BLOOMINGTON — While a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package cleared one legislative hurdle Monday, U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood said he won't be supporting the legislation as currently proposed.
LaHood prioritizes vaccine distribution
The Peoria Republican expressed his disagreement with some components of the measure after a tour of the Grossinger Arena vaccination site in Bloomington on Monday. LaHood said the 591-page package, which is backed by President Joe Biden and passed the House Budget Committee on Monday, "wastes money on things that aren't related to COVID."
Among the provisions drawing Republican ire: a plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.
"A minimum wage hike — there's money in there for museums and humanities — checks going to illegal immigrants," he said. "I think if we keep that out of there and focus on small businesses and how we help them and getting the vaccine out there, I'm going to be able to support that."
The relief bill — which will head to the House Rules Committee before it hits the House floor — would extend pandemic-specific benefits to the self-employed and gig economy workers and add a $400 weekly unemployment insurance supplement that would last through the end of August.
It would also provide $1,400 payments to millions of low- and middle-income people and increase child tax credits.
Another $20 billion would be allocated for a national COVID-19 vaccination program. LaHood said he supported more money heading toward distribution efforts, which Democrats have said is a goal of the bill.
LaHood said he would put advocating for increased distribution "on top of my list" upon his return to D.C. this week after praising the McLean County Health Department and area healthcare workers for their efforts to distribute vaccine locally.
Earlier this week, Illinois municipal leaders addressed a letter of support for the relief package to the state's congressional delegation, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The letter, released by the White House on Feb. 19, urged all 18 Illinois House members and Democratic Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin to support the measure.
LaHood is among the state's five Republican congressmen — also including Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, and Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville — who have joined with other GOP members in opposing direct state and local pandemic relief funding.
More than $7.5 billion in federal funding would head to Illinois if Congress approves the relief bill, with municipalities getting $5.7 billion.
Last week, LaHood told Peoria-based WMAY radio that he supported advocacy for cities who could prove revenue losses due to COVID-19.
“But what I don’t want is the federal government coming in and bailing out blue states that have had systemic economic problems,” LaHood said in the interview. “This can’t be a blank check that (Gov.) J.B. Pritzker has to then help bail out or pension system. That’s not good for taxpayers.”