Editorial: As spring nears, our optimism rises for better days ahead

The past week has been memorable, with actions that will have a major impact on the North Fork’s future and still others reflecting the time in America we are living through.

President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is designed to provide massive amounts of financial relief to businesses, individuals and families. Some $30 billion of that is earmarked for independent restaurants — the kind we have in Southold, Riverhead and Shelter Island — which, along with other areas of the hospitality industry, have suffered greatly during the last 12 months of this pandemic.

Mattituck’s Tom Colicchio, a famed chef and industry advocate, hailed the passage of the bill on national television. “There are so many independent restaurants that are going to get a lifeline and stay open, and that will be great for the economy, for employment,” he was quoted as saying in one account.

In addition to help for ailing businesses, many North Fork residents will soon receive a $1,400 stimulus check. This will have a dramatic impact on people’s lives and the overall well-being of our region.

Across our region the pandemic has had an enormous impact on small businesses — the lifeblood of our local economy — and on schools and families. With the passage of this act, and with the acceleration of vaccine distribution now underway, there is light at the end of the tunnel where there was none just a few months ago. The late spring and summer of 2021 will be far different from the same period last year.

Critics of the act say it is too expensive. And, no question, it is a great deal of money. Those same critics of the bill in the House and Senate voted enthusiastically for President Trump’s trillion-dollar tax cut that affected a far smaller segment of the country. 

They were fine with that and expressed no concern over the fact that its passage ballooned the national debt to record levels. Now, with the American Rescue Plan, they claim to be concerned about national debt. Political hypocrisy runs rampant. 

In a recent column in The New York Times, David Brooks, who views himself as fiscally conservative, hailed the bill as “one of the most important pieces of legislation of our lifetimes. As Eric Levitz writes in New York magazine, the poorest fifth of households will see their income rise by 20%; a family of four with one working and one unemployed parent will receive $12,460 in benefits. Child poverty will be cut in half.”

He went on to say a billion dollars will be poured into national service programs such as AmeriCorps. And he quoted a study from the Manhattan Institute that said this: “America spent $4.8 trillion in today’s dollars fighting World War II. Over the past year, America has spent over $5.5 trillion fighting the pandemic.”

As we have pointed out before, more Americans died in the past 12 months from COVID-19 than all U.S. combat deaths in World War I, World War II and Vietnam combined.

The arrests in Florida of a Greenport High School graduate for his role in the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, the goal of which was to stop the certification of the electoral college vote in favor of President Biden, reminds us of the time we are living through — with all its bitterness, lies and anger.

Christopher Worrell, 49, an alleged member of the Proud Boys extremist group, was arrested by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. Photographs released by the FBI show Worrell in tactical gear and using pepper spray against those defending the west side of the Capitol. 

We are living in a very difficult time, but there is hope on the horizon. For each of our residents on the North Fork who receives a vaccine, we are better; for each restaurant that can pay its employees, we are better; and for each family with young children whose fears of financial ruin and not being able to feed their family are eased, we are far, far better.