Congressman Gregory Meeks joins Yahoo Finance Live to weigh in on the latest stimulus talks as the U.S. House and Senate prepare to vote on the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill and break down how Rep. Meeks feels after receiving Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.
MYLES UDLAND: All right, let's keep our focus here on negotiations down in Washington, DC, and talk to someone who has been close to the situation as Congress tries to get a fiscal package through at the end of the year. We're joined now by Representative Gregory Meeks. He's a Democrat from New York's 5th Congressional District. And Representative Meeks, thanks so much for joining the program today.
Let's begin with the stimulus negotiations and, from your vantage point, what seems likely to pass today, how pleased you are with the package that may get through. And Congressman, we need you to unmute yourself, if you could.
GREGORY MEEKS: I know that something is better than nothing. You know, the HEROES Act that we passed five, six months ago. I think was more thorough, but we're making sure that there's some needed relief. $900 billion is nothing to sneeze at, especially because it's just for a period of four months, and it's going to put some money into the hands of the people that desperately need it. You know, when you've got individuals who have been out of work, they desperately need some resources. You have small businesses that are hurting in a very bad way. We've got to make sure that unemployment insurance is up for another four months. We've got to help some of these renters who may be evicted from their apartments if we don't do something, and we put all of that into this bill.
So I'm going to vote for it, of course. And then I believe we're going to have to look at another package come four months from now, or I think we'll be better shape to make sure that we'll be even more helpful to the individuals after January 20.
JULIE HYMAN: Congressman, it's Julie here. So given that you're now turning your attention to another aid package and given that this one was so tricky to get done, how are you and the other congressional Democrats sort of strategizing around the plan for how to move forward?
GREGORY MEEKS: Well, we know that this plan, as I said, we did get some things done. We're going to get some relief for a number of individuals. But we know, just as we knew back when we passed the CARES Act, that that was not going to be enough. And that's why back in July we came out with another package at that particular time that would have gone for a year or so trying to-- so we wouldn't be where we are now. We wanted to negotiate that at that particular time.
But, of course, I think things will change after January 20 because there will be another president of the United States. A large part of the problem has been, I think, the obstacles that have been put forward by the Republicans in the Senate and backed up by the White House, quite frankly. That is removed after January 20, and then I think that we can take a real look at those that have been hard hit through no fault of their own but because of this pandemic.
And hopefully also we'll see some light at the end of the tunnel because of the vaccine. And hopefully by April, May, and June, they'll be-- the economy will start to kick back in, and then we can look at what we-- you know, so we can make an estimate of what we should do at that particular time.
BRIAN SOZZI: Congressman, I follow you on Twitter, and I saw that you just got the COVID-19 vaccine. Do you know which vaccine that was, and how are you feeling?
GREGORY MEEKS: Yeah, it was the Pfizer vaccine, and I'm feeling great. In fact, you know, the shot itself, I didn't feel it at all at the time that they administrated it. In fact, it was less pain at that particular time than the flu shot. You know, and after waiting for 15 minutes as instructed, no side effects whatsoever. Fact of the matter, I then went out and jogged for about four miles, so I felt so good.
I got up the next morning, a little stiffness, a little soreness in the arm, but that's all-- at the shot, at the location of the shot. But then I went out and exercised again, as I did this morning. So I'm feeling great. And I know that I've got to go back in 21 days to take shot number two.
But it was important for me to take it so that individuals in my community, you know, would know that you can follow the science and the doctors and that this is a safe vaccine to take and it's what's going to help us get to the other end of the tunnel where there's much light.
JULIE HYMAN: And Congressman, first of all, I'm impressed by your workout regimen, but secondly, you know, you have these CDC guidelines for who was supposed to get the vaccine and when. And I know that many members of Congress in both the House and the Senate got the shots already, and is it for the reasons that you talked about, that it's basically a public-relations campaign to convince people that it is safe and they should be getting the vaccine?
GREGORY MEEKS: Yeah, you know, for me, exactly that. I do weekly Facebook-- FaceTime live show on every Tuesday at 5:00. And I was talking to a number of my constituents, and I had a doctor on with me last week. And I just heard the skepticism of a lot of my constituents in regards to whether or not they were going to take this vaccine. They didn't trust it, particularly African Americans, because of the history that we've had with vaccines and experiments that have gone unknown until such time that people were victimized negatively.
And I've had the access to the science and talking to doctors, et cetera, and I wanted them to know that it is safe. Had I not taken it, I believe they'd say, oh, there must be a reason Congressman Meeks is not taking the vaccine. He knows better. He's waiting to check it out. No. I want them to know that it is a safe vaccine, that when it is available to them that they should take it because it would help us get past this pandemic.
We still have to wear our masks. I'm still wearing my mask. I'm still social distancing. But this is another tool in the kit to get us to where we can get back to normal as soon as we possibly can.
MYLES UDLAND: And, Congressman, finally I just want to ask you about how your district is doing. You know, it's a district that has JFK within it. It's an area of Queens that was hit very hard by the number of cases back in the beginning of the pandemic. You know, we're here in New York City, and it's-- you know life is different now than it was one year ago, and I'm curious, you know, kind of how you're assessing the state of things in the 5th and how your constituents are feeling right now with, you know, a tough winter ahead but, as you mentioned with a vaccine, hopefully some light at the end of the tunnel here in New York.
GREGORY MEEKS: Well, no, a little bit of a nervous pattern right now given that the mayor and the governor has shut down all of indoor dining, for example, and warning individuals during the holidays to make sure that, other than your immediate family living in your household, et cetera, not to have large crowds.
You know, with the airport in the district, as you've indicated-- it's the largest employer in the district, and that's why I am pleased, for example, in this supplemental and this stimulus package that there was some money that's going to the airlines, that's going directly to the workers so that those especially that have been furloughed and the airlines have indicated they will begin to pay some of those furloughed workers immediately.
So they've been hurting economically, many of them, you know, as a result of losing income and questioning on how they were going to pay their rent. Again, that's why this stimulus package included $25 billion for renters and extended the eviction moratorium through January 31. Folks was getting nervous that they might get evicted because they had received some notices.
So they're on edge, but they're still hopeful, and they're looking, and they're waiting to see what the government can do to help them to give them the hands-- the heads up or the hand up that they need so that they can make sure that when we get to the other side, they can continue to exist and do what they need to do.
JULIE HYMAN: Representative Gregory Meeks of New York, sir, thank you so much for your time, and be well.
GREGORY MEEKS: Thank you. Thank you. And everybody else, do the same, and happy holidays to you.
JULIE HYMAN: And to you, sir. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.