While the latest COVID-19 relief bill was being read aloud in the Senate chambers, U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper posted excerpts of letters from his constituents on Twitter.
The letters, which were sent to his state office in Colorado, revealed a helplessness in people struggling with the consequences of the pandemic and a lack of government aid.
In some of the letters, Hickenlooper’s constituents asked for monetary aid from the government or improved access to mental health resources during the pandemic.
“I need cash to pay my bills. I have to choose between food, necessities and medicine,” one letter said. “Please, send relief now.”
Some letters included detailed, personal stories from people who lost loved ones to COVID-19. Others were from people facing financial strife, unemployment and homelessness as a result of the pandemic.
“I am going to have to close my doors unless someone can help me ... I am a proud Colorado small business owner, and I want to continue to be one,” another letter said. “Please, is there anything you can do? Is there someone you know who can help? I am sadly at the end of my rope.”
Many of them included urgent pleas for help.
“I can wait no longer for unemployment. I am homeless now,” one letter said. “My truck is out of gas and I’m parked on a street. I have two days of food. I already suffer from PTSD, major depression and anxiety. I can’t take it anymore. Help, quickly, please.”
Hickenlooper’s livestream on March 4 lasted nearly 30 minutes. He began it while Senate clerks were reading through the 600-page American Rescue Plan Act at the behest of U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc.
“There are hundreds and hundreds more,” Hickenlooper, D-Colo., said at the end of his livestream. “I hope that this Senate can move beyond the stalling and distractive time wasting and get this COVID relief bill passed once and for all.”
Senate clerks spent more than 10 hours reading the contents of the American Rescue Plan Act into the record. They began reading it just after 3 p.m. March 4 and finished around 2 a.m. the next day. The act passed the Senate on March 6.
“I just objected to skipping past the reading of the Democrats’ 628-page bill that was just introduced minutes ago,” Johnson wrote in a tweet March 4. “If they’re going to add nearly $2T to the national debt, at least we should know what’s in the bill.”
The American Rescue Plan Act would allocate $1.9 trillion to COVID-19 relief, including funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, child care programs, small business assistance, COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution.
While the act was in the process of being passed and amendments were being voted on, Hickenlooper tweeted throughout the process, critiquing Republicans’ efforts to slow down the process of passing the act.
“Republicans have kept us up all night by delaying much needed COVID relief. But it’ll all be worth it once we finally get it passed,” Hickenlooper said in a tweet. “It’s been a frustrating 12 hours, but that pales in comparison to the pain Coloradans have endured under this pandemic.”
Grace George is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C.