In what’s turning out to be a week of town halls, tonight was Rep. Dina Titus’ (D-Las Vegas) turn to hold a town hall with constituents and community leaders to discuss the state of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic relief efforts. Constituents asked about everything from $1,200 “corona checks” to ongoing worries about lack of COVID-19 testing, and Titus did her best to answer their questions and reassure them that she’ll ensure that more helps comes our way soon.
“I know this is not enough. I know we need to do more to bring back our economy. Another stimulus bill is in the works.”
– Rep. Dina Titus
At her town hall with public education advocates last night, Rep. Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas) promised, “We are working as feverishly fast as we can. […] There will be another package: CARES 2.0.” Lee specifically promised more aid for K-12 public schools and colleges/universities, unemployment insurance, and small businesses, and Congressional Democratic leaders have already hinted that they want this “CARES 2.0” package to also include expanded health care access and another round of “corona checks” to individuals and families.
At her town hall tonight, Rep. Dina Titus acknowledged the severity of this crisis: “I know so many people in Southern Nevada are struggling to make ends meet.” She then stressed, “I want you all to know that my team is here to help, because I believe that’s what we’re supposed to do as public servants.”
On the first CARES Act (or third COVID-19 relief package), Titus declared, “I helped shape that bill with you all in mind. I believe this bill will save lives.” She then acknowledged, “I know this is not enough. I know we need to do more to bring back our economy. Another stimulus bill is in the works.”
“When Nevada gets back to work, we’ll come back stronger than ever.”
– Nevada State Treasurer Zach Conine
Titus then opened the virtual floor to multiple special guests, including Nevada State Treasurer Zach Conine (D). Conine briefly explained the state’s recent relief efforts for homeowners and renters, including Governor Steve Sisolak’s (D) eviction moratorium and Conine’s negotiation with most major banks to offer forbearance to mortgage borrowers. He then reassured the audience, “When Nevada gets back to work, we’ll come back stronger than ever.”
Nevada Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation (DETR) Director Dr. Tiffany Tyler-Garner then tried to get ahead of the inevitable complaints about the state’s overburdened unemployment claim process by noting, “By the end of the week, we will likely see 250,000 claims. We are increasing resources daily, including our online resources and support staff availability. We are committed to ensuring that every Nevadan in need has access to the resources they need.”
After Titus, Conine, Tyler-Garner, Clark County School District (CCSD) Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara, and Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) Director of Community Health Dr. Michael Johnson gave their respective opening remarks, Titus opened the virtual floor to constituents to ask their questions.
“They’ve been processing over 170,000 claims in the last three weeks. That’s more than the nearly 120,000 claims they processed for all of last year. I think they’re doing a great job handling the increased demand.”
– Rep. Dina Titus, on Nevada’s unemployment insurance crunch
The first question was about “corona check” eligibility, and Titus answered that the U.S. Treasury Department is promising to begin making direct deposits next week and send paper checks (to those whom the IRS or Social Security Administration does not have direct deposit information for) in May. And when another constituent asked if/when more “corona checks” will go out, Titus acknowledged, “I know $1,200 doesn’t go that far,” and promised more direct aid in the fourth relief package.
Soon thereafter, several asked about unemployment insurance. Dr. Tyler-Garner admitted that the system is struggling to handle “unprecedented volume”, requested patience for “gig economy” workers who now qualify for insurance payments but can’t yet apply, and asked those applying to try during non-peak hours and reserve the phone lines only for those who can’t finish their applications online.
Titus then urged everyone to look at the bigger picture of what Nevada DETR suddenly has to do: “They’ve been processing over 170,000 claims in the last three weeks. That’s more than the nearly 120,000 claims they processed for all of last year. I think they’re doing a great job handling the increased demand.” She also reassured constituents that even if they’re facing delays in starting insurance payments, they will be paid full benefits (including back pay) once it kicks in.
“I share your frustration. I believe that the money that goes to the corporations should go to workers.”
– Rep. Dina Titus, responding to a constituent’s complaint about the CARES Act’s “corporate bailout” provision
SNHD’s Dr. Johnson also chimed in to answer constituents’ health questions. He did his best to politely refute talk of “natural immunity” and hopes for sudden “herd immunity”. And when another constituent expressed worry over her inability to get tested and her showing of potential COVID-19 symptoms, Johnson advised, “I suggest you stay home and limit your potential to carry the virus onto others.”
Shifting back to financial health, another question expressed his outrage over the $4.5 trillion corporate relief segment of the CARES Act, Titus responded, “I share your frustration. I believe that the money that goes to the corporations should go to workers.” She then vowed that Congressional Democrats will fight to direct more aid in the fourth relief package to people and small businesses who actually need it.
And on another constituent’s question on small business aid, Titus pointed to the CARES Act’s (up to $10 million per business) “paycheck protection” loan program that will likely cover eight weeks’ worth of expenses and convert to grants for businesses that refrain from laying off their workers.
Minutes later, Titus closed the call by inviting anyone who needs assistance on any of these issues to call or email her office while she works to secure more aid for Nevadans. According to The Nevada Independent’s ongoing count (theirs has lately been running ahead of the official state count), Nevada has 2,102 positively tested cases of COVID-19 and 71 novel coronavirus related deaths (as of 8:00 PM tonight).
If you’re in need of medical treatment, contact your primary health care provider first. If you fear you can’t afford treatment from a hospital or doctor’s office, check with the Southern Nevada Health District, Washoe County Health District, Carson City Health and Human Services, or the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services for resources in your area. For additional aid, check the Nevada Current’s and Battle Born Progress’ resource guides. If you can afford proper treatment and you are fortunate enough to help others in need, please donate to larger operations like Direct Relief and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and to local groups like Three Square.