Post COVID-19 Policy Needs
Soon COVID-19 will be behind us. When we return to our more normal routines, we need to think about which aspects of the old normal are worth returning to and which weren’t working. More specifically, we need to think about the pieces of the old normal that need to be changed so that this sort of disaster can be avoided in the future. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and today I’m going to lay out three policy changes that I will be fighting for. They would help Minnesotans better cope with another disaster like this in the future, and also improve our lives even when there isn’t a global pandemic. 1. We must ensure health care is both accessible and affordable regardless of employment. As of April 14th, over 335,000 Minnesotans, around 11% of the workforce, have filed for unemployment since mid-March. Losing your job frequently means losing access to your health insurance. No family should ever have to choose between seeking necessary medical care and putting food on the table, but that’s the position people are finding themselves in. It is also in everyone’s best interest that if any person (employed or not) thinks they might have COVID-19, that they feel comfortable seeking help. If someone fears bankruptcy, they might delay going to the hospital, but that increases the odds of the disease spreading further. It isn’t just the moral thing to do, it creates the best outcomes in terms of both public health and public safety to treat healthcare like a right and not a privilege given out by someone’s job. 2. Decades ago we decided that every home deserved access to mail, power, water and phone lines, and it’s time we do the same with broadband internet. Now that schools have moved to distance learning, it further demonstrates how this isn’t a luxury but a necessity the state has a duty to provide all of its citizens. Kittson and Marshall counties are two of the three counties in Minnesota with the smallest percentage of homes having access to broadband internet, because companies haven’t found it profitable to expand their networks to rural areas. The students in those counties deserve the same educational opportunities as students in the more urban counties in the state. Minnesota conducted a study that said we needed 35 million dollars a year to reach 100% coverage of the state by 2022. The current amount budgeted is 20 million dollars a year and that is unacceptable for our rural communities. 3. The most basic tenet of a functioning democracy is that everyone has the right to vote. We just got a stark reminder from our Wisconsin neighbors that voting during a pandemic requires extra measures. Having to choose between your health and exercising your right to vote is unacceptable. As a military spouse, I’ve seen firsthand how smoothly a vote-by-mail system can function. We’re seeing Minnesota rise as a leader for this on the national level with Senator Klobuchar being one of two sponsors for the bill in the US Senate, but five states (Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington) plus the military have vote-by-mail systems in place already. We should take the initiative and join them rather than wait for a federal solution. Soon it will be time to return to normal, but we have been clearly shown some pieces of the old normal that weren’t working and even directly contributed to our current issues. In moments like these we can take these lessons and make positive changes moving forward. Our legislature has a responsibility to act on healthcare, rural broadband, and safe voting, and the sooner the better.