By U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle
The last four months have been unlike any other time in the history of Northeast Philadelphia, and of our country. It’s been four months since the first diagnosed coronavirus case in the United States. Since then, we’ve faced difficulties unlike any we’ve faced in our lifetimes, most notably, a public health crisis and record unemployment.
There are always two main parts of the job of a member of Congress: the work in Washington, and the work back home.
First, here at home in the Northeast, my staff and I have been busy helping constituents, including the more than 14,000 constituents who have reached out to us for help during this crisis. In fact, we have now serviced more constituents during this crisis than any previous period since I’ve been in office.
When it became clear that there was a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment for our healthcare professionals, my staff and I worked to secure and donate thousands of PPE to our local frontline healthcare professionals. When we were informed that American citizens were stuck abroad, my staff and I worked with local families to safely bring back their relatives to the United States. And, as the number of people facing food insecurity grows, my staff and I continue to assist those who are at higher risk or unable to travel to a food distribution site. We’ve been doing all we can to help all those who need it, and we will continue to work to provide important resources and information to the constituents we serve.
I’ve spoken to countless constituents and business owners over the past couple months as they’ve struggled with paying bills, making payroll and generally keeping their heads above water. It’s been heartbreaking. This pandemic, and the measures taken to contain it, have taken a toll on all of us. Hearing directly from so many of my neighbors and constituents across the Northeast who’ve been affected has only pushed me to fight for dramatic help from Washington.
Speaking of Washington, Congress has now passed four coronavirus-related bills. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act expands paid sick leave to workers who otherwise would have no additional leave time to recover from illness, care for their children or look after sick family members.
Congress also passed the CARES Act, which was the largest stimulus bill in American history. The CARES Act expanded unemployment benefits for workers so that those who’ve been laid off or seen business dry up because of coronavirus can continue to count on support, until we are able to safely reopen our businesses and get our economy moving again.
The CARES Act also provided the largest amount of grant and loan support for small businesses in our nation’s history. Tens of thousands of businesses across our commonwealth have applied for and received support since funding was allocated, and I’ll continue to fight for greater support to ensure businesses in our community have all the resources they need to stay secure until this crisis abates.
Additionally, it provided direct payments of up to $1,200 to most Americans so that bills can be paid and families can continue to purchase goods and services to support our local economy.
While I’m proud that we’ve passed legislation that has directed hundreds of billions of dollars to healthcare systems across the country, our healthcare workers still urgently need more protective equipment and other supplies. I’ll continue to fight to get every resource we can to meet demand for protective equipment so these courageous workers can perform their work with every safety measure possible.
We must continue to offer financial support for our small businesses, and ensure that the process of accessing resources is as easy as possible. I have heard too many frustrating stories of businesses waiting too long for approved loans to be allocated or for application updates from banks. These kinds of obstacles are unacceptable and need to be addressed, and I will continue to fight to ensure they are.
But in our community, and our country, we still need more. That’s why I am continuing to push for additional legislation to help working families continue to weather this crisis.
Each of us can make a difference in fighting this pandemic. As you do your part, I will be doing mine. I will not give up fighting for our community in Congress. ••
Brendan F. Boyle represents Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District. He resides in the Northeast with his wife and daughter.