Michigan Senators Discuss Strategies to Help Residents
LANSING, MI - A special live virtual town hall meeting was held about the on-going COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, April 16th.
The event went live at 7pm and was hosted by Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters. They addressed many topics in connection with COVID-19 such as unemployment, small business, health care, safety, virus testing and how it has impacted the state of Michigan. Three metro Detroit news anchors were also present and interviewed both Senators to answer questions from Michiganders with information they wanted on the federal response to the unprecedented crisis.
Senator Debbie Stabenow was asked about President Donald Trump’s plan to reopen parts of the country in phases and says, “What I’ve heard is he talked about testing, which is very important, and governors making decisions in their own state. We have to make whatever decisions are made as a country and a state based on the medical experts to keep ourselves safe. We all want to get the economy going again.” Senator Stabenow believes a vaccine will eventually be created and give everyone confidence and have the vaccination and continue what we’ve been doing with our lives, but between now and then it’s about testing.
Senator Gary Peters was asked about the goal to ease restrictions on areas with few infections and places that were hit the hardest and says, “We have to be very careful about moving and take time to gradually reopen. I believe it’s essential that we do this from expert advice from epidemiologists and public health experts who can tell us the way to move forward in a fashion that protects people. This is a delicate line and balance we haven and driven by public safety and expert advice from the public health area.” says Senator Peters.
Many viewers had asked why both Senators were against the stimulus package when so many people are in need of it, and also asked if there will be a second stimulus package. Senator Stabenow says she was originally against the stimulus, saying it wasn’t good for Michigan. Stabenow also says, "The process from start to finish took the senate only five days for this $2 trillion package. The first vote that Senator McConnell decided was a vote before we had bipartisan support to get this done. The original bill that was put together did not have the health care money for what doctors, nurses, and hospitals needed. From my standpoint we can do better and we did within a couple of days to address the main issues, the health care pandemic and people being asked to stay home or required to close their business, we have to have a way for people to have income.”
“We're in the process of another package and negotiating that right now, we need more dollars for the small businesses package, as well as more healthcare dollars. If we’re going back to work and going to be safe along with our families, workers will be confident on going back to work,” says Senator Stabenow.
Senator Peters expands on the heroes' fund stating that one area he feels passionate about are the men and women on the front lines who truly are heroes. Peters also says, “These are the people who have to go to work everyday, while most are in shelter and can work remotely. Many people can’t do that and have to show up to get a paycheck and those jobs are essential to our economy. If you're putting yourself at risk, you should be entitled to additional pay.”
Small business owners who were watching asked about how the Senate failed to come through to refill the payroll stimulus package because they ran out of money and were going to lose employees. Senator Stabenow answered saying, “This is a really important strong bipartisan program and we’ve put $350 Billion into this and have heard from independent restaurant workers that have not been able to access the fund. People in rural areas and farmers are in trouble because they’ve used credit that wasn’t originally recognized, which is part of the banking system for the loans. We need to get this next round of funding and want to make sure every kind of business, and everyone in Michigan is supported with this."
Senator Peters says there are different approaches and part of the approach is so the unemployment system in the Pandemic Assistance Act, of which Peters wrote and his legislation, expands eligibility beyond those who would normally get it. Peters says, "Small businesses can file as well as people in the gig economy, independent contractors and people who wouldn’t normally get unemployment."
“We can’t start our economy quickly if our small businesses are suddenly out of business; they're the engine of growth and the ones who employ most of the people in the country, so we also need to protect them and that’s why we use the seven A loans through the business association. if you have local banks, community banks, credit unions, those people processing applications, you would be able to get it in the hands of small businesses a whole lot quicker rather than set up a new system. The systems we have now may not be perfect to deal with the volume we have right now, but we're already existing and thought we could get money in the hands of people a whole lot quicker,” says Senator Peters.