Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee Calls For National Control Over Industries Necessary To Handle Coronavirus Pandemic
By: Heidi PP – iF Magazine
“This legislation gives the federal government the needed resources to keep our citizens from suffering economically and to help boost our economy. We are in a human crisis and the Senate must act immediately to save lives. Any changes or tweaks in the legislation can be addressed in the future and any delay can cost lives,” stated Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a senior member of the Homeland Security Committee and a senior member of the Budget Committee, is urging the Senate to act immediately on the emergency relief package and urging the Administration to take under federal operations the manufacturing of protective gear, ventilators, the establishment of increased hospital capacity, and the production and distribution of tests.
After the passage of the emergency funding bill and the emergency relief package, Congresswoman Jackson Lee stated , “it is imperative that the federal government has oversight of the production of vital health related protective gear, medical devices and coronavirus testing. We must ensure the American public that there is no shortage of any required devices, gear, or testing kits needed to eradicate this virus.”
Ms. Lee went on to say, “On Monday, February 24, 2020, I formally requested the President of the United States by letter to immediately suspend any health-related cuts that impact efforts to contain and treat the coronavirus. I am pleased that the President supported an $8.3 billion emergency funding bill that passed on Wednesday, March 4, 2020 in the U.S. House of Representatives, with a 415-2 bipartisan vote, to combat the coronavirus amid concerns about a widespread outbreak within the United States. It included:
• $500 million in waivers for Medicare telehealth restrictions
• $300 million for purchasing vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics
• $2.2 billion to help federal, state and local public health agencies prepare for and respond to the coronavirus, including funds for lab testing, infection control, and tracing individuals who might have had contact with infected people.
• Reimburses state and local governments for costs they have already incurred.
I am also pleased that on Friday, March 13, 2020, the President declared a national emergency to free up $50 billion in federal resources to combat coronavirus, waiving interest on student loans and purchasing more crude oil for the U.S. strategic reserve. And early Saturday morning, March 14, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an emergency relief package to address the sweeping effects of the coronavirus and cushion the economic blow to the most vulnerable Americans. The legislation includes:
• Two weeks of paid sick leave for workers
• Up to three months of paid family and medical leave, equal to no less than two-thirds of their pay. These benefits apply to employees of businesses with fewer than 500 employees, or the government, who are infected by the virus, quarantined, have a sick family member or are affected by school closings.
• Free coronavirus testing for all, including the uninsured. It also includes a 6.2 percentage point increase in federal payments to Medicaid states, $64 million for Indian Health Services, $60 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and $1 billion to reimburse the costs of testing and services to people without health insurance.
• Increased funding for food assistance programs. $1 billion for food security programs aimed at helping those who may struggle to get access to meals during the pandemic, including those who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, food banks, and the 22 million children who receive free or reduced-price lunch at school.
• $500 million to help provide nutritious food to low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs as a result of the coronavirus outbreak
• $400 million to help local food banks purchase, store and distribute food.
• $100 million to provide nutrition assistance grants to Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands
• $250 million to provide additional home-delivered and prepackaged meals to low-income seniors who rely on federal programs.
• Emergency food assistance to households with children who would receive free or reduced-price meals in school if they close for five days or longer.
• It also includes language that bars the administration from pushing ahead with tougher work requirements for food stamps beginning on April 1. Under the package, the work and work training requirements for SNAP would be suspended during the coronavirus pandemic.
• Strengthens unemployment insurance benefits by providing $1 billion in 2020 for emergency grants to states to assist with processing and paying unemployment insurance. Half of those funds would be used to provide immediate additional funding to all states for staffing, technology and other administrative costs. The other half would be used for emergency grants to states that experienced at least a 10-percent increase in unemployment.
Going forward, it is important that we focus and invest in the following six items:
1. Increase and Improve Testing Capabilities
2. Improve our Public Health Infrastructure
3. Provide Unambiguous Information to Local Authorities
4. Provide Appropriate Equipment and Training for CBP and TSA Officers
5. Identify Quarantine Facilities
6. Provide Public Health Staff at Airports
“This is not a time for hysteria or propaganda, but rather a time for facts and action. We must continue to utilize all information and federal resources available to ensure that efforts to stem the spread of this virus are successful. My office will continue to monitor all the efforts to contain and cure this virus by working with local, state, and federal officials.”
The previous text was a statement issued by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee concerning the CoronaVirus Pandemic and how she feels the U.S. can protect our citizens, curb the spread and eliminate the virus.
In the midst of speaking with worried constituents, dealing with the stimulus package, and visiting testing sites, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee took the time to speak with me, Heidi Powell-Prera, global journalist at iF Magazine.
“I am the Peer person for the CoronaVirus Task Force and a Senior Member of Homeland security. I suspected that we were going to have a major concern with the CoronaVirus toward the end of January and the beginning of February. I held two press conferences; one, at the airport where I was asking whether my airport personnel were prepared for the traveling public that may be infected by the CoronaVirus, whether traveling internationally or domestically. Although representing that they were prepared, they really were not, because they are governed by the Federal Government. The Federal Government was aware of the CoronaVirus, probably as early as November 2019. Because the executive was not preparing, we are in a predicament where there is a shortage of tests, shortage of personal protective equipment, and shortage of ventilators, hospital beds, etc… It is important that we come together. So we are working together hoping to work with local communities that have done a stupendous job.
“I called a press conference calling on the President to engage the military, the national guard, and of course, the defense production act. That was quite some time ago. Unfortunately that did not occur as quickly as it should. If we would have done so, we would have had the ventilators that are necessary, maybe the hospital beds, and of course, the vast number of tests that are needed across the nation. We realize that we have to work quickly at home.
“I am very grateful that my congressional district could collaborate with United Memorial Medical Center at 510 West Tidwell, a physician owned hospital that is very unique in that it is part of a family hospital. We’ve been testing everyone since last Thursday, March 19th, from 8am to 8pm, and we are continuing today. Then every day, I have seen online people from the civilian population who have been tested. To date we have found 45 that have tested positive. All those people have the ability to spread that to 2 to 3 times their number, so we believe that this is an important service that is being done. We are grateful for the support of the community and the support of the Medical Professionals, the Houston Police Department, and all the Law Enforcement. We are grateful to all the medical personnel that have been working so diligently across the city and our first responders, firefighters and police.
“I have been working extensively on the stimulus package in Washington, particularly about hospital capacity for which I have asked $155 billion. I am very glad to say that if we approve this; if it is resolved; if we resolve our differences; we should have at least $150 billion for hospitals. Also I want to make sure that the amount of cash payment I’ve asked for, $3000, or maybe less than that, is approved. It should be an amount that covers our working poor people who are poor in the community, and because we are going to be looking for all kinds of documentation, that they may utilize that will help them secure this cash payment. I have worked extensively for the small business community. They are the backbone of this nation; and so I introduced legislation to provide grants to small businesses. We did it under Hurricane Harvey. It looks as if I’ve been successful along with other colleagues. In the stimulus package, if it is passed; we still have that hurdle; we’ll have small business loans which can be utilized by our smaller businesses.
“We have expanded unemployment. That should work for our hourly workers and entertainment persons. “I have also raised the issue of nonprofits and faith-based organizations. I do believe it is important to maintain the dignity of this nation and respect for all people. I have expressed my outrage at calling this a Chinese virus. We understand that there have been attacks on the Chinese community. That should not be accepted, and it’ s not acceptable; and I am making a statement about it.
“Finally let me say that as we maintain our dignity, we should maintain our cooperation with the International Community. We know that many of our American citizens are stuck abroad and are unable to leave the countries that they are in. I am working with those individuals and the State Department to make sure that they have a way to come back. We must keep the collaboration and relationship with the international community. We know that a variety of nations starting with China, and now Italy, Great Britain, the United Kingdom and many parts of Europe, including Spain, are experiencing the impact of the CoronaVirus as well as, the continent of Africa. I understand it is surging in many West African Countries.
“Traditionally the United States has been at the forefront of sending aid and help, and I hope that we will continue to do that. We do have the expertise, despite where we are today with our own dilemma. As God provides for us to be able to stand up to the CoronaVirus, we will also be of assistance to others. My concern is that the benefits we have will legitimately cover immigrants and legal permanent residents and that we do not block anybody who needs a test regardless of their status. They get a test because it’s all about good science and protecting the entire community. Houston and Harris County, in particular, in this great state of Texas are enormously resilient organizations, like those represented by Val Thompson, yourself, and others that are resilient in their relationships with people from around the world. We are Houston proud and Houston Strong. I have great confidence that we are going to draw together and join with each other and overcome this enormous human crisis. We are going to do it through unity and faith and through embracing and respecting each other’s dignity” Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee helped usher in a hospital wing at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston that will provide beds in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.The Houston-area U.S. representative announced the opening of the wing, which houses 46 beds, Thursday afternoon. She also announced the launch of mobile testing for seniors. KHOU-11 United Memorial, located at 510 W. Tidwell Rd., is a COVID-19 testing site, available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. through 6 p.m. Friday. Go to https://checkforcorona.com/harris-county#/welcome for more information.
Images at test site provided by Remmington F. Belford, MPS. Digital Director, Senior Legislative Assistant Rep. Jackson Lee, (D-TX)
Vice President, Strategic Partnerships Black, Gifted & Whole-BlackGiftedWhole.org
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is a Democrat from Texas’s 18th Congressional District. She is a senior member of the House Committees on Judiciary and Homeland Security and a member of the Budget Committee.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee
Heights Office 713-861-4070