Inside Weldon Auditorium, everyone stood, and cheers from the crowd of more than 150 adults filled the Manning auditorium as they welcomed U.S. Congressman James E. "Jim" Clyburn and his Help is Here town hall tour.
House Majority Whip Clyburn interacted with residents on Thursday evening as part of his five-stop July tour in the 6th Congressional District.
The 80-year-old Sumter native is embarking on his tour across rural communities in South Carolina to promote the benefits of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, the relief package from President Joe Biden's administration that became law in March.
"I'm out here today as part of our job of telling people exactly what the American Rescue Act is," Clyburn said at the event.
In his presentation to the crowd, he highlighted the temporary expansion of the child tax credit, the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid in South Carolina.
Clyburn discusses benefits of advance child tax credit
To help people get a better understanding of its benefits, Clyburn discussed the new initiative by the government to give parents advance monthly child tax credit payments up to $300 starting on July 15 and ending in December. The remainder of the credit money will be disbursed after parents file their taxes next year.
Eligible families will receive an advance on their child tax credit, which parents usually receive after filing their taxes in the amount of $2,000 per child. Married couples filing jointly with incomes up to $150,000, single parents filing with incomes under $75,000 and "head of household" up to $112,500 are eligible to receive $3,600 for every qualifying child 5 and younger and $3,000 for every qualifying child ages 6-17. Anyone who filed taxes in 2019, 2020 or received a stimulus check will receive this advance payment through a check in the mail or automatically deposited into their bank accounts.
"This money is coming from the IRS. It is a tax credit," Clyburn said.
He said this new initiative will be able to provide extra funds for child care for parents who have suffered from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and get them back into the labor market.
Parents like Crystal Bryan of Sumter County plan to use the money to provide and buy necessary supplies for her children such as groceries, hygiene products, clothes and more. She also plans to use the money to pay for costly medical expenses, as three of her four children have health conditions.
"I would make sure my kids are straight because the kids are our future," she said. "We have to make sure our kids have exactly what they need."
Clyburn also said this tax credit can greatly benefit the 6th district, especially for the 136,000 children living in the county. 92% of children in the district will receive the credit, which will help lift 11,300 children out of poverty, according to methodology from Co-equal.org.
Clyburn discusses lower health insurance under Affordable Care Act
Clyburn also discussed the benefits of the American Rescue Act lowering the cost of health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. In the ACA, a family of four with an income between $26,500 and $39,750 will pay no monthly premium for health insurance and reduced deductibles, and families of four with income above $106,000 are eligible to receive health insurance through the marketplace with premiums that don't exceed 8.5% of their income. If anyone needs health insurance or needs to update their enrollment, he advised them to go to www.HealthCare.Gov for more information.
Expanding Medicaid coverage in S.C.
When it came time to talk about the expansion of Medicaid in South Carolina, the congressman had a lot to say on the issue. South Carolina is one of 12 states that is stiff in its resistance in expanding coverage of Medicaid, which he said is denying citizens access to health care. The other states include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The American Rescue Act has offered "incentives" to these states to expand Medicaid, but Gov. Henry McMaster has been opposed to taking any initiatives to expand Medicaid in his state.
"It's kind of interesting to me that this resistance is still there," Clyburn said.
Audience members asked the congressman why the Palmetto State rejects the Medicaid expansion. Clyburn shared that he thought many oppose the expansion because of its connection to former President Barack Obama's health care law. He said it's time for things to change in the state.
"The ACA is here to stay. It's high time the leaders of South Carolina stop this foolishness and take care of its low- and middle-income people," he said.
Questions from the audience
After his presentation, Clyburn spent the next hour and a half taking questions from dozens of residents from various counties. Many residents raised concerns about swirling misinformation about the expanded child tax credit on social media and asked for better communication with the congressman, who advised them to not click on any email, accept calls or listen to any information that can be viewed as suspicious.
Clyburn also answered one resident's questions about what residents can do to help push Medicaid expansion in the state, with the congressman saying the majority of the work has already been done by residents and now the next step is convincing legislators that expanding Medicaid is beneficial for South Carolinians. He said if this doesn't work, then the next step may have to be asking Congress to provide for direct assistance to eligible people to receive Medicaid assistance.
At the end of the event, residents and visitors said they can leave Thursday's meeting with their questions thoroughly answered and concerns put to rest.
"He answered so many questions, but I think what was lingering with us is information that we weren't clear on, and he gave us clear clarity on what's going on," said Lillie Caldwell of Clarendon County. "He did an excellent job."
Others who attended the event were impressed with Clyburn's deep knowledge and insight into the plan.
"Congressman Clyburn has such a grasp on all the information that was put before him," said Boykin Parson of Williamsburg County. "Everything that's been brought before us tonight ... I thought it was very successful."
The next stops on his tour will be at Trident Technical College in North Charleston on Monday, July 12, Santee Conference Center on July 13 and Garners Ferry Adult Activity Center on July 14.
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