As state and local public health responders work around the clock to contain coronavirus spread, one thing is spreading — COVID-19 kindness. As Montanans, we look out for each other and folks are stepping up. Public Health is telling the public what it’s doing to stop the virus every step of the way, so our families, friends and neighbors can make knowledge-based decisions. News reporters are working 14-hour days to inform the public. A number of news organizations have lifted paywalls, putting public good before profits.
Montanans are heeding emergency guidance like social distancing and closures, despite financial hardships and disruption to their lives and livelihoods. One constituent I talked with lives with pain, yet is not complaining that her elective surgery to ease the pain was canceled. Another woman, in tears and heartbroken, told me how she can’t visit her family member in assisted living because of the quarantine there.
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Gov. Bullock and his team are doing all they can to mitigate the personal and financial costs to individuals and small businesses — especially those who struggle to make ends meet. This public health crisis makes their struggles all the more challenging. One constituent who works as a food server without sick time is now laid off. But she’s able to get relief through the emergency unemployment benefits that our governor recently implemented. As Montanans, we need to be ever vigilant, seek out and support our disenfranchised neighbors who tend to be invisible — low income, homeless or with mental illness or disabilities and others. The governor’s emergency rule-making has assured even the uninsured that they’ll get COVID-19 testing and paid for if they need it. Medicaid expansion has made such a difference for health care in Montana. We see it more than ever now.
Yes, our better angels are emerging. Neighbors are delivering groceries to neighbors. Volunteers are distributing food kid packs. Friends are calling friends. Nonprofits are rising to this emergency. The Friendship Center, Food Share, YWCA, Salvation Army, Red Cross, United Way and others are doing what they do best in times of crisis — serve others. I encourage fellow lawmakers to work together on a way to financially help nonprofits, just as the state is helping small businesses with loans.
By now, you’ve heard it so many times — wash your hands, sanitize heavily-used areas, doorknobs and phones, keep your distance, conduct meetings virtually, and access available information resources: the state’s COVID19.mt.gov website or information line 888-333-0461, Lewis & Clark County’s at lccountymt.gov, and St. Peter’s Health call center 406-457-4180. It’s an honor to represent you as a legislator during this extraordinary time. I welcome your questions or concerns at Maryann.firstname.lastname@example.org, 406-461-5358 cell/text, Facebook.com/maryanndunwellforhd84, or Twitter @MTMaryAnn. Be safe and well. Enjoy springtime. This pandemic will get worse before it gets better. And it will get better. Together, with COVID-19 kindness, we Montanans will make it through.
Mary Ann Dunwell is the Democratic State Representative for Montana House District 84, Helena/East Helena.
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