U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., hosted a telephone town hall on Tuesday morning in response to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s, R-Ky., notion that states should solve their funding problems by declaring bankruptcy to cut spending instead of asking for federal aid. The conversation was moderated by Maggie Rousseau, deputy chief of staff and communications director for Dingell. 

Dingell began the town hall by talking about the third bipartisan emergency package passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, dedicating $2 trillion to working class citizens and local businesses. Dingell said the initial bill proposal failed to provide local businesses with the resources they need to stay in business.

“The original proposal from the White House, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell did nothing to ensure that our local main street businesses can access what they need to support their needs,” Dingell said. 

Dingell then spoke about the Democrats’ acquisition of additional funding, which delegates $310 billion to small businesses that are unable to turn to banks to support themselves, $60 billion to the Small Business Associations’ Economic Injury Disaster Loans, $75 billion to provide personal protective equipment and $25 billion to COVID-19 testing.

“The Democrats’ situation has changed and we’ve got more money to strengthen the protection program,” Dingell said.

U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Mich., spoke about the effect of COVID-19 on Michigan’s 11th District, which comprises northwestern Wayne and southwestern Oakland counties, two counties containing the highest number of COVID-19 cases outside the city of Detroit. Stevens said that the economic downfall has heavily impacted cities, leading to the need to furlough and lay off city employees.

“Our cities and towns are really hurting right now,”  Stevens said “I represent the city of Livonia, which is home to the second most COVID-19 deaths in the state of Michigan. The situation on the ground in Livonia is nothing short of dire.”

Stevens also emphasized that past relief packages were only made possible due to the legislators from all political parties coming together. She noted the need to continue to work towards bipartisan agreements to battle COVID-19 and get frontline workers the resources they need to serve their communities. 

“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” Stevens said. “I have been on the ready to work with anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent.”

Rep. Sean Casten, D-Ill., spoke at the town hall and said residents must overcome boundaries such as geographic location and party preference to band together and get people the resources they need in these unprecedented times.

“The coronavirus is nasty but it does not discriminate,” Casten said. “It doesn’t care what side of the state boundary you are on. It doesn’t care what your gender is, what your sexual orientation is or even who you voted for. It just wants a warm body to infect.”

Casten emphasized the necessity of distributing resources to state-run programs across the country in order to provide people with the supplies they need to keep them safe. 

“Since the virus looks only for people and follows people around the country, the money has to follow the people as well,” Casten said.

Casten spoke about acquiring funding for the upcoming elections in order to provide every eligible voter the opportunity to cast their vote.

“We have got to make sure that we provide full funding for completely fair elections in this next cycle,” Casten said. “Every single member in Congress believes that the American people are good people and let’s make sure that they get the chance to vote.” 

U.S. Rep. Sherice Davids, D-Kan., spoke about her state’s experience with devastating cuts to state budgets and how COVID-19 decimated Kansas’s recent recovery from the 2008 recession.

“Our schools went to four-day weeks, teachers fled the state, critical infrastructure projects went unfinished,” Davids said. “The coronavirus has the potential to cause even more economic devastation to the state of Kansas, undoing all of the work Gov. Kelley has done to balance the budget.”

Davids also said that Kansas is going to continue to work towards providing frontline workers with the resources they need so that strong public education, healthcare and infrastructure can continue to be provided to its people. 

“I have talked to so many Kansans, they know how ridiculous Mitch McConnell’s notion of states being forced into bankruptcy is,” Davids said. “I know that (Kansas) is not going to let that happen.”

Daily Staff Reporter Navya Gupta can be reached at itznavya@umich.edu.  

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