(Op-Ed by U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers)
When 2020 began just three months ago, many of us hoped it would be a year of clarity – a year of new vision. The Big Blue Nation, of course, was counting on another year when the Cats would but cutting down the nets after winning a ninth national title. Yet here we are, less than 100 days into 2020, and the world we now face could not be further from what we expected – but be encouraged; hope is on the way.
The novel coronavirus has changed our focus in Kentucky and across America. Our priorities have shifted—not because we want to, but because we must. COVID-19, the scientific name that now fills common conversation, has commanded a new daily routine in our lives. As we find ourselves protecting the ones we love with new habits and restrictions, we are now laser focused on what we cherish the most – healthy families and a secure future.
With uncertainty spiking fear in the heart of America, we have been desperate for some hope to hold onto. The urgency for a timely response, as American lives hang in the balance, is certainly reflective of a wartime footing in our country. Yet, our front line soldiers are wearing street clothes and medical jackets, rather than camouflage and combat boots.
As I consider the vast number of healthcare professionals who have risked their own health to test and treat individuals for the coronavirus — often without the protective gear they need — I am reminded of the “Unknown Warriors” that Winston Churchill applauded during World War II. Although this is a much different battle, we have countless individuals “who will render faithful service in this war but whose names will never be known, whose deeds will never be recorded.”
It is with those professionals across Kentucky in mind, that I voted for the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, the first of three federal funding packages to attack COVID-19 with approximately $8 billion. This bill supplies essential equipment for medical responses, expedites vaccine and therapeutic development, expands telehealth services, and ramps up state and local efforts, including more than $7 million for Kentucky.
The routine dynamics of our daily lives are nearly unrecognizable today, as millions of Americans are self-quarantined and sacrificing critical paychecks to limit this viral reach. With more students at home and senior citizens’ programs on hold to protect the health of those most at-risk in our communities, I voted for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the second phase of our federal response. It is providing free COVID-19 tests for individuals who need it, expanded paid sick and family medical leave, more food aid for students and seniors, as well as relief for small businesses.
I want you to know that I have heard you loud and clear over the challenges presented by this silent threat. The fear of making ends meet without a paycheck, and employers searching for ways to meet payroll while production is halted are among the harshest realities we are experiencing in Southern and Eastern Kentucky right now. However, we will also win this battle. I voted for the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the third and largest phase of the legislative response. The CARES Act sends checks directly to individuals and families, protects our small businesses with emergency loans, expands unemployment insurance for self-employed and non-profit employees, supports hospitals through this crisis, provides relief for major industries to help workers, and provides some stability for our small local governments.
As we continue to march forward, this expansive federal response aims to help rescue our American way of life and restore hope in our nation. While the number of positive COVID-19 cases surpass 160,000 nationwide, at least 3,000 people have perished across the country, according to John Hopkins University. Yet, we can find hope in the number of recovered patients now reaching approximately 6,000 to date — and growing every day.
Our response is working, and when the impact of this comprehensive federal legislation is fully realized, I am confident that we will rise as a stronger, healthier, more compassionate and humble nation.
I applaud every single person who has made the extra effort to check on neighbors, loved ones and friends through this national emergency. With an overwhelming amount of information funneling to our region in the days and weeks ahead concerning new funding and programs available to assist you, your family or your business, please contact my office toll-free at 1-800-632-8588 or visit halrogers.house.gov/coronavirus.
It is through the darkest of times that the American spirit shines the brightest and you are leading the way here in Southern and Eastern Kentucky.