Exclusive: Kamala Harris sits down with Vanessa Echols to talk stimulus, health care and more

ORLANDO, Fla. — Vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris sat down with Channel 9 anchor Vanessa Echols for an exclusive interview Monday.

The senator spoke with Echols after campaigning at an early voting drive-in rally in Orlando. The pair discussed topics ranging from the economy and unemployment to future stimulus packages and the Affordable Care Act.

READ: Vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris speaks at campaign event in Orlando

Harris has served as a senator representing California since 2017. She is running for vice president on the Democratic ticket along with former Vice President Joe Biden.

Her visit marks one of many in recent weeks by big names in the 2020 presidential race. With Election Day just over two weeks away, President Donald Trump and Biden are maintaining a strong presence in the Sunshine State.

READ: Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office’s website down as early voting begins

Echols asked Harris about issues we are dealing with here in Central Florida, like our unemployment rate being the highest in the state after thousands of workers lost their jobs, including those at Walt Disney World who’ve been told they’ll be out of work by the end of the year.

“What specifically would a Biden-Harris administration do in those first few months to get these people back to work and financially on their feet again?” Echols asked.

“Joe Biden and I see this. We understand it. First order of business is to work on getting control of the virus and that means a national plan for testing and treatment and free vaccines when we get one, God willing, that is safe,” Harris said.

READ: 9 things to know about early voting in Florida

“In terms of economic relief, it’s about paid family leave, paid sick leave,” Harris continued. “We’re going to make sure families don’t pay more than 7% of their income in child care… and by the way we will not increase taxes on anybody making less than $400,000.”

Echols also asked Harris, if elected, what she and Biden would do about another coronavirus relief package.

“And if you win, during that transition, what would your administration do to urge Congress to pass something to bring money to people here in Central Florida, because we’re so dependent on the tourism industry?” Echols asked.

READ: Presidential election 2020: What to do if you are denied the right to vote

“Tourism is one of the biggest sources of the economic engine of our country in a huge piece of Florida’s economy. And Joe and I realized that and so what that’s going to be about is one, immediately pushing Congress to pass a relief bill. And frankly, they shouldn’t have been pushing through that United States Supreme Court nominee, they should have been voting on the relief package that is sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk right now, but Senate Republicans refused to move it. So we will do it. And here’s what the relief package will include: an expansion of SNAP benefits, which we call food stamps, why do people need food stamps? Because they’re hungry. It’s going to be about an expansion of what we need to do to help people in terms of unemployment, especially when we’re looking at all the folks who are being laid off and fired.”

Echols also asked Harris about another financial issue facing Central Floridians: the financial issue of health care and the Affordable Care Act, which has an uncertain future right now.

“The Supreme Court is going to look at cases involving the ACA. If the court makes some moves to virtually dismantle it, what would your administration do to protect people who have pre-existing conditions?” Echols asked.

Photos: Early voters line up at Central Florida polling locations

“Over 7 million people in Florida have pre-existing conditions, and got covered by the Affordable Care Act. And so when we look at where we are now, over 8 million people now have a new preexisting condition called COVID. And what we know the doctors are telling us unknown kind of long-term consequences that could include lung scarring, heart damage,” Harris said. “So Joe and I feel very strongly we have to protect health care for the American people and make it affordable for the American people. And we’re going to do that in a way that folks can keep their private insurance, if that’s what they want, there’s also going to be a public option, if that’s what they want.”

Watch Channel 9 Eyewitness News at 4 p.m. for an in-depth look at their conversation.

Watch the full interview below:

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.

Vanessa Echols

Vanessa Echols, WFTV.com

I have been a member of the Eyewitness News team since 1992 and currently anchor Eyewitness News at Noon and 4 p.m. on Channel 9.