Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Addresses Coronavirus Concerns From Military Families in Latest Tele-Town Hall
April 15, 2020
Honolulu, HI—This afternoon, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) was joined by military base commanders in Hawai‘i to talk with residents about how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the military, servicemembers, and their families. The Congresswoman also provided an update regarding the latest news about funds from the CARES Act being distributed to the state, new tools for individuals to get their Economic Impact Payment, and how the National Guard is helping to support the state’s COVID-19 response.
She was joined on the call by base commanders Colonel Thomas J. Barrett, commander, U.S. Army Garrison Hawai‘i, Colonel Raul Lianez, Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i, and Captain Jeff Bernard, Commander, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“The military is a big part of our Hawaiʻi community, with many of our neighbors and family members serving our nation. Even in the midst of this pandemic, our men and women in uniform and their families are continuing their service, in spite of the challenges they face. I want to thank our base commanders for joining me this afternoon to answer questions related to their response to this pandemic and how they are standing with Hawai‘i as members of our community. We are all together in this fight,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
In her opening remarks, Rep. Gabbard let everyone know that the IRS launched its “Get My Payment” page which allows individuals to help track their Economic Impact Payment. Acknowledging that with the public health crisis looking to extend into next month, forcing continued social distancing precautions and stay-at-home measures, this one-time payment will not be sufficient for many people. She committed to continuing to fight in Congress for additional aid to individuals and families to help make it through the pandemic.
She also reiterated the importance of completing the 2020 Census and urged everyone to do so online or by phone to help limit the need for door-to-door follow ups in the summer and to ensure that Hawai‘i gets its fair share of Federal resources in the decade to come.
Rep. Gabbard announced the latest CARES Act emergency funds being distributed to Hawai‘i for schools and universities as well as the state’s airports, which are critical lifelines between our islands. She also noted that FEMA has opened up an additional $100 million in disaster relief funds to which states can apply by April 28.
Turning to developments in Hawai‘i, Rep. Gabbard noted that though there is continued frustration with the rollout of Unemployment Insurance and compensation, the state’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has rolled out a new website and contact information to streamline the process. She also touched on the outbreak clusters in Kona and at Maui Memorial Medical Center, reiterating her call for more stringent use of PPE and wearing of masks as well as increased testing and contact tracing.
On a more personal note, she mentioned that the Hawai‘i National Guard continues to be activated to help in the state’s response — assisting with testing and tracing efforts as well as other logistical needs — and that, as a member of the Guard, she stands ready to serve. Rep. Gabbard also recalled that nearly a year ago she saw off her former unit, the 1st Battalion, 487th Field Artillery, who were deployed for training and then to Afghanistan and mentioned that as the tele-town hall was taking place, these soldiers were making their way home to Hawai‘i. She noted that the soldiers returning from active duty overseas will be subject to the mandatory 14 day quarantine upon their arrival in Hawai‘i. Those returning have already gone through an additional 14 day quarantine upon their arrival in the United States and all remain healthy.
The Congresswoman and base commanders addressed how social distancing guidelines are being followed on military installations. The base commanders emphasized the importance of following stay-at-home, hygiene, and sanitation guidelines, noting the use of cloth facemarks and additional handwashing stations, limited access for visitors, and the requirement to maintain a 6-foot distance in public spaces such as commissaries and while exercising. Any confirmed COVID-19 cases on military installations are being reported to both the Department of Defense and the State Department of Health.
In response to a question about the current lack of ability to test all those who travel to the islands, Congresswoman Gabbard noted the work that needs to be done to prepare to reopen travel in the future. She repeated the need for widespread, rapid testing in order to stop the spread of the virus when travel again becomes possible.
Background: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard previously hosted four tele-town hall events, on March 18, March 25, April 1, and April 8 to update Hawai‘i residents with news about what is being done to confront the pandemic and assist those who are being affected by it. She was joined on these calls by state and federal public officials as well as community leaders to answer questions from across the state.
She created a COVID-19 resource webpage on her website as well as sends out regular e-newsletter updates to keep connected with constituents as developments happen.
Protecting and Providing for Americans During the Crisis
In early March, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced H.Res.897, a resolution that would provide an emergency non-taxable Universal Basic Payment of $1,000 per month to all adult Americans until COVID-19 no longer presents a public health emergency. She was the earliest Member of Congress to introduce legislation for a Universal Basic Income-like payment as a temporary economic stimulus package to directly and immediately help Americans as they weather this crisis.
In March and early April, she cosponsored H.Res.908, a resolution which draws attention to the increased anti-Asian bigotry being witnessed during the coronavirus crisis and calls on the Federal government to work with state and local law enforcement to confront and prosecute hate crimes related to this, as well as reached out to U.S. Departments/Agencies, Congressional Leaders, and mortgage lenders to urge them to take measures that respect the hardships faced by individuals and families during this pandemic including a halt to all foreclosure and eviction proceedings and urging support for SNAP and WIC. She continues to call for direct support for those that are most in need in the relief bills before Congress, including farmers, ranchers, military families, rural communities, those living paycheck to paycheck, and the communities that rely on the tourism industry for their livelihoods.
Rep. Gabbard has continued to work to make sure that much-needed medical supplies, testing, and personal protective equipment (PPE) are readily available and recently sent a letter requesting that the Trump Administration prioritize working with our trading partners to ensure medical providers can obtain needed equipment quickly. She also sent a letter to the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services calling for the Departments to ensure access to PPE for essential childcare providers.
In March, working with Hawai‘i’s Congressional Delegation, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard sent two letters calling on President Trump to support Hawai‘i’s request for medical equipment, supplies and resources for the state.
Securing Emergency Funding
To date, Congress has passed 3 emergency funding bills:
H.R.6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (on March 4)
H.R.6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (on March 14)
H.R.748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (on March 27)
The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act provided urgently needed, immediate funds to help with the initial impact of the virus on America. She voted to pass this bill which included funds for 14 community health centers in Hawai‘i which received more than $750,000 combined in support.
Next, she voted to pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to provide free testing for COVID-19, two weeks of paid sick leave, up to three months paid family and medical leave, unemployment insurance for furloughed workers, food security for those who rely on food stamps, student meals, senior nutrition plans, and food banks, and increase federal Medicaid funds for local, state, tribal and territorial governments and health systems.
The CARES Act includes direct cash payments to Americans, assistance for those who are out of work due to the outbreak, funding for small businesses, hospitals, and health care workers, and state and local governments. The bill’s funding for state and local governments includes at least $1.2 billion for Hawai‘i. Though the bill included Rep. Gabbard’s idea for a direct benefit payment to support Americans reeling from the pandemic’s impact, it fell short of the full scope suggested in her legislation, H.Res.897, and she urged Congress to do more.
In the weeks following the passage of the CARES Act, Hawai‘i received over $142 million in emergency funds to help support healthcare providers. This included more than $10 million in additional funds to the 14 community health centers which received funds after the first emergency bill as well as $132 million to other healthcare providers across the State to help cover the costs they are incurring due to the crisis. However, this $132 million came with the stipulation that these healthcare providers may not engage in “surprise billing” of patients they have treated for COVID-19.
Also, Hawai‘i received over $107 million in funds through the CARES Act to support public transportation systems, community public health infrastructure, and housing for vulnerable communities by way of Federal Transit Authority grants, Community Block Development Grants (CDBGs), and the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS program.
By mid-April, the CARES Act continued to yield funds for Hawai‘i, including an estimated $88 million for Educational purposes and over $133 million for its airports. The Educational funds will help support K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities. This includes a separate fund of $154 million for the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Furthermore, FEMA announced another round of disaster relief funds, $100 million available to all 50 States and U.S. Territories which can apply for funding by April 28.
Calls for Preventative Measures
In early April, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard called for the resignation of Hawai‘i Department of Health officials Bruce Anderson and Dr. Sarah Park because of their repeated failures that put the health, lives and well-being of the people of Hawai‘i at risk. She added that should they refuse to step down, Governor Ige should fire them.
On March 21, Rep. Gabbard called for an immediate implementation of a 14-day self-quarantine for all passengers arriving in Hawaiʻi, both visitors and returning residents. The state later announced that a self-quarantine requirement would be implemented on March 26, but Rep. Tulsi Gabbard continued to advocate for an immediate implementation. She also sent a letter calling on the President to issue a minimum two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order — a proven, effective solution to slowing the spread of the virus.
As the virus was first spreading in different parts of the world, Rep. Gabbard called on the Trump Administration to suspend flights from South Korea and Japan given the prevalence of COVID-19 infections in these countries, until they could guarantee all passengers would be tested prior to boarding flights to the United States.
Rep. Gabbard also wrote to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar calling for clear guidelines for state and local governments to receive federal reimbursement for the costs they are incurring as part of their response to this public health crisis.
About Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is serving her fourth term in the United States House representing Hawai‘i’s Second District, and serves on the House Armed Services and Financial Services Committees. She previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Homeland Security Committee. She was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010, and prior to that at age 21, was elected to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in 2002, becoming the youngest person ever elected in the state. Tulsi Gabbard has served in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard for 16 years, is a veteran of two Middle East deployments, and continues to serve as a Major. Learn more about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard...
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