Johnson Visits Austintown Vaccine Clinic, Urges Targeted Aid

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – Further federal pandemic aid should go toward increasing vaccinations and be targeted to those who need economic assistance most, said U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson on Monday, rather than fulfilling a “liberal wish list.”

Johnson, R-6 Ohio, visited the vaccination site operated by Mahoning County Public Health at the Austintown Senior Center to thank the workers providing vaccinations there.

Following the U.S. Senate’s approval of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan over the weekend, the amended legislation will return to the U.S. House of Representatives to consider in its final form.  

Johnson voted against the initial legislation when the House passed it just over a week ago. The United States already has spent more than $3 trillion on COVID-19 relief, $1 trillion of which remains “in the pipeline” and hasn’t reached the people it is supposed to go to, he said.

COVID relief legislation should not be targeted to priorities such as the “liberal wish list” of items that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer want to get through, such as an increase in the federal minimum wage – which was removed from the Senate version – and infrastructure spending. 

“It should be targeted to things like this,” Johnson said at the vaccination site, as well as to provide assistance to people who lost their jobs or are laid off because of the pandemic. 

“Let’s get the vaccines out there. Let’s get them produced. Let’s get them distributed. Let’s get them in people’s arms. Let’s get our schools open,” he said. “It has been extremely difficult for kids to have to remote learn because part of their learning process is the social interaction.”   

During his visit, Johnson urged the public to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they are able. 

“The more people we get vaccinated, the quicker we get them vaccinated, the quicker we’re going to get through this,” he said. 

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson talks with Mahoning County Public Health commissioner Ryan Tekac at the agency’s COVID-19 vaccination site in Austintown.

The clinic at the senior center has operated since January, providing up to 600 vaccinations daily, said Ryan Tekac, Mahoning County health commissioner. A full list of who is eligible under the state’s rollout plan can be read HERE

The site has four to seven vaccinators on hand every day, he continued.They come from a range of backgrounds including health department nurses, contracted emergency medical technicians and volunteers. 

The vaccination program benefits from having the 12,000-square-foot senior center available. 

“We’re very fortunate to have this facility,” Tekac said. “It’s very smooth from the time that you come in. Once you come into the building, you’re out of our building within a half hour. So there’s not a long wait at all.”   

To date, about 15% of the county’s population is vaccinated, Tekac said. 

“We’re very pleased with the turnout. We hope that as we continue to work down the phases that we continue to see that turnout,” he said. 

When questions by reporters during his visit, Jonson said he is still considering a potential bid to succeed U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who is not seekinh reelection in 2020. 

“I’m taking a good strong look at this,” he said. 

Johnson noted he has spent a decade representing the people of eastern and southeastern Ohio in Congress and is closely examining whether he can better represent them in the Senate.

“We’ve got a lot of time to think about things,” he said. 

Pictured: U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson watches as Canfield firefighter and paramedic A.J. Joseph gives a COVID-19 vaccine shot to Austintown resident Dave Denton.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.