Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Coronavirus relief bill stalls in Senate, but Kilmer hopes provisions survive

The streets of downtown Tacoma are empty amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Photo by Tom Collins
The streets of downtown Tacoma, seen here in March, are empty amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

A new coronavirus relief bill passed the House last week, but appears dead in the Senate. 

Still, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, hopes some of the provisions aren't lost. The original measure included more support for Medicare and Medicaid and hazard pay to health care workers dealing with the pandemic. 

Kilmer talked to KNKX about the bill, and the larger response to COVID-19.

On the need for relief: “I talked to an employer in my district last week who said ‘It took 32 years for me to build my business and I’ve got a lot of families that depend on me for a paycheck.’ And he said ‘I’m making decisions right now as to whether to keep people on the payroll or just fold the tent.’ We know that we have workers on the front lines — in hospitals, in fire and police departments — who are facing extraordinary strain. And I had a call yesterday with mayors and county commissioners from all over my district. They’re making decisions right now about cutbacks.”

On resistance to stay-at-home orders: “Everybody wants to see things reopen. And everybody also wants to ensure that they and the people they love don’t get sick. This has really stunk. I think it’s hard on families, it’s hard on workers, it’s hard on employers. Our nonprofits are really feeling a strain. So as a consequence, there is very understandably a sense of impatience. At the same time, as much as this has stunk, what would really stink is having to do it twice.”

On the federal role: “The federal government has to stand up and help here. We still have not seen the testing capacity that is needed in our state and that has been promised by the federal government. The provision of things like swabs and reagents has been insufficient by the federal government. There are resources in the HEROES Act to ramp up that testing capacity. In the bill that passed a few weeks back, there’s a requirement for a national testing strategy. I have heard the president say we are at war against an inivisible enemy, but we would never send our soldiers into war without the equipment that they need to win. And in this war, the equipment that we need is personal protective equipment and testing capacity.”

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.