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Sentinel Exclusive: Senator Harris Speaks Out on COVID-19 
By Jennifer Bihm,  Contributing Writer
Published April 2, 2020

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Senator Kamala Harris is currently fighting for three things in Washington, she said. Those are: free Corona virus testing, free treatment and financial relief until Americans are able to return to pre-outbreak life. This is a public health crisis and a health care crisis, she said.

“How long Americans will be on lockdown is still to be determined, ” Harris said during an interview with the Sentinel this week.

“What we’re seeing is where there are people [isolating and social distancing] that the virus does not spread as quickly. We still have a problem though. Cities, counties and states need more tests …”

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But that’s not the only issue, said Harris.

“Just last week, we had 3.3 million people sign up for unemployment insurance,” she said.

That would mean that people who have lost their jobs due to the outbreak have probably lost health coverage if they had any in the first place. In turn, that would mean that people would not be able to afford treatment even if they were tested and diagnosed.

“One of the things I’ve been fighting for in Washington … we’ve fought to get free testing but we also need free treatment,” said Harris.

“The other issue is that we need to get people relief while they are home. So, one of the good things about the bill that we passed is that families and individuals will get a check … $1200 for individuals and $500 per child.

“For people who have lost their jobs, unemployment insurance will be set for four months. And, for the first time ever, unemployment insurance is going to cover gig workers. Another component that is very important is that we have small business owners who have had to close.

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Caption2: Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

They are set to get $10,000 in relief also, she said.

“And we also need to take care of our health care workers,” said Harris.

“So, part of what the bill does is provide $150 billion to hospitals and health care providers around the country. Part of that money can go to those workers to pay for child care. Because we have health care workers who are going to work every day and they deeply care about their mission to save lives. But their children may be at home without supervision.”

Harris also touched on how the pandemic is specifically affecting African Americans, who she said could be greatly affected.

“I’m going to give three facts, ” she said.

“Lupus [for example] affects Black women three times more.  High blood pressure: Black families are 40 percent more likely to have it. Why am I bringing those up? Those are examples of preexisting conditions that compromise people’s health.

“These are the reasons we have to make sure that people are self-isolating, that they are taking it seriously, monitoring themselves and making sure they are not exposed. Because, the disease is harder on people who have preexisting conditions.

“That’s why I’m also demanding the government start to compile and collect data that they can release.”

That’s important, Harris said, because the pandemic is highlighting disparities based on race that have existed in the country for a long time.

“… health disparities based on race, educational disparities based on race, economic disparities based on race … this is just blowing all of that up,” she said.

Harris, along with senators Elizabeth Warren and Corey Booker and congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Robin Kelly, sent a letter to the Department of Health, stating, “Although COVID-19 does not discriminate along racial or ethnic lines, existing racial disparities and inequities in health outcomes and health care access may mean that the nation’s response to preventing and mitigating its harms will not be felt equally in every community …”

Lastly, Harris presented the importance of making sure that mental health is intact during the crisis.

“[For example] for folks like our seniors who … the way that they socialize is to go to church on Sunday, they’re not going to have that. So, we want to make sure we reach out to our seniors so they don’t feel alone,” she explained.

“We want to make sure that while people are social distancing, they’re not emotional distancing …”

Harris said for those who need to apply for assistance the following resources are available:

For small businesses

https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources

For individuals

https://edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019.htm

For stimulus checks

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/irs-releases-more-info-how-get-coronavirus-stimulus-checks-asap-n1172676

Categories: COVID-19 | Health | Local | National | News | Political
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