Published in the Bakersfield Californian on April 12, 2020
This is not a time to play partisan politics, and for those who only can find words to criticize President Trump, I say you are undermining this nation in a time of great crisis. Crises are not partisan. All of us can agree to disagree on political matters, but we need to put those differences aside to serve the immediate needs of the American people.
Even one of the president’s harshest critics has set politics aside to compliment him for his support of California through this emergency. During a recent interview on "The View," Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said, “He returns calls, reaches out. He’s been proactive,” about the president’s efforts. Gov. Newsom repeated the sentiments in a CNN interview saying, “I’d be lying to you to say that he hasn’t been responsive to our needs. He has.”
Let me say straightforwardly and unreservedly that President Trump is responding to the coronavirus crisis facing our country as a true leader. I join Gov. Newsom in complimenting him on his leadership and actions as he steers our country and Americans through this devastating crisis.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, President Trump has taken steps to confront the coronavirus, including sensible travel restrictions, an early containment strategy, bringing together the brainpower and experience of extremely talented and knowledgeable professionals and leveraging the power of the federal government to provide broad support to state and local governments.
The novel coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, China. In response, President Trump shut down travel from China in January (and later, other impacted countries and regions).
He also established the White House Coronavirus Task Force, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence and filled with experts and leaders covering a broad range of issue-areas. This body is strategizing and organizing an aggressive, broad-based response to the coronavirus, and the experts on it are some of the most knowledgeable people we get information and answers from in the news each day.
By mid-March, the outbreak had spread to countries around the world, overwhelming many, and the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic.
To contain and mitigate the spread of the virus, President Trump and the Task Force issued orders relaxing restrictions on the Food and Drug Administration so that public health agencies, hospitals and private companies could develop and perform testing. They also loosened FDA restrictions on who could be tested, allowing anyone with a doctor’s note to be tested. Recognizing that the outbreak had the potential to overwhelm hospitals and health care systems, the Task Force instructed FEMA to convert buildings and facilities for use as hospitals and intensive care units, and Task Force leaders explained to the public the need for states to “flatten the curve.”
To treat and prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the president and his team have initiated bold public-private partnerships to incentivize development of tests and a vaccine, provide easy to use resources for Americans and redeploy idled manufacturers and businesses into producing medical supplies and equipment.
Safety guidelines were issued to state governors and local leaders, advising them to consider implementing lockdown orders as appropriate for their region. Decisions of this nature are best taken by state and local leaders, as no blanket policy or one-size-fits-all measure is best for the unique needs of every city or state. In a crisis, state and local responsibility is critical. The federal government can provide resources, but it’s up to governors and their teams to decide what the community needs and how to distribute them. In short, response and recovery should be locally executed, state managed and federally supported.
To help with the economic fallout from stay-at-home orders, the president had the federal government implement emergency measures expediting resources and relief to states and their citizens. Key components of that fiscal relief are unemployment insurance, unpaid leave support and small business payroll retention.
On March 27, President Trump signed the CARES Act into law, allocating more than $2 trillion for COVID-19 response. The economic-relief package includes:
- $1,200 tax free payments (treated as refundable tax credits) to eligible Americans
- $150 billion in direct aid to state, tribal and local governments
- $340 billion in additional emergency supplemental funding to combat the coronavirus outbreak
- $500 billion for loans and guarantees that authorize the U.S. Treasury to support eligible businesses and state and local governments to cover losses incurred as a result of COVID-19
- $100 billion for hospitals and health care facilities to reimburse expenses or lost revenues not otherwise reimbursed that are directly attributable to COVID-19
- $3.5 billion to allow states to expand childcare benefits for health care workers, first responders and others on the frontlines of this crisis.
The CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program authorizes up to $349 billion for small businesses to be applied towards job retention and certain other expenses. Small businesses and certain non-profit organizations, religious organizations, veteran’s organizations and tribal businesses are eligible for this critical resource.
The CARES Act also creates the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, which provides unemployment compensation benefits for employees traditionally not eligible for these programs, like the self-employed and independent contractors.
The IRS has set up a website at irs.gov/coronavirus with up-to-date guidance to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the coronavirus, and it will begin distribution of the economic impact payments to individuals starting in the next few weeks.
The Small Business Administration is offering low interest federal disaster loans to provide much needed dollars to small businesses and private, non-profit organizations.
Thanks to the president’s national emergency declaration and emergency rulemaking, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has issued an unprecedented array of temporary regulatory waivers and new rules to arm the healthcare system with maximum flexibility to respond to COVID-19.
The president signed the Families First Coronavirus Recovery Act on March 18, and it authorizes the U.S. Department of Labor to disburse $1 billion in grant funding to states for the administering of unemployment insurance programs. The FFCRA also authorizes emergency paid sick leave and an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
The Department of Labor is making available up to $100 million in National Health Emergency Dislocated Worker Grants. The grants will provide eligible participants with both disaster-relief employment and employment training services. These participants can include dislocated workers, workers who were laid-off due to the disaster, self-employed individuals who are unemployed or underemployed as a result of the disaster and long-term unemployed individuals.
These are but some of the actions taken by President Trump and his leadership team to help get our nation through this crisis. To help Americans understand all the resources available to them, President Trump and the CDC have also aggregated this critical information in a single website at coronavirus.gov.
And the president’s leadership doesn’t stop with just keeping America safe and protecting our frontline workers against this virus. His vision includes organizing a second White House Coronavirus Task Force to focus solely on revitalizing the economic well-being of our nation. This second task force will also focus on ensuring our job creators, large and small, can keep their doors open so Americans can continue to work.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and hindsight is always 20-20. But now, as death tolls mount from the coronavirus, we want to keep sight of the fact that the statistics represent real lives and real families grieving terrible losses. This is the time for all of us to pull together, help our elected leaders steer the ship and stop trying to make a non-partisan issue into a political one.
If not, you’re getting in the way of this nation’s recovery.