Another week, another round of COVID-19 Congressional town halls. And starting this week, Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) makes it official with two town halls. Today, we checked in on his conversation with North Las Vegas residents and other North Las Vegas elected officials to take on questions on COVID-19 testing availability, unemployment aid, “paycheck protection” small business aid, voting in Nevada’s June 9 primary, and more.
“66% of all [known] COVID-19 deaths in North Las Vegas have been African-American. That’s three times the [overall African-American] population [of North Las Vegas].”
– Rep. Steven Horsford
Today, Rep. Steven Horsford brought on Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D), Assembly Member Daniele Monroe-Moreno (D-North Las Vegas), and North Las Vegas City Council Member Pamela Goynes-Brown to get (even) more local about COVID-19 response, relief, and recovery efforts in North Las Vegas.
Horsford kicked off the call with another summary of what Congress has passed thus far with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act, then promised additional aid with “CARES 2.0”. More specifically, Horsford promised to fight for his Worker Health Coverage Protection Act to fully subsidize COBRA health insurance coverage for select laid-off workers and his bill to require collection and publication of full COVID-19 data, including infection and death data broken down by race.
Speaking on the mounting signs of a growing racial disparity in COVID-19 infections and deaths, a disparity that’s particularly hitting African-American and Latinx communities, Horsford declared, “It’s unfair that people of color are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. […] “66% of all [known] COVID-19 deaths in North Las Vegas have been African-American. That’s three times the [overall African-American] population [of North Las Vegas].”
“It will be up and running by the middle of May.”
– Rep. Steven Horsford, on when Nevadans can expect unemployment insurance expansion to fully come online
Following brief opening statements, Horsford opened the phone lines for constituent questions. Just moments after Governor Steve Sisolak (D) quickly replaced former DETR Director Dr. Tiffany Tyler-Garner with (now former) Silver State Health Insurance Exchange Executive Director Heather Korbulic to oversee the state’s ad-hoc revamping of its beleaguered unemployment insurance system, Horsford took several questions on how and when more constituents will access the CARES Act’s expansion of unemployment aid.
On the pandemic unemployment assistance that “gig economy” workers, other independent contractors, and sole proprietors are supposed to access, Horsford explained, “That is a new program. That is not a state program. It is a new federally designated program, run by the U.S. Department of Labor. The funding is coming from the federal government, 100%.” Horsford then promised, “It will be up and running by the middle of May.”
Horsford then added, “We are working on a subsequent CARES 2.0 bill to extend [unemployment insurance expansion]. […] The plan is to get a 13 week extension for pandemic unemployment assistance.” So far House Democratic leaders are proceeding to finish drafting their “CARES 2.0” bill, though the White House and Congressional Republican leaders are now trying to extract corporate liability protection and/or anti-immigrant crackdowns in exchange for additional federal aid.
“We will have 14 strike teams out to conduct testing. Your insurance should cover it, including those on Medicare. And no one will be denied testing due to lack of insurance.”
– Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick
Following last week’s passage of the $484 billion CARES “Paycheck Protection Plan” (PPP) supplemental bill, constituents also wanted to know when that will come online. Horsford reassured them, “You can go to any bank. […] There is a set-aside in the legislation to access PPP funds from any small or mid-sized community bank, from credit unions, and from other community organizations.” And for those who already turned in PPP applications before the first round of PPP funding ran out, Horsford said they should be first in line to access this second round of funding.
In response to constituents’ questions on testing, Horsford noted that the $484 billion supplemental bill also includes $25 billion for a national testing strategy and $75 billion for hospitals. Closer to home, Kirkpatrick and Goynes-Brown promised that the county and Southern Nevada’s cities are working to launch a widespread expansion of testing next Tuesday.
Kirkpatrick specifically promised, “Especially for North Las Vegas residents, you’ll see that we will be out more. We will have 14 strike teams out to conduct testing. Your insurance should cover it, including those on Medicare. And no one will be denied testing due to lack of insurance.”
“You should have your ballot in the mailbox by May 18. If you don’t have your ballot by then, contact the Clark County Election Department. Once you receive your ballot, make sure to send it in by June 9, the primary election day.”
– Assembly Member Daniele Monroe-Moreno
As the call continued, Kirkpatrick dropped some more interesting news. On the ongoing legal fight amongst Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske (R), far-right groups seeking to restrict ballot access, and top Democratic officials seeking to expand ballot access for the June 9 primary, Kirkpatrick signaled that the Clark County Election Department is sidestepping the lawsuits and proceeding in mailing ballots to active and inactive registered voters in the state’s most populous county.
Monroe-Moreno later chimed in and offered helpful hints on making sure their ballots are counted: “You should have your ballot in the mailbox by May 18. If you don’t have your ballot by then, contact the Clark County Election Department. Once you receive your ballot, make sure to send it in by June 9, the primary election day.”
In addition to simply mailing them back, Clark County voters will also be able to drop off their completed ballots at select drop-off sites throughout the county. For anyone seeking to vote in person, so far only the Clark County Election Department headquarters in North Las Vegas will be available.
“This testing, tracing, tracking approach will ensure we reopen the right way.”
– Rep. Steven Horsford
On Monday, we joined the Western States compact. Every day this week, I will have big announcements for Nevadans as we finalize our Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery.
— Governor Sisolak (@GovSisolak) April 28, 2020
On questions of when Nevada will begin to reopen shuttered businesses and services, Kirkpatrick, Monroe-Moreno, and Goynes-Brown signaled that they and other state officials are working with Sisolak’s office to expand upon Sisolak’s rough outline on Nevada’s “one chance to get this right”. Nevada has finally formally joined the Western states’ pact for coordination on reopening this week. And following California Governor Gavin Newsom’s (D) promise that, “We are weeks, not months, away from making meaningful modifications,” Sisolak is hinting that his unveiling of “Nevada’s Roadmap to Recovery” this Thursday will build upon California’s and Washington State’s plans to phase in a gradual reopening schedule beginning some time in May.
Horsford later echoed the general scientific consensus on how to safely reopen in stating, “This testing, tracing, tracking approach will ensure we reopen the right way.” From the data the state has made available, it appears that Nevada may be “flattening the curve”, though that still means that Nevada currently stands at 4,807 positively tested COVID-19 cases and 219 COVID-19 related deaths as of 4:00 PM today.
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.