Essential workers push House coronavirus panel for more PPE, unemployment benefits


WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — A House coronavirus panel heard from medical staff, first responders, grocery store employees, drivers, custodians, and other essential workers Thursday about how the coronavirus has impacted them.

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis reports these Americans have experienced some of the highest rates of cases and deaths because they lack basic protections against the virus, like testing and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Eric Colts, a Michigan bus driver, told lawmakers he fears sick passengers.

“I go to work every day afraid,” Colts said.

Diana Wilson, a New York EMT, testified that she feels unprepared.

“We could have saved more lives,” Wilson said.

Marcos Aranda, a California custodian, said he faces job insecurity.

“I worry about feeding them, keeping them healthy,” Aranda said of his large family.  

All are essential workers who shared a common concern with the panel: they still need more masks, gloves, wipes and more so they don’t get themselves or their loves ones sick.

“Personal protective equipment has been a constant, constant battle,” Colts said.

Other essential workers, like Maryland grocery store worker Leilani Jordan, lost their lives to COVID-19. Her mom blames the lack of PPE.

“She risked her life to help seniors, to help those that are disabled,” Zenobia Shepherd told lawmakers.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-SC, calls the current lack of PPE unacceptable.

“These shortages must be acknowledged, and immediate steps bust be taken to procure and distribute these necessary supplies,” Clyburn said.  

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-LA, said his colleagues should hold China accountable and increase the national manufacturing of these supplies.

“America has paid too high a price for China’s lies,” Scalise said. “This subcommittee owes it to all of our frontline heroes to expose the truth.”

Scalise and the other Republican members on the panel want to hold a hearing on China, but Clyburn, the chair, has not indicated if that will happen.

The panel of essential workers also asked lawmakers to extend the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit and the timeline for small businesses to pay back loans under the Paycheck Protection Program.

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