COVID-19, Economy, George Floyd Homicide Discussed
By Will Johnson
CROCKETT – On Monday morning, June 22, US Congressman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) stopped by the Moosehead Café in Crockett for a Town Hall meeting. While Brady is all but assured of being re-elected, the 8th Congressional District representative took time on Monday to discuss several issues with his Houston County constituents and listen to what concerns they may have as the summer begins.
Brady was welcomed to the meeting by Houston County Republican Chairperson Joanie Clonts. The federal lawmaker whose district includes Houston County thanked Clonts and extended his greetings to the 30 or so people in attendance.
The Congressman said he was going to address three main topics over the course of the meeting, before opening the floor for questions. He indicated he wanted to talk about the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of the economy and the George Floyd homicide as well as the impact it was having across the nation.
“I think we have made a lot of progress on this healthcare pandemic,” Brady began. “It is unprecedented and required an unprecedented response. We got that from our local level, our elected leaders, our hospital officials, and our front-line healthcare workers who all did their jobs. Remarkably, Congress worked together to pass four major bills which provided over $3 trillion – the biggest rescue package in American history.”
The four bills referenced by Brady were focused on helping to prevent COVID-19, helping to treat those who became infected, advancing vaccines and helping local businesses to survive.
“It worked, but we’re not out of this yet. One of the first things Congress did was to appropriate the money to accelerate the treatment and vaccines. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved over 140 tests. They have approved over 100 treatments that are in trials right now and there are eight vaccines in human trials – the final step before it is approved. Three of the trials are right here in the US. Dr. (Anthony) Fauci – who is pretty conservative about these vaccines – he predicted we will have a vaccine deployed in the US in either November or December,” Brady indicated.
Fauci is the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and is a leading authority on COVID-19.
Until a vaccine is developed, Brady cautioned, it remains important to follow the health protocols of social distancing and the usage of masks when social distancing is not possible.
Despite an increase in the number of cases and fatalities related to COVID-19, Brady said Texas was leading the nation in re-opening the economy “… while we keep the pressure on the virus. Up until we saw this surge from the Memorial Day weekend activities – our cases were up – but we were the only state who had tested 100 percent in our nursing homes. Testing in our prisons and jails and testing in hotspots like meat-packing plants and others saw the numbers go up. What you saw was hospitalizations go down and the infection rate is two-thirds lower than what it was in April.”
Fatalities, Brady went on to say, showed Texas had the lowest death-rate per capita of any of the top-10 states.
“To put it in perspective, they lose one New Yorker to COVID-9 for every 633 residents. In Texas, it is far better. We lose one to every 14,400 Texans. We are nearly 23 times safer than a state like New York, but we have to keep our guard up until we get the vaccine,” he said.
Since May 1, when Texas began to re-open, the number of COVID-19 cases has gone from 29,229 to 114,881 while the number of fatalities has increased from 816 to 2,192 as of June 22.
Seguing into the economy talking point, Brady said, “Thank goodness we are re-opening. If states like Texas throughout the US had delayed re-opening any longer, you would have millions and millions of more people would be out of work today. Plus millions more businesses like Joanie’s (Moosehead Café) would not be surviving. The truth is we couldn’t delay opening any more. We can do both and we are seeing a rise in cases and hospitalizations – but to put to put this in perspective – President Trump said it’s time to re-open the economy safely. You and I opened every big paper in America and online and we saw predictions that if we re-opened on June 1, there would be 3,000 deaths per day due to the Coronavirus. Just the opposite happened and our death rate was cut in half. On June 1, we didn’t have 3,000 Americans lose their lives, it was a little over 700.”
The Congressman, as the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said he had helped negotiate the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act which provided forgivable loans for small businesses and the stimulus checks which helped to push cash into the nation’s economy.
“That helped save about 40 million jobs. We have more work to do for small businesses on Main Street, for mid-size businesses, for independent energy companies and we still have more work to do in Congress. I was named by President Trump to help re-open the economy. We focused on three things: helping our businesses re-build their workforce to ride this out. If they don’t have workers, they are not going to survive,” Brady said.
He went on to say the added $600 per month added to state unemployment benefits cause three out of four people to make more being unemployed than in working.
“In affect, the federal government is paying people today more to stay at home than to come back to work. As a result, they’re staying home. I introduced a return to work bonus where individuals could keep two weeks of their unemployment to come back and re-connect to their business. If we don’t help workers come back to those Main Street businesses, we are going to have fewer businesses survive, a much slower recovery and this recession will last longer,” the representative said.
The second area of focus, Brady explained, was to re-open businesses safely. He said one way of doing this was providing tax incentives to help provide testing and to help re-configure office space so it creates a safer environment in which to work.
The third focus area was to bring back medical drug production from overseas.
“There are a lot of lessons we have learned from the Coronavirus. One of these is our medicines, medical supplies and ingredients are manufactured or bought from China or other countries we can’t rely on. So, I put together for the president a tax package that would accelerate businesses in bringing the production back to the United States of America. These medicines are crucial. We can’t stockpile, but rather we have to build them here,” he said.
Brady added he felt the economy would bounce back and cited the May jobs report as evidence, saying it beat the predictions by 10 million jobs. The April unemployment rate dropped from 14.7 percent to 13.3 percent in May.
“Our top economic priority is making sure the 30 million Americans who lost their jobs temporarily, don’t lose their jobs permanently. That has got to be our focus – to get people back to work, let our businesses ride this out and help America recover,” Brady said.
In addition, Brady indicated the longer someone was unemployed “… domestic abuse cases go up. Crime goes up. Drug and alcohol abuse goes up and the longer you are out of work, the harder it is to get back to work. It is unhealthy. We have to do everything we can right now not to spend money on silly political items.”
Moving to his third talking point, Brady said he was with the president in Dallas last week when he spoke to faith leaders, community leaders and law enforcement officials about the ramifications of the George Floyd homicide.
“It should be an area where we can unify together as a country. Everyone I know was horrified with the murder of George Floyd. Everyone wants to see those people held accountable. We want justice for the Floyd family and we want to make sure ‘bad apples’ don’t stay in law enforcement and don’t return to law enforcement. I am convinced we can do that,” Brady said.
One area people across the nation need to wary of, Brady pointed out, is the differentiation between peaceful protestors and those who are using the incident to loot and destroy property.
“The peaceful protestors want real change. In America they have the absolute right to protest, have their voice heard and to see that change through. We cannot condone the violence and the looting,” he said.
The congressman further said he believed some real reforms in law enforcement would be legislated in Congress but cautioned the law enforcement community and minority populations would be unable to build trust with one another until true community policing – where people know each other – became a real thing.
“I’m pretty confident we can make some common sense reforms. We can help support our law enforcement to keep us safe. We can make changes in trust and accountability for the bad apples in law enforcement and get this country back on track,” Brady said.
Following the conclusion of his remarks, Brady took questions from the audience for approximately 30 minutes before departing for his next Town Hall meeting in Madisonville.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected].