“Help is Here” announced United States Congressman Jim Clyburn through two tall banners erected on either side of the Weldon Auditorium. This was the setup and theme for his “Town Hall Tour” that visited several towns within his region, including Manning. During these meetings, Clyburn talked about the many ways he and other legislators were enacting change in DC, including an expanded child tax credit, larger medicaid and medicare deals, and increased vaccine distribution.
Speaking of vaccine distribution, Clyburn lead-in each event with a 1.5 hour vaccine clinic, free of charge to anyone who wanted to come. This stems from an intense desire to get the state of South Carolina vaccinated.
“You know, if there is anything keeping me awake right about now, it’s [low vaccination numbers in rural areas],” said Clyburn. “It is very clear. I understand that here in Clarendon County, the rate is around 43%. Nationwide, it is like 67%. That means Clarendon County is running far behind.”
However, Clyburn still commended Clarendon for exceeding the South Carolina rate of vaccination.
“However, Clarendon County is about 2% better than the state,” said Clyburn. “The state is now running at 41%. But, none of that’s good. Because, it has been demonstrated that 99.2% of all the deaths that are occurring now from COVID-19, are to people who have not been vaccinated. Now, the proof is in the pudding. If people want to continue breathing, my advice is to get vaccinated.”
The event began with several local speakers introducing Clyburn, as well as a local girl scout troop that led the crowd in The Pledge of Allegiance.
“For all of you who are here for your first time in the City of Manning, our motto is ‘Matchless for beauty and hospitality,’” began City of Manning Mayor Julia Nelson. “And I hope that you feel that today. Here in Manning, we like to give a ‘down-home welcome’. And if you would, please help me welcome our honoree, Congressman Clyburn, at this time.”
This was followed by booming applause for the Senator Clyburn, and then County Council Chairman Dwight Stewart.
“Whenever we need something, we always have Congressman Clyburn and his staff who work very well with us,” said Stewart. “They really take good care of us and do whatever they can to help us. It is such a privilege to see all of our appointed and elected officials come out to welcome Congressman Clyburn.”
Shortly after, SC House Representative Kim Johnson stood and recognized appointed and elected officials who attended the event. Following this, Pastor Johnson of Taw Caw Missionary Baptist Church stood and delivered an invocation. From here, Senator Johnson stood for the final welcome, and offered a short thank you to the youth in attendance before asking local Girl Scout Troop #547 to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. After this, Clyburn took the stage.
“I was asked […], why did I pick Clarendon County,” said Clyburn. “Well, two main reasons for being here. One of which, is Clarendon County is intersected by I-95. […] People refer to the I-95 corridor as the corridor of shame. Back when I was first running for congress, I pledged to John Land and a few others, that if he helped me get elected, I would do everything I can to turn this corridor into an oasis of opportunity.”
Clyburn then mentioned the six stops along his tour, and how four of them are located inside the I-95.
“Part of the reason why this corridor has received this moniker, is because we have, over the years, neglected so many communities along this corridor,” said Clyburn. “[…] That’s what I am working on. But none of this can happen if you don’t stay hopeful.”
Clyburn’s second reason was the proximity of his birthplace. Born in Sumter,
“Clarendon is always at the forefront of my mind,” said Clyburn. “As you know, I am a native of Sumter. Growing up in Sumter during the time where events were occurring over here that would lead to Brown v. Board of Education and Topeka v. Kansas. I’m always trying to make sure that Clarendon is at the forefront of all of my efforts.”
Clyburn began with a short video, talking about the many things he and other legislators were working to accomplish, with a heavy focus on vaccine distribution, before he dove further into what exactly he was hoping to accomplish.
The Child Tax Credit
Clyburn spoke in length about new changes to the Child Tax Credit, which allow parents to receive advanced monthly payments of the tax credit in the amount of $300 as soon as July 15. To better understand this, we will break down the eligibility requirements here:
Married couples filing jointly with incomes up to $150,000 are eligible, as well as single filers with incomes up to $75,000, and “head of household filers” with incomes up to $112,000. These filers will receive $3,000 for every child between the ages of 6 and 17, and $3,600 for every child five years old and under. As far as the process needed to obtain this money, it’s a fairly simple one. Anyone who is eligible that has filed a tax return in 2019 or 2020, or anyone who has received a stimulus check, will receive these funds automatically. For anyone that doesn’t fall into this category, they need only contact an IRS agent to get the process started. To further extend this ease, Clyburn brought IRS agents on his tour to help interested parents.
“The most interesting thing about the Child Tax Credit is that experts tell us that half of the children who are currently living in poverty, beginning July 15, will immediately be lifted out of poverty,” said Clyburn.
If this figure is correct, this will amount to approximately 5,950,000 children in the United States, nearly 4,000 in Clarendon alone according to Census data.
Clyburn also talked about the stiff resistance South Carolina presented on the topic of Medicaid expansion. Currently, there are only 12 states that are resisting, these include Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. And while the states have been offered various incentives, they are still pushing back. Clyburn offered a small anecdote to explain his confusion with this push-back, as well as an explanation as to why he thinks there may be resistance.
“Well, I think it’s simple, because people philosophically are against it because Obama was attached to it,” said Clyburn. “People have to understand that when [South Carolina leaders] deny the expansion of Medicaid, they are fine. The Governor of South Carolina, McMaster, is a good buddy of mine. He’s a pretty rich guy. He can take care of his parents, but a lot of people in South Carolina can’t.”
Clyburn also mentioned that Medicaid is no longer only for the low-income demographic, highlighting how the expansion now covers the middle-income demographic. Clyburn used nursing home care as an example of the need for middle-income coverage.
“More than half of Medicaid money goes for nursing home care,” said Clyburn. “People don’t realize that if you are a public school teacher, or a police officer, or a first responder, and you have a parent or grandparent that needs nursing home care, you will not be able to afford it without Medicaid. People look at this and push it off because it is for low-income; that is a sign of ignorance.”
Clyburn also explained how the American Rescue Act was helping to assuage the higher costs of Insurance in the Affordable Care Act. Through the new legislature, any Americans who have filed for and received unemployment any week in 2021 are able to access lower health insurance payments. As for how low, the numbers are impressive. An average of three out of five of all eligible uninsured Americans can apply for $0 a month payments, and four out of five can apply for $10 a month payments.
When asked if this could possibly lead to free universal health care, Clyburn said this:
“It very well could be. I’m not opposed to that. When the Civil Rights act was passed in 1964, it didn’t have housing in it, it didn’t have voting in it. We didn’t get voting until ’65, we didn’t get housing until ’68. And it didn’t apply to the private sector until 1972. So, I tell people all the time, […] maybe medicare for all is the way to go, but getting from point A to point Z requires that you stop at all the [letters] in between. So, point A may be the Affordable Care Act, and point B may be expanding Medicaid, but let’s see what point C is before we get to Medicaid for all.”
After his presentation, Clyburn accepted questions from the audience, which covered a wide range of issues. Different citizens from Clarendon and surrounding counties stood and voiced their concerns to Congressmen Clyburn, many of them based in the subjects of Medicaid and the Child Tax Credit. A handful of his constituents had questions about eligibility and the application process for the tax credit, as well coverage questions for Medicair. He answered these simply before directing these individuals to the IRS agents stationed at the back of the auditorium.
Jennifer Howard-Powell asked Clyburn for information on obtaining additional funding for the Clarendon County Council on Aging, and Alex Craven asked for funding for those left without clean drinking water in the community of Goat Island.
One citizen approached the microphone and informed Clyburn of issues faced with accessing the internet in rural areas. This gave him the opportunity to announce a $65 billion plan, “backed by republicans and democrats”, to improve access to the internet in rural areas.
County Councilman Benton Blakely took the stand and told Clyburn of the ongoing process of establishing a better industrial site in Clarendon.
By the end of the meeting, citizens seemed to be a little more reassured with the work that Clyburn was doing in office.
At the time of print, Clyburn is set to complete his tour on July 14 in Hopkins, SC.