After the windy arrival at Las Vegas’ McCarran airport for America’s second couple, and a greeting from Nevada’s first couple, the first stop was to a vaccine clinic at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
Here, Vice President Kamala Harris thanked the medical staff — many of who were medical students from the UNLV School of Medicine — for vaccinating thousands of locals — 63,602, to be exact, last count.
Med student Lauren Hollifield was the soon-to-be-doctor giving the shot.
“It sends a message to the whole nation that this is important,” said Hollifield. “The vaccines are here, and her and President Biden are going to make it their priority to make sure that all Americans get their vaccines.”
Harris comes here days after the president signed the nearly $2 trillion rescue package into law.
The administration’s first stop to sell that bill is here: a city whose tourist economy was hit hardest in the nation and is just now beginning to see recovery.
Las Vegas still has the highest metro unemployment in the country.
This is why, for the Biden administration, it is an important visit, says Congresswoman Dina Titus.
“It’s very important that people hear how this bill is gonna help them directly, and we start to rebuild trust in government again so people know what government can and should do,” Titus said. She met with the Vice President briefly at UNLV.
“She thanks Congress for passing, or the Democrats in Congress for passing, the Rescue Bill,” Titus said, referring to the fact the package passed on party-line votes in both chambers.
The bill offers help with direct payments of $1400 to most Americans. It extends unemployment. It offers rental assistance.
It gives Nevada’s cash-strapped state and local government billions.
“So Harris can show up and make a speech saying we have come to help solve that problem, and frankly, getting over the pandemic – and the aid – are going to do a lot to help solve that problem,” said UNLV Associate Professor of History Michael Green.
At the CulinaryAcademy today — where culinary members learn their trade — Harris talked about why the rescue plan is important.
“In Nevada alone, 1 in 7 households are describing hunger in their households, in Nevada, 1 in 5 households have an inability or difficulty to pay rent. In Nevada alone, 1 in 4 small businesses is out of business,” Harris said. “So President Biden, a while back, he said help is on the way. So I would say, help is here.”
“This is supposed to be the job of your government, which is when you’re suffering, when you need a helping hand, when a little assistance to just get over a moment of crisis you didn’t create, that’s when leaders are supposed to kick-in and say, ’I’m here, I see you and I will help you,” said Harris.
Harris gave her remarks in the Culinary Academy’s ballroom, where its food assistance team had set out boxes containing thousands of pounds of vegetables and fruit. The program, according to the academy, has distributed more than 12 million pounds of food during the pandemic.
Her visit comes as Democrats unveiled an advertising campaign touting the benefits of the American Rescue Plan. It runs in cities in major battleground states like Nevada beginning today.
Republicans had their own welcome. The Nevada Republican party put out a statement saying, “This progressive wishlist of a bill does not help the American people combat the impacts of COVID-19 as only 9% of the bill’s spending goes directly toward COVID relief.”
That refers to the fact about $160 billion, or 8.5%, goes toward items like vaccine production, distribution and protective gear. Democrats say the vast majority of funds provide financial relief for those who have struggled through the pandemic.
Republicans say the vaccine distribution was only made possible by the efforts of the previous Trump administration and its vaccine development program called Operation Warpspeed.
Harris was accompanied by her husband, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, who toured the Three Square food bank.
Air Force Two departed McCarran shortly after 3 pm, headed for Los Angeles.