Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Updates Over 11,000 Hawai‘i Residents & Small Business Owners on Coronavirus Response & Resources
Honolulu, HI—This afternoon, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) hosted a telephone town hall with Lt. Gov. Josh Green, Hilton Raethel of the Healthcare Association of Hawaiʻi, and Jane Sawyer of the U.S. Small Business Administration Hawaii District Office. They answered questions and shared the latest developments regarding the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, including what she is doing in Congress to help Hawai‘i to respond to this ongoing public health crisis. She will host her next tele-town hall on Wednesday, April 1 at 4:00 p.m.
“I want to thank Lt. Gov. Green, Hilton Raethel, and Jane Sawyer for joining me in reaching out to thousands of Hawai‘i residents this afternoon to share critical information and answer questions,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “Many people still have questions about when testing kits will be available, expressing concern about the lack of masks and protective equipment for healthcare professionals, assistance needed for small businesses and laid off workers, and more. We will continue to hold these telephone town halls, with guest speakers, to provide a lifeline of information for Hawai‘i residents.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard opened the telephone town hall covering the latest developments on Capitol Hill, including the ongoing negotiations for a third emergency funding bill that will help address the challenges being faced by Hawai‘i’s residents and businesses which just passed the U.S. Senate tonight. Among the aspects she highlighted were provisions to expand unemployment insurance for workers and extend them to independent contractors and self-employed people in the gig economy.
While Hawai‘i is starting to implement its stay-at-home guidance, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has joined with other Members of Congress to call for a nation-wide shelter in place order. She also noted that the entire Hawai‘i Congressional delegation sent a letter to the President emphasizing the urgent need for medical supplies to ensure healthcare workers have the tools and protective gear they need to do their job and do it safely.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also pointed out that some funds made available by the first emergency relief bill that Congress passed are now being allocated to Hawai‘i, such as over $750,000 granted to 14 community health centers across Hawai‘i.
To help ease the burden on those having to pay their mortgages, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and other Members of Congress sent a letter to mortgage lenders to ease mortgage payment collections as well as a provision in the third emergency funding bill currently being negotiated to provide some forbearance on federal government-backed loans.
Lt. Governor Josh Green gave an update on the latest public health status and strongly urged individuals to respect the stay-at-home guidance being issued. He noted that the greater restrictions on travel to and from the state may help significantly hamper the spread of the virus. He also helped address questions about the differences between the coronavirus and influenza as well as how the COVID-19 coronavirus spreads.
Hilton Raethel, President and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaiʻi, noted that there is still a shortage of appropriate swabs, test kits, and reagents necessary to conduct the amount of COVID-19 screenings. He noted that even though manufacturers are ramping up production, this is still a shortcoming nationwide. Raethel noted that the HAH is working hard to ensure that healthcare workers — both medical and support staff — have the protective gear they need to be able to serve the public as well as ways in which retired healthcare professionals can be engaged, as needed, to help with the public health response.
Jane Sawyer, Hawai‘i District Director for the U.S. Small Business Administration, discussed what resources are available to small business owners and employees to weather the pandemic. She covered the amounts and rates of loans available to small businesses, including non-profit organizations, and directed listeners to the SBA’s website to sign up for these programs. Sawyer emphasized that engaging the local SBA staff (firstname.lastname@example.org | 808.541.2990) will allow businesses to connect with assistance quickly as the national website is currently strained by the volume of requests from across the country.
Background: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and her team in Washington and Hawai‘i have been working since the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak to understand the needs on the ground and advocate to address those needs. In addition to individual casework assistance, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has been working on issues in Congress and at home.
On March 21, Rep. Tulsi 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.
On behalf of the people of Hawaiʻi, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voted on March 14 to pass H.R.6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which will 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.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also 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. The Universal Basic Payment will be a temporary economic stimulus package to empower Americans directly and immediately.
She previously voted to pass legislation that will provide emergency funds to address the novel coronavirus. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has 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 can guarantee all passengers will be tested prior to boarding flights to the United States.
In order to ensure that any treatment developed for COVID-19 is accessible and affordable, Rep. Gabbard joined a letter to President Trump demanding that pharmaceutical companies are not issued exclusive licenses for the production of such treatments or capitalize on drugs that have been funded by taxpayer dollars.
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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