I have lived in Nashville all my adult life and am a proud graduate of Nashville State Community College and Trevecca. My wife, a registered nurse, and I have together raised three children, all of whom graduated from MLK Magnet High School for Science and Engineering(formerly Pearl Cohn High School).
Our children received excellent public school educations, and our son-in-law is a public school teacher in Memphis, where they are raising our 3-year-old grandson. Excellent schools like his and the ones my children attended in Nashville – MLK Magnet, Hume-Fogg, and East – are housed in some of the oldest school buildings in the city. I am so grateful that the American Rescue Plan included much needed investment for our schools which have been underfunded for years. This historic legislation has provided the resources needed to make every school building safe for teachers, like our son-in-law, and the students whom they teach.
The American Rescue Plan includes the single largest investment ever in public education funding – nearly $170 billion. That money can be used to reduce class sizes and modify spaces to comply with social distancing guidelines, modernize HVAC systems, hire more school custodians, hazard pay for nurses and counselors, and add more buses and drivers to facilitate social distancing on bus routes. The funding can also be used to address learning interruptions among students as a result of this year-long health crisis.
A large number of our family members are health care professionals who have been on the frontline of the COVID health crisis for this past year. My wife has been a public health nurse for over 30 years and worked on the Contact Tracing team for months during 2020. My older sister was a registered nurse at one of Nashville’s largest hospitals, and my baby sister works at Meharry Medical College. My wife and family have experienced this pandemic first-hand through the patients they have served, and my wife contracted COVID during this very serious pandemic. We have been very grateful to Dr. James E.K. Hildreth for his leadership at Meharry, and for guiding Nashville through this pandemic as an advisor to the Mayor’s Coronavirus Task Force.
We have watched with dismay as Governor Lee refused to take the simple health measures recommended by doctors and health experts to protect our families and communities. His stroll in March down Broadway, maskless and unvaccinated, is yet another indication of his failure to take this seriously and be a role model for ALL the Tennesseans he was elected to lead.
I am grateful for life, and that the American Rescue Plan has prioritized vaccinating every American, and has provided the resources to get the job done. As a result, everyone in my family has had access to this life-saving vaccine and as grandparents, we are thrilled that we can safely get those hugs from our grandchild!
This past year has been tough economically on so many families, and mine is no exception. As a gig worker, I have been unemployed for the last year. Without the unemployment benefits provided by the CARES Act last year, even though we own our own home, relying on my wife’s income alone would have been a real hardship. I was worried about how we would manage when these payments expired. Thankfully, the American Rescue Plan extended these benefits through Labor Day, which I was counting on to get us through until I can hopefully gain full employment. Now, Governor Lee has ended that lifeline of federal support.
There are so many ways this rescue package is helping me and my family and I want to add one more. One of our children, who struggles with a health diagnosis, has access to excellent health services at Vanderbilt Medical Center, thanks to the Affordable Care Act which made him eligible for a marketplace insurance plan when he turned 27 and could no longer be on his mother’s group insurance plan. The American Rescue Plan provides additional critical funding for mental health services which are a lifeline for so many of us.
From a grateful husband, father and grandfather – first and foremost, I am thankful to God for life and family; and I thank you President Biden, for putting people first and for understanding that we pull through by pulling together, like we have done in the past. Now more than ever, this virus has shown us that we are dependent on each other, and no matter where we come from, what we look like or how much money we have, we need to ensure that everyday people can make ends meet and that our leaders make policy choices that build a safe and thriving nation.