FORT WAYNE — Congressman Jim Banks provided updates on actions concerning the coronavirus via a town hall on Facebook Live, March 20.
The livestream broadcast emanated from Banks’ district office in Fort Wayne. IU Health Fort Wayne Chief Medical Officer Geoff Randolf, Cameron Memorial Community Hospital Chief Medical Officer Todd Rumsey and New Haven Mayor Steve McMichael were present to provide perspective and answer questions submitted by constituents. Kathie Green, longtime constituent services specialist in Banks’ Fort Wayne office attended the town hall as well.
The Third District Congressman from Columbia City said his office staff has answered over 1,000 phone calls from constituents this week. “People are desperate for answers,” said Banks.
He’s also pleased with government response.
“I’ve never seen leaders rise like they have,” Banks said regarding the coordination of federal, state, medical and local leaders in response to the crisis.
Banks gave an update on pieces of legalization related to COVID-19.
Banks voted for the $8.5 billion stimulus package that would fund vaccine research, development and treatment; provide grants and loans to small businesses impacted by the pandemic. Banks also voted for the revised bill HR 6201. He voted against an earlier version of the bill, noting “numerous drafting mistakes.” The language, according to Banks, would have done “more harm than good” to small business owners with less than 500 employees. The version Banks voted for provides expanded family medical leave assistance for those affected by the pandemic. He urged those affected to stay home if they can.
The third legislative effort related to a stimulus bill currently being considered by the US Senate. The bill was introduced Thursday by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The current version would provide $1,200 checks to single adults making less than $75,000 a year. Couples would receive $2,400. The amount American’s would receive is based on their 2018 federal tax returns. Americans making more than $75,000 annually would receive a lesser amount.
While some lawmakers have talked about monthly payments, the current proposal would involve one payment, according to a spokesman for Banks.
The third piece of legislation is “a work in progress,” said Banks. He noted “the language will evolve and change” as the bill nears a vote. Banks urged constituents to call Senators Todd Young or Mike Braun with any questions regarding the bill.
Regarding the edicts and restrictions put in place by government leaders, decision making is a “fluid situation,” said Banks. While a total shutdown has not been enacted, it has been a topic of conversation, according to banks. The situation is “evolving daily,” he said.
“State borders aren’t closed,” said Banks. If anyone needs to care for a family member out of state, doing so counts as essential travel, according to Banks.
“There’s no playbook dealing with a pandemic,” Randolf added. Even so, leadership is focused on keeping essential services moving.
Randolf stressed the need to take the situation seriously. He reiterated the common narrative of social distancing in an effort to slow the curve of the spread of COVID-19. “Distancing is important,” he said.
Vaccines and treatments are under investigation, according to Randolf. More information “will be forthcoming,” he said.
Regarding testing, Randolf said that the state is the sole decision-maker regarding testing protocols. The limited testing is due to the limited number of swabs and reagents needed for the testing process. He also noted that testing has overwhelmed many labs where they are sent.
Randolf sees the situation improving over the next week or two as more labs become available for testing and reagents are manufactured. Banks credited Trump’s enacting of the Defense Production Act to ramp up the production of materials needed for testing. Banks noted Indiana-based medical company, Eli Lilly, as “on the forefront” of the efforts.
A variety of subjects were tackled in the question and answer portion of the town hall. Regarding panic buying, Banks urged constituents to refrain from buying things they don’t need. In a related matter, Green said the state is working with grocery chains to ensure the food and supplies are available for families with WIC vouchers. Many items available through the WIC program became scarce amidst the panic buying that began late last week.
Lastly, a viewer asked whether the “snowbirds” should come home or stay in Florida. Banks suggested they stay where they are. Randolf noted they should come home if they’re primary doctor is in Indiana.
Banks assessment of the Senate bill in a long post on his Facebook page.
Banks urged constituents to call his office with any concerns at (260) 702-4750.