The U.S. House was scheduled to meet next week, but has reversed course due to the threat of COVID-19.
However, the need for a federal response still persists as jobless claims continue to rise and complaints around access to small business loans are mounting. How will congresspeople representing the state of Michigan respond?
Listen: Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib, Haley Stevens and Brenda Lawrence talk plans for COVID-19 response.
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Detroit representing Michigan’s 13th District, says that the current health crisis has changed how many people view workers, particularly those in the district she represents. “Many of my neighbors are now being called ‘essential workers’ when before this they were called ‘unskilled workers,” says Tlaib.
The congresswoman adds that more needs to be done for struggling families as we approach the first of the month. She says the CARES act didn’t go far enough and has proposed allocating a monthly $2,000 stimulus per person to households via debit card. Tlaib says bold ideas like this need to be adopted even after the crisis subsides and that returning to the “status quo” won’t be enough. “So many of us don’t want us to go back to ‘normal’ because that was never normal for us. As I said, many of my residents are in survivor-mode…Environmental racism was never ‘normal’,” says Tlaib.
Congresswoman Haley Stevens, a Democrat representing Michigan’s 11th District, is concerned about small businesses accessing money through the paycheck protection program. Stevens says there were administrative and bureaucratic issues with how the program was set up, leaving many banks unprepared to distribute money efficiently to small businesses.
The congresswoman says that ultimately, it is up to the government to provide a backstop for struggling businesses during this crisis. “We’ve got to treat everyone equally. We are not going to let you fail. We’ve got a responsibility as a government. The IRS has no problem collecting taxes…we can do this right,” says Stevens on fairly allocating funds to small businesses.
Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, a Democrat representing Michigan’s 14th District, says addressing the racial health disparities in the COVID-19 pandemic should be a priority. A key part of tackling this issue will be to ramp up testing in areas disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, says Lawrence. She says that food access, poverty, distrust of the medical community and bias all contribute to the health disparities being reported in African American communities. “There are so many things that are going into this. And bias… It’s not only African Americans, it’s the poor,” says Lawrence.