Vice President Kamala Harris speaks one-on-one with Action News Jax

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax is the only local station who spoke one-on-one with Madame Vice President Kamala Harris about the Biden Administration’s $1.9 trillion-dollar COVID-19 relief package.

Millions of Americans have received stimulus checks as a result of this bill, but Action News Jax Courtney Cole spoke exclusively with Vice President Harris about the other ways this plan will help the people in our area.

“We want to make sure that again, through this crisis, that we’re holding onto people and not letting go until we can get to the other side,” said Vice President Kamala Harris.

Related Story: Coronavirus: New PPP changes focus on helping smallest businesses

Harris said the American Rescue Plan was designed to help get Americans to the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said a significant part of that $1.9 trillion-dollar relief package is funding for COVID-19 vaccines.

“Get your vaccine, because it will save your life and the life of your friends, your family,” Harris told Action News Jax.

According to the latest state data at the air time of this story, 193,386 people were vaccinated in Duval County.

However, the local, federally-run Gateway site and its hubs have had an underwhelming response.

On Monday, March 22nd:

  • 1,570 COVID-19 vaccines were administered at Gateway out of the 2,000 vaccine dose capacity.
  • 418 COVID-19 vaccines were administered at The Carver Center out of the 500 vaccine dose capacity.
  • 269 COVID-19 vaccines were administered at the Oceanway Community Center out of the 500 vaccine dose capacity.

However, this does not necessarily mean any vaccines doses are going to waste.

According to State Public Information Officer, Mark Brady, they do not break out all doses at once. They remove vaccine doses from the freezer based on demand throughout the day.

Cole asked Vice President Harris how she plans to reach people in those minority communities that now have access to the vaccine, but still haven’t visited a vaccine site to get vaccinated.

“Let me tell you that what I’m finding and I’m traveling the country— people do want to get vaccinated. And so what we need to do is make sure that they have access. And that’s why as a part of the American Rescue Plan, we made sure we would put resources into community health centers, as well as the big vaccination sites, into pharmacies,” Harris explained.

Right now, select CVS, Walgreens, Publix, Winn Dixie, Harvey’s and Walmart & Sam’s Club locations are administering the COVID-19 vaccine locally.

Another big focus of the rescue plan – helping small businesses.

Harris says the COVID relief package will give them $50 billion dollars in support.

“There are specific carve outs for those small businesses. ‘Cause you know, after all, half of America’s workforce works at a small business or runs a small business,” Harris told Action News Jax Courtney Cole.

PHOTOS: Vice President Harris visits Gateway Mall, Feeding Northeast Florida

Those specific carve outs include, but aren’t limited to special relief for restaurants and shuttered venues.

The U.S. Treasury Department says small business revenue is down 32% nationally, and at least 400,000 businesses have permanently closed.

I’ve reached out to a number of agencies including the Small Business Administration, the Small Business Development Center at UNF, and Yelp for Jacksonville-area data.

The SBA and the Small Business Development Center told Cole they don’t track that type of data.

Yelp did respond after my deadline to explain they do not have updated business closure data to share. However, they did share a detailed report regarding business recovery and re-opening. You can read more here: https://bit.ly/3chQB3o

Jacksonville could $187 million dollars from this federal plan.

Cole reached out to the City of Jacksonville for more information regarding this dollar figure; One of the spokespeople for the City said they’re still waiting for a definitive number from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Florida will receive $10.2 billion dollars, Governor DeSantis has been vocal about his dissatisfaction with the amount.

Cole asked Harris what her response was to Governor DeSantis’ criticism of the allotment of federal dollars to Florida.

“I think people know that, you know, at a time when they’re suffering and when they have a great needs and again, through no fault of their own— they want to know the government is going to be there to stand by them and to stand with them,” Harris said.

Watch full one-on-one interview below: