Q&A: US House candidates Neguse and Winn discuss social justice, pandemic response and mountain economies
The debate around coronavirus public health orders often pits the economy against human life. What do you think the Trump administration did right and wrong in the first six months of pandemic response?
We know that this is more than just balancing the harm from the disease versus the economy. The data on the excess non-COVID deaths are showing that. Lockdowns have negative consequences.
What was done right:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opens incident management system seven days after China reports new pneumonia
- U.S. activates Epidemic Command Center one day after person-to-person transmission confirmed
- Travel from Wuhan, China, banned about one week later
- Large gatherings were discouraged
- A Coronavirus Task Force was created and reported to the the public daily with the president present
- Newer treatment options and innovative solutions were sought from health care industry. Thinking outside the box was encouraged
- Project Warp Speed was begun to provide a safe and effective vaccine as fast as possible
It has been known for at least the past 100 years that another pandemic would occur. The fact that the global pandemic warning system failed, the early warnings were delayed by world politics and the U.S. public health system was unable to coordinate a rapid response is unacceptable and must not happen again. Learn from the past or relive it.
— Dr. Charlie Winn
Americans have made great sacrifices during this pandemic to protect one another from the virus. Unfortunately, the Trump administration wasted precious time in the first six months by failing to show the type of national leadership this crisis required. In Congress, I implored the administration to implement a national testing plan and utilize the full force of the Defense Production Act for personal protective equipment production, neither of which the administration has yet to do.
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Nonetheless, I’ve joined with colleagues on a bipartisan basis to address these challenges with the administration, including successfully petitioning the CDC earlier this year to ensure prioritization of firefighters for COVID testing, for example. And because of the thoughtful leadership of our local and state leaders, Colorado continues to make progress in stopping the spread. To that end, I’ve been proud to work very closely with Gov. Jared Polis, the mayors of cities throughout the district and county commissioners on our joint efforts to protect the public, and I am confident that by working together, we can both protect the health of our community and get our economy back on track.
— Rep. Joe Neguse
What would you include in a new coronavirus relief package and how would these proposals help individuals and businesses?
As a member of House Leadership, I have introduced comprehensive legislative proposals that would help families and small businesses across Colorado. Several were included in the Heroes Act, legislation which passed the House in May, as well as the most recent comprehensive relief package proposed by House Democrats. These include my bipartisan bill to provide emergency disaster loan forgiveness to small businesses, stabilization funds for small mountain towns, expansion of SNAP food security, relief funds for the U.S. Postal Service and consumer protections. We must meet the scale of this crisis by adopting the proposals above in addition to expanding pandemic unemployment insurance, equipping our schools and health care workers, providing rental assistance and direct cash assistance for Americans, and additional support for our small businesses. I’m proud to have worked closely with local government and civic leaders in Summit County on these proposals. Put simply, additional economic relief is essential to relieve the economic pressure many families and businesses are under and ensure we are set up for a fast economic recovery when it is safe for the country to reopen fully, which is why I will continue to fight for these priorities.
The CARES Act sought to redress the harm done by asking businesses to do their part to slow the spread. This provided relief to businesses and individuals harmed by doing the “right” thing. The money in this act has not been completely spent.
As we get to the other side of the curve and get back to opening up, any further aid must assist in that process. Low- to no-interest loans are needed to defray the costs of getting businesses going again. Liability protection will be needed to protect the businesses as they open. If the businesses follow reasonable guidelines, they should be protected from frivolous lawsuits. Excess costs, such providing testing, should be tax credits. I would also consider providing tax credits for additional individual health care expenses as a result of this pandemic.
How do you plan to help Colorado’s mountain resort economies recover from the pandemic?
The resort business is by its very nature an “in-person” business and has been particularly negatively impacted by the restriction on travel. Providing low- to no-interest loans is very important. The coming year will also be negatively impacted as there will remain some fear by tourists. Providing free testing services to the businesses and some level of disease-free certification, liability protection and assistance with hiring workers since foreign travel has been curtailed are all needed to get things back to some semblance of normal.
Since March, I’ve worked with leaders in Summit, Grand and Eagle counties on addressing the needs of our mountain resort communities. My office has worked relentlessly to assist small businesses, and I helped lead efforts to convince the Small Business Administration to adopt common-sense modifications to the Paycheck Protection Program to ensure seasonal and mountain resort businesses could fully participate. In addition, my bipartisan legislation to provide emergency loan forgiveness will also provide critical relief to the small businesses in the High Country that are working to recover. Early on during this crisis, I introduced bipartisan legislation to provide direct relief funds for our smaller mountain cities and counties, which were in part left out of the CARES Act. These funds are essential to ensuring our towns and counties have the resources they need to equip our local economies and keep health care workers, first responders and firefighters on payroll. Additionally, we’ve introduced legislation specifically targeted at helping our mountain economies rebuild, by providing economic stimulus for our outdoor retailers and guides, funds to equip our firefighters and significant resources to put Coloradans and Americans back to work in natural resource management through a reimagined 21st century conservation corps.
In an increasingly partisan political environment, how do you plan to successfully reach across the aisle to work with members of the opposing party?
I full-heartedly believe we must work together to find solutions to our most pressing challenges. I was honored when this year the Lugar Institute identified me as the most bipartisan member of Colorado’s House delegation. I’ve sought to turn down the temperature of our politics at a community level, by launching a first-of-its-kind “service town hall” initiative, bringing community members of every political persuasion together to volunteer on a service project and work together for the common good of our community. In Congress, I’ve worked in a bipartisan manner with my Republican colleagues, inviting them to see first-hand the Colorado experience, including hosting colleagues from both sides of the aisle for the only official field hearing of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis right here in the 2nd Congressional District. I’ve worked collaboratively with others to craft legislation wherever we can agree, including on regenerative agriculture, public lands conservation, funding for rural schools and consumer protections. My willingness to work with folks in good faith has helped our office secure victories for our communities, including having more bills signed into law by this president than any other Colorado lawmaker, with several others passing the House with bipartisan support.
I prefer not to call them an “opposing” party. They are just those with differing opinions. As a conservative living in a very liberal environment, I have noted that, whereas the goals are often similar, the means of getting there diverge. Listening first and then being flexible on the means to achieve these goals allows both sides to claim victory. After a satisfying career in medicine, I have no political agenda. I just want to do the people’s business and build a better future for my children.
How should Congress respond to the ongoing social justice movement surrounding police brutality against Black men?
This question is worded in a very pejorative manner. Ultimately, it is the elected officials who must be accountable to the people. They have the responsibility to ensure the safety of the people.
As someone who has served 20 years in the military, I know that this is a command problem. There is definitely unacceptable behavior of some police officers. Those in command must ensure proper training, monitoring and accountability of the officers under their command. And the officers, as well the police unions, must also accept responsibility.
The people ask the police officers to stand between them and harm. They should never fear the police.
We have made significant progress as a country, and I believe that by working together and recognizing our common humanity, we can truly make equality and justice a reality for each and every American. One example is our effort to follow Colorado’s lead and emulate the bipartisan reforms enacted in our state at the federal level. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, I joined my colleagues in bringing such legislation to the House floor, specifically the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House earlier this year and included my amendment to enable state’s attorneys general to investigate cases of misconduct. Colorado has led the way on how to pass bipartisan, comprehensive reform legislation, and in my view, it is time for the U.S. Senate to take up this bill and do the same.
Rep. Joe Neguse, a Boulder Democrat, is running for reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2nd Congressional District against Dr. Charlie Winn, a Boulder Republican.
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