At this point, we all know how serious the coronavirus crisis is impacting our daily lives. Talking with families and friends here at home, I know many of you are frustrated and concerned. I am too.
There is no need to panic, but I am urging folks across Southwest Michigan to be prepared and do their part to help contain the outbreak. We need all hands on deck.
Here at home, I am in constant contact with our local public health officials, small and large business owners, and medical experts talking with them about what they are hearing and seeing on the ground. They are facing a number of challenges, that’s for sure.
Children who depend on school meals are now at home as schools close across the state. Restaurants and bars are closed, harming those workers who are living paycheck to paycheck. And business owners dealing with economic uncertainty are having to make difficult decisions on how to cut costs.
This past Saturday, the U.S. House passed a major bipartisan bill to help workers and families respond to the coronavirus. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides funding for food and other necessities to help children who are away from school. It also provides funding for paid leave for workers because if you are sick, stay home. The deal also includes widespread testing at no cost to patients, as well as enhanced unemployment insurance and additional funding for Medicaid.
The bipartisan Problem Solvers group that I help lead is also talking about a number of additional solutions aimed at providing relief for workers, small and large businesses, and families.
Significantly increasing unemployment insurance benefits, providing low- or zero-interest loans to businesses, working with financial institutions to keep lines of credit open, prohibiting price gouging, and delaying when taxes are due are a few of the ideas on the table to help folks who are facing financial struggles.
Increasing the speed of testing, providing additional funds for food security programs and supporting child-care assistance policies would help address health care and other social needs.
All options are on the table, and we need to do our part to help one another through this crisis. Today, if you are experiencing struggles and are unsure of where to go for help, mi211.org can help connect you with thousands of nonprofits and government resources.
Let’s be clear: protecting the health, safety and overall well-being of all Americans remains our top priority. Stay calm and be vigilant. There are simple things we can do to help improve this situation, like limiting person to person contact. That is an important step.
But we also need to be sure to check in with folks. Call, FaceTime, or text neighbors, seniors and loved ones who are assuredly going to feel a little more isolated than they are used to. Volunteer to grab groceries for those vulnerable populations who should be staying home. Make sure senior citizens are doing OK.
This week, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the Coronavirus Task Force reported that a vaccine for the coronavirus is in phase one of trials. It is definitely early, but this is promising progress.
In the meantime, keep following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s steps that can help folks protect themselves and their loved ones. Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water. Clean frequently touched objects. Don’t touch your face. Avoid contact with the sick and absolutely stay home if you are sick.
I will continue to participate in daily briefings with my colleagues in Congress about the latest information on the coronavirus outbreak, which I will then share with all of you on social media and in media interviews. We will be working on solutions to help our workers and families.
Moving forward, remember we’re in this together, and if we continue to focus on solutions – not politics or blame – we will overcome this crisis, just as we have always done.