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Senator Patty Murray
Credit: Courtesy of Senator Patty Murray

Senator Murray sees light at the end of the dark Covid tunnel

The American Rescue Plan will deliver billions of dollars to Washington state. There's money for vaccine distribution, rental assistance, mass transit, and a lot of help for families.

More than 90% of U.S. families with kids will receive benefits from the child tax credit. A family of four with young kids could receive $7,200. That doesn't even include the stimulus payment.

Washington Senator Patty Murray has been pushing for years to expand the child tax credit program. KUOW’s Kim Malcolm asked her how she'll know if funding for U.S. families is having the impact she wants to see.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Senator Patty Murray: We will know because we will see the confidence in our low-income people. We have so many young children today who are food insecure. We have people who are homeless who have children. We are seeing so many kids so far behind.

As we see these families get the resources they need to provide the basics for their kids, we will see the impact in the coming months and years. But this can't be just a two-year plan, it really has to be an investment in America that we continue to do.

Kim Malcolm: That child tax credit is only funded for a limited amount of time. What if it isn't renewed next year?

Sen. Murray: We are going to work really hard to make sure we continue that. We're going to watch the statistics very closely. Obviously, our best selling point is programs that work.

I think this one will. I think that as Americans see the difference that this makes, not just for poor families, but the fact that it helps our economy overall when people are able to purchase things and goods and contribute to their communities more, that we will be able to extend it. We could only do it for a short amount of time within the confines of this bill, but I really believe this is a policy that we need to continue to do. That's what I'm going to fight for.

Malcolm: President Biden's new $2 trillion plan for the nation's infrastructure covers quite a bit, from hundreds of thousands of jobs in renewable energy to home healthcare for seniors. Is a bill this size really needed given that we've already channeled trillions of dollars into Covid relief?

Sen. Murray: There is no doubt that before this pandemic hit, our country was hurting. We were not up to par where we needed to be in so many areas: in our roads, bridges, highways, infrastructure, and internet. Our childcare system wasn't what it needed to be for our economy to be strong.

We know that if we want to come back out of this pandemic in a stronger way, we've got to get back to a place that's better than where we were before. That's what this investment package does.

Malcolm: And the $2 trillion price tag doesn't faze you?

Sen. Murray: I don't think the price tag is the issue. I think the fundamental issue is that our country is hurting, and if we do not invest in ourselves, as any business would, as any family ought to be able to, we are not going to be here strong in the future. I think people recognize that.

Malcolm: There are quite a few states that are passing legislation that would restrict voting rights. The U.S. House has now passed the For the People Act that could stop quite a few of those measures. Is voting rights the issue that's going to force the majority leader's hand here?

Sen. Murray: I am very worried about the fact that in this country we have seen legislative action to reduce people's ability to use that vote. These are essential parts of our democracy. I think that that means we have to really look at these issues very strongly and say how do we make sure that we as Americans assure that our democracy is here far into the future and protect voting rights?

In that instance, I think that we may well have to make an exemption to the filibuster, at the very least, in order to make sure that we protect our democracy, which is so critical.

Malcolm: An exemption to the filibuster, but not an outright change for all legislation?

Sen. Murray: I think we have to look at what we can do to make sure that we protect our democracy.

Malcolm: People are exhausted. What are you telling your constituents about what they can realistically expect from their government?

Sen. Murray: I think we are all exhausted. There's no doubt about it. This pandemic hit people personally and hard, whether it was their kids going to school, themselves being able to go to work, or losing their jobs. Everybody has felt the stress and the mental health of this.

What I say is everyone is shoulder to the wheel right now trying to get this right. We passed the American Rescue Plan, a great step in the right direction. We are working to make sure we invest in our country. Our vaccine production and distribution and getting it into arms is going to work. Everybody has to participate.

We see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have to keep going towards it. There will be hiccups, there always are in every recovery, but let's keep marching forward, each person doing the thing that they know they need to do: wear their masks, wash their hands, socially distance, and get that vaccine. We will come out of this, and if we do it right, we will be stronger at the end.

Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.