The role of government during a public health crisis should be clear. It should provide families, workers, and employers the resources they need to stay safe, healthy, and financially stable. Three significant pieces of legislation that were crafted as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic include:
- The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
- CARES Act
- The Heroes Act
Each has assisted families all across the nation as they battled COVID-19, and we are all thankful. But what is troubling is that all three are responses to the crisis after the fact. When it comes to national health emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic, see America shift into its crisis management role. We must strive to move away from being reactionary and look more proactive in such matters since we know that worldwide pandemics occur in roughly 100-year cycles.* Since this is not some well-guarded secret, it is difficult to understand how our nation was caught so woefully unprepared when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. While assigning blame does little at this point, we need to ask: what were the lessons learned? Why was it that virtually all local, state, and federal levels of government were caught “flat-footed” on pandemic preparedness? And we must ask: What do we need to do NOW to prevent the missteps of the recent past.
To better prepare our nation for the next pandemic, we must be proactive and take steps now. This includes:
- Pass legislation to guarantee that there will never be a shortage of PPE for doctors, nurses, or any US citizen.
- Government must work hand-hand with the private sector to ensure a robust manufacturing capacity for vaccines.
- Life-saving items like ventilators must be readily available to all hospitals that require them.
- We must also demand that our ability to test and contact trace be the model of the world.
To move America away from the crisis management role, I purpose crafting circuit breaker legislation similar to the Stock Market rules that kick in at various thresholds during the next pandemic to quicken the federal government’s response to those in dire need.
The lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic are clear, and they highlighted what we need to do better as a nation next time. We need to be prepared with response packages that will include investments in the healthcare industry, providing critical funding to support hospitals and frontline providers, increased testing, and provide resources and relief to Suffolk County nursing homes.
We have all witnessed them keep things running. We call them heroes, but this does little to help them pay their bills. Simply put, essential workers deserve compensation and protection. Many could stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19, but our essential workers continued to work to keep our nation operating. They are heroes making sure we have healthcare, food, and other essential services.
During any future pandemic, premium pay for essential workers that reflects their risk in continuing to work during a public health pandemic needs to be considered along with access workers compensation should they get sick on the job.
We must recognize that small businesses are the backbone of our economy. In my mind, small businesses need to be put ahead of the line during the next pandemic, that we should not bail out large industries first. Compared to small businesses, these large industries are better equipped to wait while caring for our small businesses. Programs that are currently in place must NOT be depleted by large corporations who already have deep ties to the banking industry. Such programs include:
- Funding for Small Business Administration Loans,
- Economic Injury Disaster Loans,
- Paycheck Protection Program
Even today, as we attempt to re-open the economy, we must continue to monitor small businesses and advocate for the resources they need to recover and prosper.
There’s no way around it; our nation will encounter another unemployment crisis during the next pandemic. That is why I support legislation that provides all workers – including self-employers, gig economy workers, and independent contractors who are generally not eligible for unemployment benefits.
As an educator in the classroom, I am keenly aware of the food security problem in our area. I have spoken to parents and students about how so many families, workers, children, and college students go without food far too often. This is why I strongly support enhancing food security programs, like SNAP, WIC, and we must look for a solution to school lunch programs when schools are closed for prolonged periods.
Financial Assistance for Families
Suffolk County residents have taken recommendations to stay home, stay safe, and stop the spread seriously, and, as a result, they are hurting financially. Many families, even with federal and state support and unemployment benefits, struggled to make ends meet. I recognize this problem, and I would champion the cause to ensure the everyone in Suffolk has the support they need to stay safe and healthy.
The lack of adequate, affordable child care is an issue that is impacting far too many families in Suffolk county. The impact of COVID-19 spared no sector of our economy, and the child care industry continues to suffer after being hit so hard during the shutdown. We must ensure working parents have access to child care as the economy re-opens.
Although science tells us that another pandemic will adversely impact our nation’s health and economy, we need to be vigilant today of the COVID-19 variants. We must be clear and united in our support communities as they look to return to the post-pandemic world.
The government can never be caught “flat-footed” on pandemic preparedness again. We need a representative in Congress who has seen, first-hand, the impact of the painfully slow government response in our communities. We need a representative who was on the frontlines during the shutdown and one who will make sure that the missteps of the recent past never occur again.