Jess Koltsaklis and her mom, Louann Olson, enjoying some quality time together before the pandemic. (Courtesy of Jess Koltsaklis) Jess Koltsaklis and Louann Olson
Jess Koltsaklis and her mom, Louann Olson, enjoying some quality time together before the pandemic. (Courtesy of Jess Koltsaklis)

The plan calls for $160 billion in vaccine development and distribution nationally, as well as $20 billion for community vaccination centers. 

Jessica Koltsaklis can’t wait to surprise her mother on Easter. She’s going to give her a great big hug. 

“It will be over a year since I have been able to (do that),” said Koltsaklis, of Newtown, Bucks County, on Thursday.

Koltsaklis has been vaccinated against COVID-19, and her mother doesn’t know. Koltsaklis is still waiting for many other members of her family, including her husband Paddy, to get their shots. She can’t wait to spend more time with her family.

That’s why she’s excited about the American Rescue Plan that President Joe Biden signed into law Thursday.

Koltsaklis admitted she choked up while watching Biden sign the bill online.

“It’s been a very long year,” she said. “I miss my family and friends, and I’m hopeful this plan will get me back to them.”

Officials around the state see benefits in the COVID relief package, when it comes to getting more people vaccinated.

The plan calls for $160 billion in vaccine development and distribution nationally, as well as $20 billion for community vaccination centers. 

“Any vaccine getting to Pennsylvania is helpful,” said Maggi Barton, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health. State health officials are still reviewing the plan to see how it will directly help Pennsylvanians who want to be vaccinated.

US Rep. Susan Wild, whose 7th District includes Lehigh and Northampton counties, told The Pocono Record that the vaccine aspect of the law will be crucial to the economy.

“I’ve said for a long time that we were never going to have an economic recovery until people felt safe,” she said.

Five mayors from Pennsylvania cities—Lancaster’s Denene Sorace, Philadelphia’s Jim Kenney, Pittsburgh’s William Peduto, Scranton’s Paige Cognetti, and Williamsport’s Derek Slaughter—wrote an editorial in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review touting the plan, including its help with vaccinations.

“Perhaps more important than anything else right now, the American Rescue Plan would help us vaccinate more people at a quicker pace,” they said. “Expanded and coordinated vaccination efforts are absolutely essential to chart a path out of the pandemic nightmare. By prioritizing the health of our most vulnerable residents and restoring a sense of safety and confidence among the public, we’ll be able to safely reopen our schools faster and begin rebuilding our local economies.”

Brian Shea, 52, of Hanover, York County, said he’s really excited about the American Rescue Plan because he thinks it will help “more concrete steps be put into action.”

Shea, who has not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, said he’s confident he will be able to get vaccinated sooner, especially since York County is in the process of setting up a mass vaccination site.

He’s looking forward to visiting family and friends and just feeling safer about local interactions.

Some of Shea’s siblings have been vaccinated, and with the new CDC guidance, he said, he feels safe visiting them.

“I would also just feel more comfortable going to local businesses, even though I know we have to be vigilant for some time now,” he said.

“A hug from a friend would be nice, too.”

The COVID relief package is “a light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel,” Koltsaklis said. “It represents hope of heading back to normalcy.”