you are encouraged to apply and put your name on the waiting list.
2. Buy a TV with a digital tuner, or;
3. Subscribe to cable, satellite or another pay service.
There is a 24-hour hotline to answer questions and take coupon requests: 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009). You may also visit www.dtv2009.gov to learn more about the digital transition and how to avoid losing television service.