FAIRFIELD — Three people seek every available job in America, Rep. John Garamendi said Tuesday in calling for an extension of unemployment insurance benefits.
“A lot of Americans are living on the edge,” he said of other people who rely on Social Security.
Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, spoke during a telephone town hall that followed the president’s State of the Union address. Garamendi, who represents the 3rd Congressional District that includes Solano County, said during the teleforum that he wanted to focus on the president’s speech as well as the state of the congressional district.
“This has been a really good night for America,” Garamendi said of President Obama’s address. “I thought he gave an uplifting, positive speech.”
Garamendi took more than a dozen questions during the telephone town hall that through computer-generated phone calls contact about 50,000 constituents. Several people asked him about unemployment, including a woman who said it’s incredibly difficult to reach the state Employment Development Department or to find one of its offices.
“It’s a disgrace,” Garamendi said.
The congressman said that he’s been known to throw a tantrum after three minutes of waiting on the phone and getting a recorded announcement. He said the federal government is not responsible for the state employment agency and suggested the caller contact Gov. Jerry Brown’s office about getting a human being to answer the phone at the Employment Development Department.
Asked about President Obama’s support for raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour, Garamendi said he backs boosting the wage.
“It does give a working man or woman an opportunity to be out of poverty,” the congressman said.
A higher minimum wage also reduces welfare and reliance on food stamps, Garamendi said.
Garamendi, responding to a question about what’s being done increase water storage in Northern California, said he supports building the Sites Reservoir in Colusa and Glenn counties. He blasted a state proposal for twin tunnels to transport water and called the plan a $25 billion boondoggle.
“It is a crazy, stupid policy,” he said.
The congressman told a man who asked why Congress has different health insurance than what’s available to Americans that, “You’re wrong.”
Garamendi said his insurance is the same as anybody gets with the Affordable Care Act and spoke about buying health insurance through Kaiser Permanente.
“A lot of people assume, as you did, that we get something special,” the congressman said.
Garamendi said health care coverage in rural California is a serious problem and that if he were still insurance commissioner for California, he’d work to provide doctors for such regions.
A woman who spoke about her grandson on probation finding it hard to get work was advised by Garamendi to have him enroll in a community college to pick up more skills.
The congressman said early during the teleforum that “I love these town halls” but that they’re not a substitute for traditional, in-person meetings. A representative of the Telephone Town Hall Meeting company in Golden, Colo. has described the tele forums as “talk radio on the phone.”
Garamendi will offer 10 town halls around the 3rd Congressional District beginning Feb. 8 through the middle of March. They include:
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.