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A cry for help!

Lost jobs and the need for health insurance dominated a telephone town hall on the economic stimulus package conducted recently by a local representative.

The town hall was open to residents of the 13th Congressional District, which includes a large swath of southwestern Brooklyn as well as all of Staten Island, represented by first-term Rep. Michael McMahon.

One woman told McMahon that she had just been laid off. “My biggest problem,” she stressed, “is health insurance.” Job losses, the woman added, were one of the most significant issues facing this country. “I’m finding it out firsthand,” she added ruefully.

Two other callers also said they had been “laid off for quite a while.” One stressed, “I have to continue to pay my bills.”

The reality, as McMahon noted, is that, “We are all feeling pretty worried at this point. People are upset that they’ve taken our American dream and turned it into an American nightmare.”

In all, the stimulus package promises 3.5 million jobs, including approximately 8,000 within the congressional district, as well as “immediate tax relief” for working people,  McMahon told his listeners. The jobs will do more than put people back to work, he added. “They are investments in our infrastructure,” he stressed. Money targeted at education will mean that “Teachers don’t get laid off, and schools stay open and flourish,” he said. The stimulus money will also “keep cops on the street,” McMahon added, “and keep our water clean.

“The money will help people who lost their jobs get through this hard time,” he went on, “not forever.”

Foreclosure relief will help even those not in danger of losing their homes. “If the house next door to you is in foreclosure, we all lose,” McMahon emphasized.

The stimulus package is expensive, he acknowledged. However, pointing out that  former President George W. Bush had been left a surplus by his predecessor, President Bill Clinton, and that that surplus, over eight years, had become a significant deficit, McMahon stressed, “We are in a terrible recession so that all economists, even the most conservative, are saying only the federal government can get the economy going. We are spending money now, but the president said that over his four year term we are going to cut the deficit in half.”

Concern over the economy is clearly widespread. “What we learned is what we know -- the tough economic times we hear about on radio or TV are very real in our district,” McMahon said in a subsequent interview. “There are people in Brooklyn who don’t know how to pay for their health insurance, who don’t know how to pay for their mortgage. We in the federal government are committed to getting our people and country out of this mess as soon as possible. This requires stimulus spending in the short term and fiscal prudence -- bringing down the deficit -- in the long term.”

A whopping 7,927 people were “on the phone at some point” during the event, which focused on economic issues, noted Lauren Amendolara, a spokesperson for McMahon. While McMahon answered 25 questions, approximately 200 people got in the queue to ask questions, and another 200 people left voice mails at the call’s completion, Amendolara noted

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