Carolyn Long isn’t waiting to be elected to say what she would do to help Southwest Washington constituents recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Democratic candidate for Washington’s Third Congressional District and challenger to current U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, released her 21-page pandemic recovery plan Sept. 3, providing an overview of a number of actions she would seek to have implemented at the federal level to alleviate the impacts on workers, families and the healthcare system.
In a remote press conference following the release of the plan, Long said that while steps had been taken at the local level to combat the pandemic, chiefly “putting lives on hold” to stop the spread of the disease, “the same cannot be said for our federal government.”
“Congress has done nothing for almost six months,” Long said, commenting that the government branch “apparently can’t be bothered to do its job.”
Long went over the plan broadly during the press conference, which had a twofold focus on protecting small businesses and working families, and strengthening healthcare coverage and resources.
For working families, and those out of work due to the pandemic, Long called on Congress to immediately pass extension of expired unemployment benefit expansion. The plan also called for expansion on paid sick and family leave and an assurance of affordable childcare, as well as a $15 minimum wage and a moratorium on consumer and small business debt collection for the duration of the pandemic, including student loan debt.
Long’s plan also included relief funding for schools, which she said was vital to allow in-person instruction to return safely, also benefiting parents who have taken on a greater role in education with remote learning.
Key to her small business support was a call to “put Main Street before Wall Street,” which included strengthening the Paycheck Protection Program by streamlining the application process and making sure resources go to small businesses, “not major corporations.” For those businesses ineligible her plan involved expanding use of programs through the Small Business Administration.
Long said the plan called for “transformational investments in infrastructure projects” including traditional infrastructure such as repairing roads, as well as expanding broadband internet.
Regarding healthcare, Long’s plan would preserve the Affordable Care Act while creating a public option. She also wanted greater investment in rural hospitals, and made a call to make sure testing, treatment and an eventual vaccine for COVID-19 “and future pandemics” would be available free of charge to individuals.
Three residents of the Third Congressional District also spoke as part of the press conference announcing the plan. Deken Letinich, Vancouver resident and member of Laborers Local 335, said Long’s plan was an investment in working families, pointing to the plan’s call for investment into job training for those out of work and infrastructure projects as helping recovery.
Letinich said he had two children undergoing remote learning in Vancouver Public Schools, making his family reliant on broadband infrastructure for education and remote work. He said that for those in rural parts of the congressional district and in Washington state in general, a lack of broadband access can make adjusting to a socially-distanced life much more difficult.
Chris Thobaben, Vancouver small business owner and father of four, stressed the importance of affordable child care for families.
“No one should have to choose between their career and starting to raise their family, yet the lack of affordable child care makes it hard for young people to have children, and (for) parents with children to make ends meet when times get tough,” Thobaben said.
Terri Niles, a critical care nurse currently working in the Oregon Health and Science University’s secondary COVID-19 intensive care unit and the university’s task force for the disease, approved of the healthcare aspects of Long’s plan. She mentioned specifically the support of rural hospitals and the call for free testing, treatment and vaccines for COVID-19 and any future disease outbreaks, adding that healthcare workers were still struggling to meet the needs for personal protective equipment, something also addressed in the plan.
“Investing in healthcare is investing in people, in our patients, and in our communities,” Niles remarked.
Long said she was spurred to come up with a plan based on feedback she has heard while campaigning — that of individuals out of work or struggling with childcare, and small businesses facing uncertainty in the shadow of the pandemic.
“What they are telling me is they need somebody to speak for them,” Long said. “They don’t want to hear about what we did five months ago. They want to hear about our plans right now.”
Acknowledging that much of her plan seeks immediate action that she can’t directly implement unless she was elected, Long said she didn’t want to wait until that potential outcome to say what she would push should she be victorious in November.
“I didn’t see a plan from my opponent,” Long added.
Absent from the plan was anything laying down enforcement of emergency measures such as shutting down nonessential industries or requiring masks to be worn in public nationwide. Long said from a public policy standpoint she believed public health and safety was an issue usually dealt with at the state, not federal, level.
Long favored a lead-by-example approach to reinforce practices such as mask wearing and social distancing, but did not call for any national orders on enforcing those practices.
“While we’re not talking about something that’s federally-mandated, I think when we look at federal leaders we have to look at them practicing the things that we know are effective,” Long said.