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Another round of federal funding through the Build Back Better Act remains stalled in the U.S. Senate.

PMG PHOTO: DILLON MULLAN - Centro Cultural is moving its food pantry operation into a new space.A former hall at Centro Cultural de Washington County has been full of produce and cans for nearly two years now.

A few blocks away in the heart of Cornelius, the nonprofit group is busy converting retail space into a sort of grocery store, with a small warehouse of storage space, to distribute food across the county.

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, visited the site Wednesday, Jan 5. in part to see federal stimulus dollars at work.

Currently, the food pantry is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and reaches around 700 households per month. Food sources include the Oregon Food Bank, the Forest Grove Foundation, and donations from Trader Joe's.

Centro Cultural hopes to begin using the storage space this month and open the market, which will be free and set up like a traditional shopping store, sometime this summer.

"Here, Centro found a creative way to reach people and serve people with something new," said state Rep. Susan McLain, D-Forest Grove, who also toured the space. "They're always trying to bring together partners like the city, the federal government, the state and local groups so they can really maximize their reach."

Cornelius granted Centro Cultural $175,000 in American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, funding this fall to help fund the purchase of the new space, just a few blocks away from its main headquarters on Adair Street.

Bonamici is one of many Democratic members of Congress hoping that ARPA, along with a bipartisan infrastructure package approved in November, won't be the only source of federal support for local communities approved during President Joe Biden's term in office. She voted this past November for the Build Back Better Act, a $2 trillion package that Biden has been pushing hard in the first year of his presidency.

"There are so many provisions, affordable housing, healthcare, workforce development, dollars to address climate change, that are going to help people right here in Cornelius," Bonamici said.

Opponents of the Build Back Better Act — including all Republican members of Congress, as well as moderate Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-West Virginia — argue the legislation is overstuffed with Democratic priorities, could negatively affect businesses, and will add too much to the national debt at a time the United States is already experiencing high inflation.

It's not an easy time to be a Democrat in Washington, D.C. While Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress, their majorities are reed-thin, and polls show Republicans favored to win back control of the legislative branch in November.

The governing party is also grappling with a new phase of the stubborn coronavirus pandemic, as the omicron variant of COVID-19 surges. Their majorities aren't large enough to prevent moderate senators from blocking reforms to the Senate's filibuster rule, which effectively requires 60 votes for most legislation to pass, as well as the Build Back Better Act, which cleared the House of Representatives in November 2021 but doesn't appear to have the votes to pass in the Senate.

"It probably won't go through in the same form it passed the House, so we'll watch it closely," Bonamici said of Build Back Better.

The congresswoman added, "If it doesn't pass in the condition that it's in, we'll do everything we can to get those provisions passed — even if it has to be split up."

The version of the Build Back Better Act that passed the House continued a provision in the American Rescue Plan Act that provided some low-income families over the last six months of 2021 with a child tax credit worth a maximum of $3,600 per year for children under 6 and $3,000 for those between 6 and 17.

The last payments were sent Dec. 15. It's unclear when, or if, Congress will renew the child tax credit.

"The child tax credit puts more money in the pockets of working families," Bonamici said. "When you look at where people are spending that money, it's on food or rent."


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