As the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has spread across our world, our communities have confronted this unprecedented challenge head on. In the face of adversity, we are seeing innovation and compassion from those working hard to contribute to the solution—the American spirit at its best.
Our public health providers, including doctors, nurses, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, laboratory technicians, emergency medical technicians and others, are working diligently to mitigate the spread of the virus and treat those affected. Their strength and skill are central to an effective response, as they work tirelessly to treat patients, identify therapeutic medications and develop vaccines. Public and private laboratories are also increasing the ability to address testing needs.
Individual Idahoans have been stepping in to help neighbors, those struggling with lost jobs and wages, and banding together as communities to fill the needs and keep others afloat. Idahoans have donated masks, gloves, food and other resources. They have opened their doors to offer shelter for those in need. Volunteer firefighters have shopped for vulnerable residents. Student groups have helped restock grocery shelves and handed out food at a local foodbank. Many school districts are providing free lunches to feed hungry students while schools are closed. Educators have provided resources for students to continue learning while at home.
Local small businesses are collaborating to provide the ventilators, hand sanitizers, protective gear and other medical equipment our health care providers need. Our food service providers and grocers have come together with their communities to find ways to meet demands and limit exposures. Many businesses have also reached out to say they are keeping workers on payrolls, despite strain from severely reduced operations or closures. We are hearing from small businesses whose entire livelihoods are on the line. Thousands of mom and pop restaurants, barber shops, hardware stores, and stores that have served their towns for generations are days away from shutting their doors for good, taking with them scores of local jobs and their immeasurable community value.
The situation we find ourselves in today as COVID-19 impacts our state, the nation, and the world, demands bold and immediate action to save the economic future of Idahoans and our great country. We have worked with our colleagues in the Senate and the administration over the last several weeks to provide needed resources to health care providers, bolster states’ responses, advance research to develop a vaccine, fund community health centers and provide for other emergency response mechanisms. We have worked to secure meaningful relief for Idaho’s small businesses, workers and families to help businesses keep their doors open and keep employees on the payroll.
The legislation we have passed is by no means perfect. The price tag on these emergency bills is sobering, and we must redouble our efforts to lower the federal deficit. However, right now, Idahoans need a lifeline. The CARES Act, along with the two previous coronavirus emergency bills approved in March, will deliver rapid assistance to small businesses through low-interest business loans that can be used to pay employees, cover utilities, pay a mortgage and much more. The legislation also extends direct assistance to workers and families in the form of direct checks, while greatly expanding our ability to deploy resources and medical supplies to the health care workers on the front lines of this pandemic.
We have considerable work ahead to minimize this health threat and ensure families and small businesses thrive. The immense fortitude we are seeing in all sectors of our communities is at the heart of the American spirit propelling our nation’s response and ensuring our recovery.