Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., participated in a virtual town hall meeting hosted jointly by WDIV Local 4, WXYZ 7 Action News and WJBK Fox 2 Detroit Thursday evening. The two senators answered questions from Michiganders about the current COVID-19 pandemic on topics ranging from the personal protective equipment shortage in the state to the importance of robust COVID-19 testing.

Anchor Devin Scillian from WDIV Local 4 stated before the town hall began that there is no getting around the fact the town hall would only feature representatives from the Democratic Party.

“We live in times that are politically charged,” Scillian said. “Our goal tonight is to steer clear of politics.”

Stabenow mentioned it was difficult as a state to acquire personal protective equipment for health care workers as well as for those who work in densely populated areas.

“It’s been really hard, very chaotic in the beginning, but we are working with the governor’s excellent team to make changes,” Stabenow said.

Peters addressed the challenge of scaling up the 15-minute tests that are being used in the city of Detroit. He said he is in talks with a number of companies in order to ramp up production in the private sector.

“You have to be able to quick test folks,” Peters said. “So if you have a person who tests positive, their coworkers (who are first responders) can get this test and stay on their essential job.”

One concerned Twitter user addressed relief for college students who have lost their jobs. Under the current stimulus package, college students over the age of 18 who are classified as dependents under their parents are not eligible for any relief. 

Stabenow said she and Peters are working on a bill that would allow college students to receive a stimulus check of $500 if they are currently dependents of their parents. She also said student loans can be deferred in most cases by six months.

“There’s a lot more that needs to be done, and I’m hopeful that it's done in the next package,” Stabenow said.

One individual asked what the federal government can do to reduce the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus illness and deaths in the Black community. Peters linked the problem to a higher incidence of people who had not received any type of health care over the years and who are thus more likely to have underlying medical conditions, making them more susceptible to COVID-19. 

According to Peters, opening up enrollment for the Affordable Care Act is important so citizens have the resources they need to keep themselves healthy.

“We are in a health care crisis of unimaginable proportions right now,” Peters said. “This pandemic has exposed the inequities we have in our society in a dramatic way.”

Daily Staff Reporter Varsha Vedapudi can be reached at varshakv@umich.edu

 

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