April 09, 2020

We must do our part to help our families, friends and neighbors weather this pandemic

My View: U.S. Representative Al Lawson

The coronavirus pandemic is a challenge unlike anything we’ve ever faced. Like you, I understand how scary this is and how desperate you are for answers. 

As this evolving situation unfolds, I have been working to ensure that state and local officials have the resources they need to keep our community strong.Over the last month, Congress passed three bills to: 

  • Provide $1,200 in direct payments to Floridians, and all Americans, who earn up to $75,000, plus $500 per child. Seniors on Social Security and non-tax filers are also eligible. 
  • Support hospitals and healthcare workers: $500 million to buy personal protective equipment like masks, gloves and ventilators, and $200 billion for hospitals and local healthcare systems.
  • Help small businesses with $349 billion for forgivable loans to to pay their employees and keep them on the payroll, as well $10 billion in immediate disaster grants;
  • Provide up to a four-month extension of unemployment benefits at $600 a week. I have written Gov. Ron DeSantis and asked him to accept the federal disaster unemployment assistance and increase Florida’s unemployment payout from its current $275 a week to $600 a week. Extended unemployment to the self-employed, independent contractors and “gig” workers, such as uber drivers.
  • Offer two weeks paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family leave.
  • Increase Food Assistance: $15.8 billion for SNAP; $450 million to assist food banks; $8.8 billion for child nutrition programs.
  • Defer payments and interest for federal student loans through September 30. Also, provides $30.75 billion in grants to support local school systems and higher education institutions.

For the small business owners, I know it is difficult during this time of uncertainty. I am working with my colleagues on additional assistance to help you recover. In the meantime, I encourage all residents to support local businesses.  

And, while there are not enough words to express my depth of gratitude for those on the front lines, I want to thank the health care professionals who risking their lives each and every day to care for others, the first responders who are protecting our neighborhoods, and the grocery store clerks, garbage truck drivers, postal workers and all essential employees who are keeping our community going. You all are the real heroes.  

Now is the time for diligence on the part of everyone. While health officials do their jobs, I urge you to do your part to prevent the spread of this virus and take practical measures to stay healthy— wash your hands, practice social distancing and stay inside. I will continue to pray for the families of those who have lost loved ones since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak and to those continuing to battle this illness.

We are all called upon to be our best selves right now, and to do our part to help our families, friends and neighbors weather this pandemic. 

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson represents Florida’s Fifth Congressional District, which stretches from Gadsden County to Jacksonville.