SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON — As federal lawmakers and the Trump Administration remain deadlocked over new coronavirus-related spending, congressional candidate Carolyn Long unveiled her own pandemic recovery plan earlier this month.
Long’s 17-page plan, released on Sept. 3, calls for a number of measures aimed at lifting up working families and businesses that have been economically affected by the pandemic, while also calling for bolstering the country’s public health system with the intent of being prepared for — and preventing — future pandemics. Talks between congressional leadership and the Trump administration over the past several months have proven to be fruitless, thus far.
“While we in our communities have rallied to fight this pandemic — by wearing masks, practicing responsible social distancing and putting lives on hold to stop the spread — the same cannot be said for our federal government,” said Long, a Democrat, during a Zoom call on Sept. 3. “No issue greater illustrates the urgent need for fresh leadership in the ‘other Washington’ than D.C.’s anemic response to this crisis.”
Long, challenging Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in a rematch from 2018, now officially has the backing of her party’s standard-bearer, former Vice President Joe Biden, in this year’s election. Biden formally endorsed Long on Sept. 14, saying in a statement that she will “bolster infrastructure and create jobs” and “deliver results for Southwest Washington.”
Addressing the economy
As she has previously done, Long’s plan calls for the federal unemployment insurance program of $600 per week, enacted at the outset of the pandemic, to be extended. The program expired in July, and has been a contentious issue between the two parties in Washington, D.C. over how to move forward with the program.
“While ensuring we do not incentivize workers to remain unemployed rather than return to work, we must extend this expanded program for those who do not yet have the option of returning to their previous job and have yet to find new work,” the plan says.
Long also proposes a federal investment in job training, such as in the health care and clean energy industries, for those currently out of work or who have otherwise been negatively affected by the pandemic. The plan cites the “Skills Renewal Act,” a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate that allows unemployed or furloughed workers a $4,000 refundable tax credit to apply to certain skills training programs.
Additionally, Long’s plan also calls for infrastructure investments in Southwest Washington. Along with improvements for roads and bridges, she also highlights broadband internet as an area of needed investment in the area that has been neglected for too long and affects everything from schools to telehealth services to small businesses.
A federal investment in infrastructure, Long says, would serve multiple purposes; create good-paying jobs in the short term, re-establish a strong network of roads and bridges for local communities, businesses and manufacturers, and make high-speed internet access a reality for all.
Long’s economic plan also calls for increasing the nationwide minimum wage to $15 an hour once the pandemic is over, expanding support for child care programs at risk of closure through the Child Care Development Block Grant program, ensuring affordable child care via grant programs for local providers in “child care deserts,” and enacting a moratorium on consumer and small business debt collection for the duration of the covid-19 crisis.
Preventing the next pandemic
The second part of Long’s recovery plan focuses on health and preventative actions, and says that adopting these measures will ensure the country and the region is adequately prepared to beat back the next public health crisis.
Calling the federal government’s response to the pandemic “mismanaged from the beginning,” the plan advocates for all covid-19 testing, treatment and vaccine — when it becomes available — to be free of charge to every American. Long says the federal government should also expand its public health workforce, particularly by hiring “a nationwide army of contact tracers,” which she says will both help identify those exposed to covid-19 before they infect others and strengthen the economy by hiring workers who were put out of work because of the pandemic.
It also calls for additional funding for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in particular the CDC’s Prevention and Public Health Fund. The fund, established a decade ago, invests nationwide in community and clinical prevention initiatives, public health infrastructure, immunizations and screenings, and public health workforce and training. In 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act cut $750 million from the fund, and in 2018 a bill was signed that cuts $1.35 billion from the fund over a 10-year period.
Long’s plan calls for rural health care systems and hospitals to be strengthened and protected by urging Washington state to adopt reforms from other states. A specific reform program mentioned in the plan includes Pennsylvania’s Rural Health Model, which voluntarily transitions certain hospitals to a global payment system that reimburses the hospitals through Medicare and other payers based on fixed budgets, as well as allowing for financial incentives.
The plan highlights a number of Democratic health care priorities, including protecting the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), which the Trump Administration and Republican attorneys general are seeking to overturn in court. Long cited a study from the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress that said 654,000 Washingtonians could lose their health coverage if those efforts succeed. As no current alternatives exist, it would also allow insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
“If we have hundreds of thousands of people in our communities lacking health coverage, those individuals will be less likely to see a doctor, seek medical attention, or get tested if they become sick. That exacerbates the spread of covid-19 and makes it harder for us to fight future pandemics,” Long’s plan says.