The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on our country and way of life. So many lives have been lost and the long-term health impacts are unknown for those who have suffered from the virus. It has also taken tens of millions of workers out of their job – and off their healthcare; forced longstanding, trusted local businesses to permanently close their doors, while celebrities and giant corporations receive handouts and bailouts; and, tragically, forever changed the makeup of thousands of American families.

Our federal government has failed to respond to the pandemic – sending mixed messages of best practices and safety measures, downplaying the virus’ threat, and failing to coordinate a national response and worse yet stepping out of efforts toward a global response, sowing initial confusion that drove PPE shortages and caused extreme differences in state level responses that have led us to where we are today.

As many other countries around the globe have been able to carefully and safely re-open, too many Americans are still stuck at home or forced to put their health at risk to make ends meet.

And, while Americans are facing these incredible new hardships, Washington, D.C. and the Republican-led Senate has failed to deliver the support we need by refusing to pass a needed secondary COVID relief and stimulus package. This is a failure of leadership and a failure for the American people.

Even after the 2020 election, we will face ongoing challenges from COVID, while battling a pandemic-driven recession and its aftermath on all of our communities. We must elect leaders who have a clear vision – and the right priorities – for dealing with this unparalleled threat.

In Congress, I will advocate for immediate and long term solutions to this pandemic – helping Americans respond to the challenges they’re facing right now while putting in place needed measures to strengthen our preparedness for the next outbreak or crisis. Here are my top priorities:

1. Ensure free and robust testing, contact tracing, vaccines, and emergency paid leave – the economy cannot rebound if people feel unsafe.

The only way to permanently reduce the spread of the virus is to guarantee a robust testing infrastructure in every state across the country. Congress must mandate that testing be quick and widely available. Similarly, our contact tracing system must be able to respond swiftly and effectively to new outbreaks, informing those who may be at risk and preventing additional spread. For essential workers and others who have to quarantine because of risk of infection, the government must provide economic support, so people can afford to safely stay home. Once an effective and safe vaccine has been tested and approved, the government must ensure it is widely available to all in rapid fashion.

2. Demand accountability and transparency in PPP funding, while giving small businesses the support they need.

It’s not right that huge, profitable businesses were able to secure millions of dollars intended for small, struggling businesses. Today, too many South Sound businesses have closed or will soon, if they don’t receive help. These businesses support local families and are longstanding pillars of our community – losing them will have significant effects on the economic vitality of our region and neighbors.

Our next Congress must offer additional funding to help small businesses weather this challenging time, while also providing loan repayment support and preventing giant corporations from taking funding and tax breaks that they don’t need. I will advocate for larger carve outs for direct outreach and support to women and minority owned businesses, who face additional barriers to securing funds, along with dedicated support for restaurants, food providers, arts and culture organizations, gyms and athletic companies, and other businesses at greatest risk.

3. Close supply chain gaps and manufacture PPE right here at home.

Nurses, doctors and healthcare workers have put their own health on the line to care for our communities in need. Yet at the pandemic’s outset, the United States was totally unprepared to support them with the medical supplies and personal protective equipment they needed to do their jobs. Rather than coordinate a national response, the Trump administration encouraged a free-for-all that led to states competing against each other – and putting us all further behind.

We can do better. We must develop a national strategy to meet the needs of states facing the worst outbreaks, utilize the Defense Production Act as necessary, and then create new manufacturing jobs by producing PPE and needed medical equipment right here in the South Sound region.

4. Invest in new jobs and strengthened infrastructure through a recovery package.

The pandemic has had devastating effects on our economy and jobs, driving record unemployment and permanently eliminating livelihoods for families across the country. When the virus is clearly under control, we need a recovery package putting people to work focused on rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, building out our clean energy future, making broadband universal, and building housing to address our housing shortage.

As the 2009 recovery package showed, government support for infrastructure and clean energy can drive economic recovery and jumpstart growth of new industries. A thoughtfully designed recovery package can grant immediate help for struggling families while also strengthening our economic positioning and industries in the long run.

5. Support at-risk tenants and landlords.

Our already dire housing crisis has been exacerbated by COVID-19, putting thousands of tenants on the verge of eviction, while landlords struggle to collect income and pay mortgages. We must continue to extend and strengthen the federal eviction moratorium – ensuring that those at risk of eviction are protected in every state and every community.

Next, we need to provide direct spending assistance to help landlords recoup lost income and prevent tenants and homeowners from amassing insurmountable debt, defaulting on mortgage payments, or losing housing once the pandemic subsides and the moratorium is lifted. And we must provide funding for homelessness services and housing that lessen the spread of the virus throughout our most vulnerable communities.

6. Fund state and local governments.

As a state legislator, I’ve seen the enormous impact of COVID-19 on our state’s revenues, throwing our budgeting into chaos and putting critical services and resources our communities rely on at risk. The same threats are true across the country for other states and for local governments, who face record deficits and deep cuts. Congress must work with these governments to protect endangered jobs and services, providing funding that helps close the gap on budget shortfalls driven by COVID.

7. Implement policies that support workers and create an economy where everyone can succeed.

Workers’ rights have been under attack long before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has revealed just how stacked the deck is against working people. Now is our chance to overturn this decades-long decay and pass new, bold legislation that will put working families first.

That means improving the right to organize for better wages and benefits, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and putting into effect new programs like paid family and medical leave. Now more than ever, working families deserve a national paid sick leave program that would allow workers to put their own health and safety first. Finally, we must strengthen Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the rules that govern it. Bad acting businesses who have purposely violated existing OSHA standards and put workers’ well-being at risk during this pandemic must be held accountable.

8. Pass Medicare for All and ensure quality and accessible healthcare for every American.

With millions of people suddenly and unexpectedly losing their employer-based health insurance – during a pandemic when they need it most – the need for change in our healthcare system has never been more clear. The federal government has a mandate to fix this broken and unaffordable insurance system and provide quality, accessible care to every American.

The solution is Medicare for All. We must pass this lifesaving legislation, which would grant every American access to quality healthcare without worrying about premiums, high-cost deductibles, or unexpected expenses that drive bankruptcies and inescapable medical debt. Medicare for All is crucial for equitably strengthening the health of our community during the pandemic and in the long term, ensuring everyone – regardless of their background, race, income level, or zip code – can receive the care they need.

COVID-19 has laid bare the inequities facing our country. The pandemic has affected all of us, but communities of color, seniors, and working and low-income Americans have disproportionately faced the worst outcomes. As the pandemic continues and as a new Congress is installed, we must do our best to correct the mistakes of the last six months and make sure our communities’ needs are being heard – and acted upon – in Washington, D.C. 

Ultimately, we need new, bold, committed leadership in Congress to appropriately respond to COVID-19 and rebuild and recover better than before. With your vote, I will take these priorities to Congress and serve as an unwavering advocate for the reforms, programs, and investments needed to support our vulnerable neighbors and get our country back on track.