Merkley: ‘More to do’ with PPE, testing in pandemic relief

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Like millions of other Americans, Sen. Jeff Merkley is working from his Oregon home office — with his laptop propped up on Miller paint cans in order to do Zoom interviews.

“I have 2 health care workers here in my house, with my son and my wife, and they feel the anxiety of the challenge of the workplace, the concern about protective equipment and the transmission of the disease from one patient to another or bringing it home while they’re trying to protect everyone,” Merkley told KOIN 6 News Wednesday.

Earlier this week the Senate passed another $450 billion coronavirus relief bill designed to help small businesses. The Oregon Democrat said that’s enough money “for this moment, but we’re in uncharted territory. … We know there is more to do.”

He noted this bill does not cover state and local governments which are hemorrhaging money through plummeting revenue.

Merkley said he pushed for a $60 billion set-aside in this latest bill for “small businesses and underserved communities on top of $250 billion more for the core program.”

Amping up production of personal protective equipment and testing are the big factors that must be addressed right away, he said.

“We have to be able to get to where everybody who has a symptom can be tested, reinforce their self-quarantine, for those who are positive follow up with who they may have been in contact with,” Merkley said.

Asked about President Trump signing an executive order temporarily banning immigration, Merkley whenever Trump wants to distract from the issues here at home he returns to talking about immigration.

“I think he’s trying to compensate to draw attention for the complete failure to expedite the production of personal protective equipment and to produce the testing kits that we need.”

Having health care workers in his own family makes this a personal issue, as well.

“To the front line health care workers, a huge, huge thank you from my family to yours.”