Weekly Democratic Address
September 18, 2020
Good afternoon, everyone. It’s an honor to be speaking to you today. My name is Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, and I represent Florida’s 26th Congressional District, from Miami-Dade through the Florida Keys.
Before coming to Congress, I spent years working in health care as an Associate Dean at Florida International University’s medical school. I spoke regularly with public health experts and epidemiologists who spent their careers studying how to crush infectious diseases like the coronavirus. And throughout this pandemic, I have relied on their counsel to help guide our response.
It’s been over seven months since our country has faced the worst health crisis in more than 100 years. We’ve now lost close to 200,000 lives, and this pandemic has plunged our country into an economic recession that we haven’t experienced since the Great Depression.
Nearly 200,000 lives. Each one meant the world to their families, to their communities, to their loved ones. I often get calls from our friends and those who live in my community sharing their heartbreaking stories.
Kevin Cho, a nurse practitioner who serves my district fighting COVID on the frontlines, shared how, every ten minutes, a family in Florida at the height of the pandemic would get a call that their loved one had died. A young police officer received that call from Kevin telling him he had just lost his father. A family who lost their mother shortly after celebrating her birthday. And fellow nurses and doctors who are our true heroes have died while trying to save others.
And as we honor Hispanic Heritage Month, we must recognize the disproportionate impact of this crisis on Hispanic and African American communities, who have been the hardest hit by this virus. With this immense loss, the lives of families in my district and across the country have been changed forever, and many continue to be anxious and frustrated.
Understanding the impact of this pandemic, House Democrats took swift action, and in May, we passed the Heroes Act. Across the country, while Americans sacrificed and shut down their businesses, stayed home and adjusted to educating their children online, we worked to provide people, states and cities with the resources necessary to contain the virus.
But unfortunately, Senate Republicans and this Administration completely turned their backs on mothers, on fathers, nuestros abuelos y abuelas and our children by refusing to take action.
During this time, we continued to see the virus spreading and our families paid the ultimate price. Take my home state of Florida. Because the Governor took his cues from the President over the advice of top public health experts, we became an international hot spot for coronavirus.
Floridians waited hours to be tested and a week, and sometimes even two, for results, and now over 13,000 have passed away. And as I hear from my constituents, I can’t help but agonize over how avoidable this tragedy was.
I think of Nereida, a small-business owner in Kendall who fell ill in July and depended on an SBA emergency loan to keep her construction business afloat.
And the police officer in Homestead who relied on the goodwill of his neighbors for plasma donations while he was fighting for his life.
And Zane, a nine-year-old boy who contracted COVID, was in the hospital for weeks and two months later is still dealing with its serious effects.
We need to have their backs. We know what we need, and we’ve long had the answers to overcome this pandemic.
These answers are found in the Heroes Act, which provides us with the tools needed to act aggressively and comprehensively. It gives us $75 billion for the testing and tracing capabilities that health experts have recommended for months. It extends unemployment benefits, issues another round of stimulus checks, provides money for schools and assists those struggling with their rent and mortgage payments.
With the Heroes Act, we can contain this virus, reopen our schools and businesses safely and regain the trust of Americans across the country and those that want to, once again, visit our beautiful state of Florida and get America back on track. Inaction is irresponsible, shortsighted and dishonors the sacrifices made by our American families and small businesses.
The Republican Senate needs to honor the nearly 200,000 lives we’ve lost and do everything in its power to prevent further losses. They need to pass the Heroes Act, which we passed months ago, and they need to pass it now.
Together, we can get through this, by coming together and following the science.