Special to the Democrat By: John Zippert
In a Zoom press conference, held on Tuesday, May 12, 2020, Alabama Congresswomen Terri Sewell criticized and questioned the plans of the Alabama Legislature to use $1.8 billion in Federal funds, allocated by the CARES Act to cover
costs related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Sewell who represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District stretch from Birmingham, through Tuscaloosa to the Black Belt has a Black majority popular and many of the urban and rural people who live in the state. Calling the Legislature’s wishlist of potential projects “an outage and an abomination” Sewell said the worst item on the list was $200 million to build a new building to the house the State Legislature. “We need to prioritize healthcare and economic development related assistance to city and county governments. Nowhere on the Legislative wishlist were any measures to close the gaping holes in our disease testing plans nor any mention of initiating a needed and meaningful contact tracing program to mitigate the impacts of the coronavirus,” said Sewell. She pointed out that there was a need for Federal oversight of the CARES funds to insure they were used for purposes related to dealing with the immediate healthcare crisis caused by the virus. “ I also did not see any mention of expanding Medicaid to serve the people of Alabama whose health in endangered by the coronavirus pandemic. Expanding Medicaid with these funds would also help those people with underlying medical conditions that have not been insured in the past and therefore did not seek needed medical attention. It would help to prioritize healthcare in health disparity areas in my district,” she said. “Expanding Medicaid immediately would also help hospitals in the state, especially rural hospitals that are serving the uninsured but running up financial losses providing uncompensated care. The need for expanding Medicaid has been increased by the large number of newly unemployed people in Alabama, who have lost the healthcare coverage along with the jobs in this crisis,” said Sewell. In answer to a reporter’s questions, Sewell said, “This would be a perfect time for the State of Alabama to expand Medicaid and help provide health insurance for more than 300,000 people in the state, who need this health coverage because of this pandemic. This is what the CARES Act funds were supposed to be spent for. This was part of the Congress’ legislative intent.” Sewell said she was working on including testing, contact tracing and treatment;
direct assistance to county and cities; expansion of the Child Care Tax Credit; hazardous pay and bonuses for front-line workers, especially in healthcare and other provisions in the next round of coronavirus funding from Congress.